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Guest blog: Social Purpose, creating an impact through insights and kindness

In the first of our Mutuals in Action blog series, we hear from Nigel Taylor, Head of Marketing and Brand at The Cumberland, on the work the Society has undertaken to develop their social purpose and community giving strategy into a force for good.

Nigel TaylorSocial purpose and community giving strategies are not new.

But at the Cumberland we have worked hard to develop ours into a formidable force for good, helping people in our communities who are facing the biggest challenges.

One of our proudest contributions last year was funding 41 community food banks providing hot meals to hungry families struggling with food poverty.

Although we have evolved our social purpose and community giving strategy over the past year and a half, our business has always been purpose-led, socially responsible and focused on our people, planet, and communities. 

Our purpose is to deliver ‘kinder banking’ by ensuring we respect each person’s needs, nurture the countryside, and build stronger communities. We want to make a positive difference to people’s lives. We do this in a number of ways, through our business decisions, but also by donating a percentage of our profits to charitable causes each year. 

To make our community giving more impactful we reviewed our strategy over a three-year period. We looked at what matters to our community and then refocused our support around the most pressing need in our region – food poverty, especially within this past year.

Our research showed a 30 per cent increase in people using food banks in Cumbria’s main towns, and a 75 per cent increase in people using rural food banks.

We know that people care about brands that impact the community by doing the right thing, but it shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. There needs to be credibility and authenticity in social outreach.

It is important to have the right strategy, make a difference and be able to measure the impact we are having on the community programmes we support.

We made many contributions to our community during 2023 which we are very proud of.

EVERFI ProgrammeFor example, we enabled schools to run free courses for their pupils on financial literacy after partnering with EVERFI to deliver a programme specifically for nine-to-11-year-olds, teaching skills such as how to make wise financial decisions. 

But our biggest initiative began in June last year. As part of our Social Purpose Strategy Review, we launched Kinder Kind of Kitchens to help tackle food poverty in our region head-on.

We partnered with FareShare Lancashire & Cumbria which redistributes surplus food from the food industry to those in need. We donated £250,000 to the charity, supporting its network of local food banks and community food hubs and helping them to expand their services. And in some instances, simply just help to keep their doors open. 

It is a sad fact that many people worry about getting enough food to feed their families. They can’t move forward in life because they’re thinking about where their next meal is coming from. The use of community kitchens, meal clubs and foodbanks in Cumbria has risen dramatically in 12 months and demand is outstripping supply.

Kinder Kitchen in Grange Over SandsKinder Kind of Kitchens is our biggest community giving programme to date. Since the partnership launched in June more than £105,000 has been donated directly to the community food projects, helping to provide the equivalent of 265,000 meals and preventing more than 110 tonnes of food waste*. 

We also treated over 100 heroes – the volunteers who run and work in the community food projects - to a special night hosted by TV celebrity, and native Cumbrian, Helen Skelton to thank them, and recognise the incredible work they do in their communities to tackle food poverty. We’ve also encouraged our colleagues across the region to use their volunteer days to pitch in and help.

Kinder Event VolunteersIt really is humbling to go to some of the food banks and community kitchens and realise for yourself just what people are going through, and to see the positive difference we are making.

I would emphasise to others looking to review their community giving strategy or CSR programme it is critical to research the community’s needs and wants, so that the programme is informed by real-life insights. As much as everyone would love to support every charity and project, it’s about narrowing down the focus on the biggest need so the programme can have the greatest impact. Equally important is selecting the right partners, as they run the programmes and bring the expertise to deliver the biggest impact to the community projects.

There are other ways to address additional requests outside the focus areas. We have the Cumberland Charitable Foundation that enables our branches to get involved in initiatives that make sense to them in supporting hyperlocal charitable initiatives.

We strongly believe that doing the right thing really builds trust, credibility and brand awareness for us and our partners and that it has a positive impact on our customer loyalty as well as talent attraction and retention. We see people joining us who share our values and comment on how we live our ‘Kinder Brand’ strapline, we don’t just talk about it. It’s also what attracted me to the company years ago.

We like to say we’re real people, not robots, meaning we approach things in a kind and human way. Community giving enables us to live those values. It’s not about storytelling, it’s about storydoing. Everyone in the company is keen to live our values and show that kindness is in our nature here at the Cumberland. 

*Figures from 1st June to 30th November 2023, provided by FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria 

To find out more, visit: www.cumberland.co.uk