Livery companies and their charitable trusts

As Charity Management’s editor Richard Blausten kindly wrote in his article on livery companies, we are the “unsung heroes of the charity world”. Moving on from historical times when livery companies would take care of widows and orphans, the charitable contribution of today’s liveries exceeds £40 million per annum!

What I want to get across here is how the livery companies contribute in, perhaps surprisingly for some, a truly dynamic and creative way to the overall charity mix through their funds and supply of expertise. They do this with their charitable trusts working within the parameters of the sectors – in those mostly distant days, crafts or trades – from which they originated.

My own livery company is a good example of this and the way individual members of livery companies bring a wealth of experience and practical application to driving the livery movement’s educational and social contribution.

Voice of energy sector

The Worshipful Company of Fuellers is the voice of the energy sector in the City of London, therefore the charitable activities we support, carried out, as with other livery companies, through our separate charitable trust, are all linked to energy.

The huge number of requests we receive for charitable support could range from a letter from a single individual wanting our support in improving their career development to the RNLI needing fuels for its lifeboats. However, our preference is to engage with smaller charities so that our donations make a real difference.

Supporting charitable activity that relates to the provision of energy within the UK is one of our main objectives and something that potentially differentiates our charitable trust from other charities.

As the Fueller’s Master, a position I will hold for two years due to the current coronavirus crisis, I will nominate my chosen charities during the years of which I am Master.

Not all our contributions are financial. I try to be as broad minded as possible in my selection of causes to support and we are firm believers that money is one thing, but people - their time, knowledge and contacts - are also equally important.

Improvement of skills

Education and the improvement of skills within the energy and engineering sectors are fundamental to our work. This can happen by us funding educational activities but also by giving up our time to act as industry role models.

When children from all walks of life, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds see me, a female physicist, talk about my career, including the times when I fell flat on my face and had to pick myself back up again, I see incredibly positive reactions.

My fellow Fuellers, who all engage with the livery on a voluntary basis, also give up a lot of their time to talk at such events or to be mentors, advising students on science projects or career ideas using email.

It is, therefore, important for charities which are looking for funding to target the livery which is best aligned with their area of focus. Aside from funding, most livery companies also have a cohort of highly experienced people who are willing to get involved, providing inspiring talks and presentations. But a lot of charities rarely seek to reach their expertise - they limit their requests to money.

Donating time and money

One education related charity which we are very closely associated with is the Smallpeice Trust; we donate both time and money. This charity was established by the brilliant British engineer Dr Cosby Smallpeice who invested £1.6m of his personal fortune into setting up the trust, to give young people, especially girls, role models and experiences to power their passion for engineering which also embraces technology and energy.

I first met with the Smallpeice Trust 15 years ago when I spoke at one of its residential courses. The trust runs hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) days and residential training courses for students through its STEM partners to give the next generation of engineers the experience of the industry and a belief in themselves so that this could be for people like them!

The reason we are so closely aligned to the Smallpeice Trust is because its core mission is directly related to ours: to encourage more girls into engineering and to help support students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The exciting part of our commitment to the trust is that we are starting to see progress. Last year 50% of students signed up for its training courses and its Arkwright Engineering Scholarship recipients were girls. At the Fuellers, we help to organise, promote and part fund, or where necessary, fully fund these training experiences.

Other sector support

Other livery companies support education in different ways. The Company of Haberdashers, for example has its own schools, while the Salters Company has an A-Level course and qualification in chemistry with the aim of making it more applicable to the industry and appealing to today’s students.

In 1985 the Worshipful Company of Horners created its own online learning resources for students interested in the plastics industry. Because our industries are so closely related, I have given a series of lectures on plastics over the years, with the objective of inspiring students.

At the Fuellers, we represent all aspects of the energy industry, but not just oil and gas. We are particularly focused on renewable energy including wind, solar, nuclear and hydrogen to encourage students to step outside the parameters of the curriculum.

This provides me with an example of where our partnership with the Smallpeice Trust works so well. In my view, the most productive way for a charitable trust to see the benefits of its work is through a positive and close working relationship with the people it supports.

Universities supporting schools

As a physicist, I am passionate about the power of universities in supporting schools in their area. As a former lecturer in physics at Reading University and with our interest in sustainable energy, we approached the Smallpeice Trust about setting up one of its residential courses in “Environmental Physics” at the university.

Clearly at the current time, raising funds is a problem for everyone. The Fuellers Charitable Trust is particularly aware that the more modestly sized charities are struggling financially while the bigger ones, especially those in the healthcare space aren’t experiencing the same monetary impact of the pandemic.

Because we want our members to see the positive outcomes of our involvement, we tend to focus on the smaller charities and we ask them to keep our members updated, regularly reporting the impact that our support is making.

Thinking outside the box

Living in a time where the energy industry is undergoing a huge transition, we no longer look for traditional engineers; we want those who think more broadly and outside the box. Working with the Smallpeice Trust, we are well aware that this only comes by igniting students’ interest and encouraging the exploration of the industry at a young age. Getting more women in to energy is our main target and green energy is particularly attractive to girls.

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