Camden Giving Week – a focus for place-based giving

  • Camden Giving connects the people who live and work in Camden to overcome inequality
  • Its annual Giving Week helps to build relationships with local businesses and residents
  • CEO Natasha Friend describes how the week works

The second annual Camden Giving Week runs from 13-19 May. Organised by local grantmaker Camden Giving, it creates an opportunity for local businesses to get involved in a focus of fundraising activity. Here, CEO Natasha Friend explains how it works.

Like most charities, Camden Giving needs money to achieve the change we want to see.

Our primary goal is to overcome inequality in Camden, where 35% of children live in poverty alongside some of the wealthiest people in the UK.

We use the money we raise to pay for things like social clubs for older people, schemes for people experiencing homelessness, and mentoring programmes for Camden’s young people. We only support charities that are rooted in the community and those chosen by the people who benefit from them.

Everything that we do as an organisation has an impact. We want all of this to be felt by the community of local businesses and their employees, as well as our beneficiaries, who are the residents and visitors to Camden. This community-centred approach is one of the hallmarks in place-based giving. See more about place-based giving in London.

Camden Giving Week is our only fundraising activity. It helps us to build relationships with local people and businesses throughout the year and develop ongoing opportunities in Camden.

Here are four principles of our plans.

1. Using the week to tackle loneliness

The helpline Silverline receives more calls from Camden than anywhere else in the country. There is evidence that younger people are experiencing more loneliness than their older counterparts.

Camden Giving Week will bring together people to make new friendships and try new things through a programme of events. This includes an event showcasing cakes baked by people who are new to London, hosted by a local English language school. There will also be pub quizzes and a vegan cheese tasting event.

Our overall aim is mass participation, rather than squeezing pennies from our wealthy neighbours.

2. Creating different ways to give

Our desire is to create equality. It would be wrong to organise a posh fundraising dinner that excluded people who can’t spend £500 on a ticket.

Instead, there are lots of ways to give, such as buying a coffee from local suppliers Coffee Tune, Hygge Pygge, Camden Coffee Co and others.

We have also organised volunteering activities so that people can donate time or skills rather than money.

3. Involving businesses in the community

Giving Week gives local businesses a way to get involved.

We want to bust the myth that businesses exist alongside communities, purely to make money from them. Some are creating special products and giving the proceeds to us.

More than one business told us that they’ve always wanted to help their neighbours, but they weren’t sure how to do it. Others, like Camden Watch Co, said they wanted to give something back to Camden. Meanwhile, one business owner spoke about the visible rise of rough sleeping in Camden, saying he couldn’t face walking past a dead body on his way to work again. He needed to act.

Last year, we surveyed the companies that took part. Everyone told us that their staff loved the week. The businesses who are taking part will gain some new customers, but this is not what is making them join in.

4. Achieving more together

The achievements of Camden Giving Week are the result of a community acting together.

Lots of actions add up to a bigger change. Buying Sweyn Forkbeard beard oil during Camden Giving Week is not going to single-handedly overcome inequality. But it could help pay for a local charity to help an isolated person, or a boxing club for a child who is being bullied at school. We do the fiddly bit in the middle, putting the money raised where it can have the greatest impact.

Last year, the money raised during Camden Giving Week paid for 25 social clubs for young and older neighbours delivered by North London Cares, and a mentoring programme for young people at the Skip Garden in Kings Cross.

We had terrific feedback from the ten businesses who took part; all want to take part again, many because their staff enjoyed it so much. This year we’re hoping to have 30 businesses join together.

Top tips

If you would like to do something similar in your area, here are some things that worked for us:

  1. We set-up an Instagram account to approach small businesses. This was more effective than trying to meet businesses in person
  2. We ask businesses to join in at a level that is right for them
  3. We started early. We first started approaching businesses back in October. This has been key to some of our partnerships
  4. We are very flexible. We change our plans to match the expectations of our supporters