In spring 2021 Southern Water set up a new community grant and customer hardship fund with a £500,000 pot. Half to be awarded to different sized charities and community groups and half to individual customers across its region (Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex,) who may be experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Applications for level one Community Grants began in April 2021 and was open to local charities – with £100,000 to be split between 10 charities in total (two from each region).
The water company received 65 applications – 10 of which were from charities based in East Sussex, and all went through a selection process. It was unlike any previously undertaken by the company, and involved five regional employee groups and a customer and youth panel overseeing the decision-making process, to ensure that the money goes right into the heart of communities served by Southern Water, and where it can make the most difference – and also reflecting the current concerns of customers, young people and staff during the present post COVID climate.
The two selected charities from East Sussex are:
FareShare Sussex – Funds will help towards tackling hunger and food waste by supporting the running of the warehouse, which distributes food parcels. This donation will equate to 60,000 meals for those currently experiencing food-poverty. The warehouse also runs an employability programme to help those currently out of work; with aims to reduces social isolation, gain skills and increases confidence in finding employment.
Mark Richardson, Fundraising and Communications Manager, FareShare Sussex, says: “This donation is great because it means we don’t have to worry so much about raising funds to can keep on with our work – we can concentrate on redistributing around 300 tonnes of food every month to people in need across Sussex.”
South Downs National Park – This donation will support the restoration of two dew ponds located at Seven Sisters and Beachy Head and provide information for visitors about the role of the Downs and our water supply to local areas.
James Winkworth SDNP, says: “Southern Water’s donation will help us with our “Downs to the Sea” project, restoring a network of nature and dew ponds that will help sustain many of our precious and endangered species.”
Alex Willumsen, Community Partnership Officer, Southern Water, adds: “We received a huge number of applicants for the level one community grants scheme; reflecting the huge fundraising crisis and need local charites are facing at this time. We invited applications under our three categories which are aligned to our company purpose; enhancing health and wellbeing, protecting the environment and sustaining the economy through tackling inequalities and hardship. But crucially the ultimate selection process put our customer, young people and employee’s voices at the heart of the decision-making process to ensure these awards best reflected our local communities’ needs and concerns at this time.”
Level two Community Grants scheme remains open for smaller charities, CIC, non-profit and volunteer-led organisations and invites community groups to apply for their share of a £100,000 pot. This is to help support our communities to thrive and reflects the hard work smaller community –groups and volunteers who have responded to the challenges in our community during the past 18 months. This will be followed by a further donation later in the year for larger charites who support causes chosen by our employees, customer and youth panel and work across our entire region.
The separate customer hardship fund remains open to support those experiencing hardship and who need further support outside Southern Waters existing payment support tariffs.
Southern Water hopes that its customers will watch with interest as they follow these charities in the coming weeks and months to see how they utilise their funding, details can be found at https://www.southernwater.co.uk/customer-and-community-grants and on their social media channels.
Notes to editors:
Southern Water supported interested charities and community groups with online seminars and Q&A sessions open to all, to ensure the application process was accessible to both Charites who are used to writing fundraising applications as well as smaller, volunteer-led groups.
In addition to inviting applications for funds to support a specific project or on-going service, Southern Water spoke to all applicants to ascertain if any additional support outside of funding can be offered; such as volunteer hours, storage space, training or skills support – to ensure the community grant scheme fully meets the needs of these hardworking charities.
Southern Water provided a £250 donation to all shortlisted Level 1 community grant applicants, regardless of final outcome. This was to honour time spent in preparing the funding application. Where possible individual feedback on the application outcomes was provided, to support future applications for charities.