‘Giving is a two-way process... it’s about sharing that feeling’

Sally-Anne Greenfield. PIC: Tony Johnson
Sally-Anne Greenfield. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Everyone has a book in them, so the old saying goes.

Little surprise, then, that Sally-Anne Greenfield plans to write no fewer than two after stepping down as chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) after 13 years.

Achievable, surely, for the woman who has taken the organisation from “nothing”, setting it up in her Yeadon home in 2004, to a force that has distributed more than £33m in grants to some of the city’s most worthy causes.

LCF works with individuals and organisations who want to give to community groups and raises money from philanthropists which is distributed to grass roots projects across the area.

After Leeds City Council set up the foundation as a steering group in 2002, with help from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Yorkshire Forward, Cumbria-born Mrs Greenfield was appointed following a number of fundraising roles.

Speaking about those, she said: “As soon as I would raise the money, I would lose my job.

“That’s probably the most rewarding aspect [about LCF] – going into the community and seeing the work groups are doing because we founded them.”

And even small sums can do the trick. A £350 grant to the Wednesday Luncheon Club elderly group, which needed cash in 2011 to buy a sink to wash plates and cutlery so that it could carry on its work, was one of the most inspiring stories Mrs Greenfield can remember.

She said: “Quite small amounts of money, given to the right people, can actually have a massive impact.

“It doesn’t have to be big and shiny new buildings.”

Having said that, large donations have played their part too.

The foundation works with the family of late Leeds entrepreneur Jimi Heselden, founder of the Hesco Bastion barrier system used in Afghanistan.

Mrs Greenfield met with him in 2007, secretly hoping he might offer £1m for good causes.

He signed a cheque for £10m, then some time later another for £3m, and then yet another for £10m again.

She thinks many issues in society which need addressing remain the same as when she started: social isolation in older people, how best to integrate people from different backgrounds, and poverty.

Fears over Brexit surfaced after the vote last year, in terms of “a general sense of ill-ease” among minority ethnic communities the foundation works with and the ERDF funding it is “assuming is going to stop,” Mrs Greenfield said.

Although she has now finished at the St Paul’s Street headquarters, she will wind down by working from home, where she lives with husband Graeme, before current LCF development director Kate Hainsworth takes over.

“I’m going to be back at my table,” she said.

Mrs Greenfield, 53, added she feels like she has “founding chief executive syndrome”.

“I’m not sure there is a syndrome but it feels like my organisation because I set it up and have been here so long.

“It’s very demanding and rewarding job. I just think that charities and businesses need new leadership to take them through different stages. I feel really confident I’ve taken it where I think I can take it.”

Freelance consultancy work with individuals and organisations beckons.

But she still hopes to write those two books – something she has always wanted to do.

The first would be on charity sustainability, reading as a guide to what people planning to apply for money need to do. And the second could be a “reflective philosophical piece”.

Mrs Greenfield said: “When people are thinking about giving back, they’re not sure how to make a difference. Giving is a two-way process. It should bring joy to the giver as well as benefit to the receiver. It’s about sharing that feeling.”

Millennium Square and Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds City Centre.

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