How a small charity transitioned from a grant-giving charity to running its own initiatives

PRIOR to 2021, MCKS Charitable Foundation was a grant-giving charity with a mission to provide caring compassionate support to those in need, with a particular focus on feeding programmes. Towards the end of the lockdown, the charity’s trustees and volunteers contacted schools in the UK to see if they were in need of sanitary pads, mainly reacting to stories in the news at the time.

When speaking to schools they were told stories of children not having access to toothbrushes and basic toiletries, teachers going around food banks and collecting food to distribute to families, children not eating over the weekends and many other similar examples. They quickly realised the issue was more far-reaching than sanitary pads so the trustees went out visiting schools across the country to understand the issues schools were facing and saw how much teachers were doing in their own time to support vulnerable children and their families.

The idea of ‘School Pantry Cupboards’ was born organically from these visits with a view to providing food and supplies quickly and efficiently with minimum effort on behalf of the teachers and the school. The charity ran a pilot scheme with 4 schools for a few months to see how the process would work and tweaked the process based on feedback from the teachers to ensure that they were offering them food and supplies that were practical and easily stored and distributed, the charity now supplies 50 schools and aims to increase to 100 by summer.

Transitioning from a grant-giving charity to running initiatives required deep structural changes within the charity, bold decision-making, visionary strategy and thinking.  The Charity Chairman, Les Flitcroft has been instrumental in leading these changes and seeing the transition from an idea into conception. Les is a former aircraft engineer and runs his own successful business. His strategic thinking ability and systematic approach to problem-solving initiated change for the charity and under his guidance the project was able to move forward from an idea and concept to now supporting 50 schools and having a nationwide presence.  

The charity has been able to utilise the experience and varying skill sets of its Trustees and bring in over 25 volunteers from Les’ business to run the operation of the charity.  The structure of the charity is very much set up like a business with Heads of Department each managing a team of volunteers and with policies and procedures for good working practises and communication among the teams. The charity is utilising the skills of its volunteers to set up teams in fundraising, grant applications, book-keeping and finance, and online shoppers to arrange delivery of food to the schools.

The board continues to be very hands-on and have each committed to donating 10% of their income to the charity.

The charity believes that its ‘Pantry Cupboard’ initiative is so efficient in proving support quickly to people who need it the most that it could be implemented easily into other industries as needed such as hospitals, citizens advice centres or government buildings.  The operation could also be replicated and run internationally.  

Feedback from School Questionnaires and Thank You Letters from the schools have provided evidence that the support provides long-lasting social benefits. Numerous testimonials and videos on the website provide thanks for the service.

Holly Lodge School, Liverpool said:

“The city of Liverpool consists of six boroughs – Halton, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens and Liverpool. There are thought to be 82,205 children living in poverty across our city. That’s 25.6% of all children who are living in households who are having to go without food or are missing meals as a result of the cost of living crisis we are facing in the UK.” 

Sir Simon Milton Westminster ULC said:

“Thank you for the food and supplies which arrived this morning, genuinely, we are extremely grateful. Quite often our students confuse being sick with being hungry and we are not always in a position to offer them anything other than water, the cereal bars you provided helped them throughout the exam week. For many of our students who are facing homelessness or challenging financial situations at home, having basic items such as deodorant and shower gel will mean we can practically support our students in a very important but discreet way with your help. With many thanks.” 


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