The power of a partnership: Q&A with Wood Street Mission

6 mins

Charity work is incredibly important to us at Sellick Partnership and we are passionate about how our business can make a real, positive difference to the community around us.

With that, we have been partnering with local and national charities as part our wider corporate social responsibility (CSR) and our Manchester office opted to support Wood Street Mission, a charity that supports families living on a low income in Manchester and Salford.

Wood Street Mission collect children’s clothes, toys, bedding, baby equipment and toiletries, as well as children’s school uniforms and PE kits as part of their ‘Smart Start’ project.

Recently, Laura Hayward, Group Director and Charity Champions' Board sponsor at Sellick Partnership, sat down with Steph Edgar, Fundraising Lead at Wood Street Mission, about the current challenges and how businesses benefit from forming partnerships with charities.

Could you give us an overview of Wood Street Mission and let us know the main aim of the charity?

Wood Street Mission is a children’s charity, we help families and children who live in Manchester and Salford who are struggling to make ends meet. We offer practical help to families living on a low income, alleviating their worries as well as supporting with day-to-day needs.

In terms of our aim, ultimately we want to help children in the longer term. Our projects work to improve their life chances with the end goal of helping them to break the cycle of poverty.

What are the current challenges that Wood Street Mission is facing?

The ongoing cost-of-living crisis following a difficult time with Covid-19 has resulted in a real decline in physical donations which could be for all kinds of reasons. Everyone is feeling the pinch, it’s likely that our supporters are less able to donate or perhaps hanging onto things in case they need them. This has put a bigger emphasis on purchasing items ourselves and therefore we need to ramp up our fundraising efforts to support this.

The families we support are really seeing the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis. It is vital that we work collaboratively with other charities or organisations, local foodbanks, and agencies like Citizens Advice Bureau so we can signpost families who could benefit from support outside of our offering.

This collaboration also helps us raise our profile in the community so that people know about our services and how they can get help. This is key!

We all have similar missions; some organisations might be able to help the parents in other ways, or provide furniture, so it makes sense to have a more rounded support system and approach.

How did the partnership with Sellick Partnership begin?

Sellick Partnership reached out to Wood Street Mission in December 2022 as they wanted to do a toy collection and wondered if we took those donations, which we absolutely do! Laura and a few other members of the team came over to drop them off, at which point I gave them a tour and really showed them the first-hand tangible journey of their donations!

From there we kept in touch and now have a fantastic partnership in place, meaning that Sellick Partnership can get involved throughout the year supporting our appeals and initiatives.

What specific projects has Sellick Partnership assisted with?

Our Christmas Appeal last year was the first; this project’s aim is to ensure that each child that we help has a special Christmas like every child deserves. We distribute toys and gifts for children so they can participate in the magical time that Christmas is.

The social aspect is so important as well, being able to talk about Christmas when the children go back to school in January, just like everyone else. It also takes the burden off parents at a really expensive time of year.

Our ‘Books Forever’ Appeal was the next one. Sellick Partnership donated some fantastic brand-new books to our appeal. This project aims to transform the lives of children through reading, helping them to develop a love of reading, and improve their literacy skills.

The books Sellick Partnership donated will be distributed in the Book Roadshows at local schools in Manchester and Salford where children can pick five books each to take home and read. This year the campaign provided over 8,000 new books!

We’ve got a great plan for the rest of the year, the next initiative will be with Sellick Partnership supporting the Smart Start campaign. This is an appeal that is focused on providing school uniform and stationery/classroom essentials. The project helps children to fit in and focus on their learning; we try to take the worry away from not having the right kit and enabling the children to have the confidence to put their hand up in class.

Something as simple as not having a pencil case or the right school uniform can really affect a child’s progress in school, make them stand out in the wrong way, or lead to social problems.

What would you say are the benefits to a business to form a partnership with a charity?

So many! Having the opportunity to do something together and be part of something as a team that is outside of everyday roles does amazing things for staff morale and really encourages a feeling of togetherness! Coming together over a joint aim to make a difference can be really impactful to feeling a sense of achievement outside of the day-to-day.

Feeling a connection with the local community; this shows that Sellick Partnership is going further than their business needs, it shows that they care about the community they work in and the people that live here.

Being able to promote your support for Wood Street Mission also shows your organisations values and ethos, as well as the personality and culture of your business.

How does the support from businesses, like Sellick Partnership, contribute to the overall goals and impact?

There are just so many ways. Donations of books, clothing, toys and school essentials really help us to save the charity funds as we aren’t having to source those ourselves.

Saving time! As a small team time is so valuable, especially at Christmas. We have limited time to distribute the toys to families before Christmas. Companies like Sellick Partnership sourcing the gifts really helps with that, and means that we are able to maximise our reach and help more families.

Sellick Partnership promoting the appeals both internally and externally is brilliant for us!

To achieve our goals, we massively depend on people spreading the word as that is how we reach more families; the power of social media really cannot be underestimated. You never know who may see your post, whether it’s someone who could refer families to us, or someone who may need help themselves.

Can you provide any examples of how the partnerships make a difference?

Partnerships make the most enormous difference – especially at Christmas time!

In my experience this can be how businesses get involved at first; once they have seen what we do and where their donations go, we often have businesses who want to partner with us and get involved throughout the year.

We try and make our partnerships as accessible as possible, whether that is donating money/items, doing a fundraising event like the Great Manchester Run or volunteering time.

These are all really valuable ways to support us, and we couldn’t do the projects without it!

How can businesses offer support beyond financial means?

Apart from donations and fundraising the key thing for us is spreading the word! Talking about Wood Street Mission on social media, sharing photos of what you are doing not only shows people how you are getting involved but it may also give others ideas of how they can too!

How can business partnerships help in the long-term?

The commitment of a corporate partnership is fantastic; if you know that you are going to get the support from a business you can plan the project and appeals around that. Given the tough economic climate we are facing it is more important than ever to be establishing longer term relationships and reliability from our corporate partners as well as continuing to strengthen those relationships.

Are there any future projects or fundraising events that Wood Street Mission is working on?

The next big focus for Wood Street Mission and Sellick Partnership is our ‘Smart Start’ campaign where we will be focusing on school uniform and stationery.

We will be holding a ‘Back to School’ quiz on the 28th September at Manchester Marriott V&A Hotel, where can test your knowledge on all things school subjects whilst also raising funds for local children. Last year this raised almost £7,000 towards our ‘Smart Start’ appeal so we are hoping to achieve the same if not more this year!

Sellick Partnership will be doing a ‘Pot Luck’ fundraising event in support of the Smart Start campaign, and will use the funds to purchase classroom materials to donate which we are so grateful for!

To find out more about Wood Street Mission, visit their website here: https://www.woodstreetmission.org.uk/