Graham Parker guest column: Businesses are still missing out on vital funding

Graham Parker.
Graham Parker.

I have been a member of Business in the Community’s (BITC) ProHelp programme now for over a decade and I’m still amazed at how businesses and community organisations are missing out on the amazing opportunities the organisation offers.

BITC is a national business-led charity with 850 member companies.

Through its ProHelp programme we support voluntary and community based organisations by offering pro-bono professional services that would normally be out of their reach.

The results can be the total transformation of an organisation that can then make a real positive impact in, often, some of our most deprived and challenged communities.

The service is provided free by the members and the administrative support is aided by funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

I get a massive personal fillip out of supporting people who come to us for several reasons.

Not only do I know I’m making a difference in my community, as I did when I worked with the Tin Hat Centre in Selston, helping them with a marketing strategy, I also get free professional training.

Yes; free professional training!

Each project I take on presents a new challenge.

I have to look at the needs and aspirations of the organisation and come up with a solution, and because they are often charities or social enterprises, the usual approaches are not applicable.

They may need marketing, design or PR advice, but more times than not there are underlying issues to address – which is where my analytical and communication skills get tested.

If I wanted to pay for that type of training it would cost me hundreds and bigger companies thousands of pounds, whereas with BITC all I have to commit to is a set number of free hours.

I also get to build connections with some of the biggest legal, financial and architectural companies in the area, as they are members too – which is great from a marketing perspective.

We recently carried out some research about the value of services we have on offer to the vol/com sector in Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Bolsover and Mansfield areas and the figures are quite astounding.

There are 63 different companies involved across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and in 2013 they have pledged a combined £297,000 worth of professional services – this is “The Big Society” in action, long before David Cameron thought about the idea.

Our members include solicitors, accountants, architects, surveyors, PR & marketing consultants, graphic designers and IT advisors to name but a few.

Given the current economic climate you would expect us to be pulled out with requests for help, but the fact is we have members with spare capacity and they are eager to help; which leaves me wondering does the third sector think such a great offer of help is too good to believe?

I certainly hope not but we do want to hear from more groups that need help.

We even have Business Champions willing to work with you to take an overview of your organisation and guide you in the right direction

with help from several of our members.

So if your business wants to increase its Corporate Social Responsibility, connect with some of the biggest professional services in the county and get free training, please get in touch.

More importantly, if your voluntary or community group needs support and wants help from some of the best companies in the area for free – then you know who to call.

To contact BITC Nottinghamshire, telephone 0115 924 7404.