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Funding boost for Norfolk community and charity sector

Larking Gowen LLP is delighted with the announcement that Norfolk ProHelp has secured significant funding, as well as new sponsorship. Norfolk ProHelp provides free professional and strategic advice to charities and community interest groups throughout Norfolk. Julie Grimmer, Partner at Larking Gowen LLP, acts as voluntary Chair for the organisation.

Larking Gowen was amongst the founder members of the group in the late 1990s. They identified, along with a number of other professional businesses, a need for charities and community organisations to access pro bono, top-level professional advice, including finance, law, architecture, design and structural engineering.

The Virgin Money Foundation, an independent charity, contacted Julie to encourage a grant application in order to replace existing funding which was coming to an end. The new award is worth £30,000 over three years and will cover vital back office and administrative support. In addition, the organisation has secured funding from three new corporate sponsors, Leathes Prior, Hugh J Boswell, as well as Larking Gowen.

“Norfolk ProHelp is a lean organisation,” explains Julie, “and, while I and the rest of the board are volunteers, having paid administrative support is vital in connecting the businesses on the Norfolk ProHelp panel with the charity and community sector projects most in need of these services. In future, we will be partnering with Norfolk Community Foundation to match the Not for Profit Sector groups and projects with the professional organisations who form the Norfolk ProHelp panel. The panel, includes architects, lawyers, accountants, tax and property specialists, structural engineers, insurance brokers as well as marketing, media and design specialists, all of whom generously provide their expertise for free, to the charities and community groups that contact ProHelp. Working in partnership with Norfolk Community Foundation and supported by the Virgin Money Foundation, together with the commercial sponsors, will enable us to grow the number of businesses participating and spread the word about the pro bono work on offer.”

The funding announcement was made by Julie Grimmer, and Richard Walton, a representative of the Virgin Money Foundation, on Wednesday 7 November, at the annual Norfolk ProHelp breakfast show case following the annual National Pro Bono Week celebrations. The breakfast was also featured in the Eastern Daily Press.

“Norfolk ProHelp provides invaluable support,” says Julie. “We see the free support we give to be effectively a form of initial seed finance which allows projects to progress.

“It is, however, often the panel members working together that makes the greatest impact. We may for example, be approached by a playgroup needing help with a building project. We can put the playgroup in touch with an architect, a planning specialist and structural engineers. However, a VAT specialist can advise the playgroup on possible VAT recovery, or developing a professional business plan which is then used to make applications for further funding,” Julie adds. “Larking Gowen has been involved in Norfolk ProHelp from the very beginning and remains an active member of the panel of firms committed to supporting the Not for Profit Sector. We are also proud to be part of the panel for Suffolk ProHelp.

“The firm’s involvement with Suffolk ProHelp is not quite as lengthy as with Norfolk but I am particularly pleased that, in my first year as Chair of Norfolk Prohelp, Larking Gowen LLP has supported a cross county project in collaboration with Suffolk ProHelp.

“Larking Gowen’s long-standing support for ProHelp is part of the firm’s ethos of community and social responsibility. Continuing to appreciate and value the place the business has in the wider communities is a vital part of our vision and our business culture but there are a number of benefits to the firm and whole team. One is exposure to partnership working, whereby businesses, who would otherwise be unlikely to work together, cooperate to assist charities and projects requiring professional and strategic support. The projects are also a chance for the team to widen their professional experience.

“Aside from the clear good that Norfolk ProHelp does supporting grass-roots projects,” Julie continues, “employees of partner organisations get the opportunity to work in new sectors, and to work collaboratively with professionals from other sectors, which is both personally rewarding and helps develop skills fundamental to providing good client service.”

“The funding and sponsorship announced today is fantastic news,” Julie concludes. “It allows Norfolk Prohelp to continue to provide advice and services to Norfolk charities and community groups free of charge, in turn enabling them to grow, and deliver vital services across Norfolk.”



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