Leadership diaries: "I think we have a responsibility to be as transparent as we can be about how we make decisions"

Steph Taylor, deputy CEO of Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) and director of GiveBradford details a week in her life.

LCF is the largest independent grant-maker in Yorkshire and Taylor has responsibility for grant-making, impact, business development and partnerships. She also leads on the emerging community foundation activity in Bradford, where a new board have been appointed to focus specifically on securing investment for the district.

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Monday

I always keep the first few hours free on a Monday for catching-up: I don’t work Fridays so my inbox is usually full from the off! This week starts with a call to a member of the team who has a question about programme design for one of funding streams, reviewing and signing off a contract for a major new partnership with Leeds City Council that will provide both statutory and philanthropic funding to grassroots community groups, and with drafting a response to a query on social media about our funding distribution. I think we have a responsibility to be as transparent as we can be about how we make decisions, so I like to respond to these directly.

I then meet with some of the team to review our safeguarding policy and the approach we take to supporting the groups we fund with their safeguarding practice: approval for which is going to the board next month. Lunch is a quick walk around the block to get ready for a long afternoon of concentration!

I then spend three hours chairing a grants panel for our Leeds Fund strategic grants programme, which is designed to help organisations plan beyond day-to-day delivery. Our team assess the applications, doing due diligence and pointing out pros and cons against the criteria, but the grants panel is made up of different community representatives, experts by experience and sometimes donors. One of the things I love about our model is that it’s the panel, not us, who make the final decisions.

Tuesday

Tuesdays I meet with the rest of our Senior Leadership Team. This week the agenda includes a hybrid working review, a decision on a potential new partnership with a business, and a proposal from the team to improve our internal communication. Then I connect with the whole team on Zoom: we share updates and my colleague has arranged a quiz where we guess the identify linked to LGBTQIA+ flags to help improve our understanding and promote conversation which everyone really enjoys.

I started my job in March 2020, and am really excited to go for coffee with the CEO of a local infrastructure organisation who I’ve never met in person. We talk about the next financial year and what we might do better together.
I spend the afternoon reviewing progress against our diversity, equity and inclusion ambitions and proposing changes to policy that will help us become a more equitable grant maker as well as writing board papers.

I’m lucky to get invited to lots of social events related to work – I can’t make them all but today manage to get to a community celebration event for an organisation we were the first people to fund some years ago that has grown from one person’s idea to being a major sector partner in the city.

Wednesday

Today is all about the launch of our Bradford Fund at the Impressions Gallery in the awe-inspiring City Park. I always get a buzz being in town – having recently returned to West Yorkshire after growing up here, I see much that has changed but so much that has not, which makes me even more passionate about building a better future for the next generation.

I check in with the team to make sure everyone feels confident about the event. I practice my speech a few times after running it past colleagues as I want to make sure it lands well with community groups, public sector partners and both existing and potential donors. Having recently been left a legacy that has allowed us to build our work in Bradford we are fundraising hard to get communities the investment they deserve, and tonight is all about promoting us as the go-to place to give.

The event is being covered live on Bradford Community Broadcasting – a community-led radio station we have funded with 31,000 listeners a week. The team there ask me and one of our trustees Amjid to record our own “My Top 10” programme, choosing songs that relate to our work. Basically like going on Desert Island Discs – lifetime ambition achieved!

Thursday

I’m working at home today and there’s follow up to do from last night - a number of people who want to talk to us about partnership and the brilliant idea of a multi-faith blessing for the fund. I get a phone call from a partner at Bradford Council asking about our response to the situation in Ukraine, review some agreements with potential new donors and work through an urgent HR issue.

I go for a swim at lunchtime and while in the pool have several missed calls from partners across Bradford keen to work together on a new opportunity to bring funding into the district which I make a note to follow up on next week as I need to prioritise chairing a national meeting on children and young people’s funding.

Late afternoon involves a meeting with Bradford 2025 to agree our grant-making partnership for the bid to be City of Culture (and what happens if we don’t get it). It’s a great way to end my working week – the energy around the bid right across the district is so exciting and whatever happens next we know culture is our plan!

Friday

I don’t work Fridays at LCF and GiveBradford, but I do a few other voluntary and paid roles that keep me connected to the causes I care most about myself. I’ll usually spend a few hours on work for the national Youth Futures Foundation, or supporting the teams at Bramley Baths and Swan Song Project - two amazing local organisations where I’m a trustee.

This week my focus is MAC-UK, a charity I co-chaired until recently. We aim to transform the systems that exclude and marginalise young people and I’ve agreed to review the fundraising strategy with the team. We use sociocratic circles - a governance model that reflects our values - and means I get all sorts of insights from people connected with the work, which I love.

The week ends with an outdoor swim at a local lake - swimming has always been such an important part of my life for my mental and physical health and the colder the water and the brighter the sun on my face the better!

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