The we Love MCR charity is the only grant-giving charity dedicated to supporting the City of Manchester’s communities and young people. They support ambitious young Mancunians to take their next steps to success, and we support communities across Manchester to improve lives in their neighbourhoods. We love Manchester.

In this episode of The Godel POD, Danielle Tompkins, Marketing and Events Coordinator and Kara Goward, Digital Content Marketer at Godel are joined by Nick Clarke, Communications & Fundraising Officer at the We Love MCR Charity to learn more about this amazing charity, and talk about their latest fundraising activity.

This is an edited transcript, for more conversations on the latest in tech, subscribe to The Godel POD on Podbean and Spotify. Podcast jingle provided by the Hideout YouthZone

Podcast transcript

Danielle Tompkins: Hi, welcome to The Godel POD. I’m Danielle. I am a part of the marketing and events team at Godel and I’m here with Kara.

Kara Goward: Hi I’m Kara Goward. I’m the digital content marketer at Godel technologies in the marketing team at Godel

Danielle Tompkins: So we’re here today with Nick Clarke, Communications & Fundraising Officer at the We Love MCR Charity. So Nick, would you like to introduce yourself and describe what the charity does?

Nick Clarke: Cheers for having me. Nice to see you face to face after the abseiling exploits the other week. So, my name is Nick. I’m currently the communications and fundraising officer at the charity. I’ve actually been there since October 2018. Now the longest serving staff member, the charity actually brought me on actually for a work placement. I was on Universal Credit. And, you know, really struggling to find a job in the fields that I was really interested in. Under the charity I think it’s fair to say, they practice what they preach they give me a work placement myself and an apprenticeship, worked your way up and yeah, here now in this role, which is fantastic and getting to do the brilliant things in the city that has made me and that I love.

As a charity. We’re primarily a grant giving charity. So that means that We Love MCR Charity provides funds for other groups and individuals. And we’re the only one that exists solely to support the City of Manchester and this is because we were founded 25 years ago this year, as the Lord Mayor of Manchester’s charity, you know the one with all the bling on and everything that you see, and to sit in Lord Mayor is our chair of Trustees of the charity until the mayorship changes every year. See, very Manchester through and through. We’ve got two main grant funding programmes and that’s what the majority of our charity work consists of. The longest running one over a decade now it’s called our stronger communities fund. And it’s where we empower people fantastic local volunteers, community groups and charities by funding them to deliver projects that they know will benefit the residents and spaces that makeup what their community actually is.

Unfortunately, out of 300 local authorities in England, Manchester is ranked as the sixth month most deprived city in 2019 and it has been in the bottom 10 for a long time now. And that’s not the fault of any of those of us who live here. You know, we all know from our time spent in that area from the top class people with great ideas and community spirit, but ultimately, financial barriers put massive limitations on what can be done. The stronger communities funding is all about we love Manchester, putting faith into our communities and allowing them to be the best that they can be, you know, rolling only maximum sets, the stronger the end of the day. And there’s a theme there, about allowing Manchester to be the best we can be well, whilst finding those financial limitations that I think you’ll see throughout our work when we talk later on about the second main grants programme that we’ve gotten that’s the Manchester’s rising stars. We see those the two biggest grant programmes otherwise as a charity, we want to be ready for anything that comes Manchester’s way I think it’s fair to say we support where we can and I think you can see that in the best possible way for how we handled the COVID pandemic and then Manchester’s lockdown response.

First of all that it helps them very deceptively small team. There’s just three of us, which is great. It works in our favour a lot. Because of this in COVID we’re able to completely change how we work but even before full lockdown came into play, you know gotten to fully home working and we made some massive changes to how we were told we were going to continue to do exactly what we set out to do in the face of probably the biggest challenge that’s face to see in years and years. Support Manchester, whatever and however it needed something as a charity or charities really, we could see just out that the impact of COVID under lockdown was going to be both locally and nationally.

In times of hardship. I think it’s fair to say, Charity begins at home and donations will always withdraw, especially at a time when they need it most. Which is so unfortunate because of the vital services we all realise that charity is actually providing in this country. So we did something unprecedented. Within a matter of days, this was still before I think Boris Johnson was into the first lockdown. We set up the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, that the chairman awarded grants with a 48 hour approval process to those groups on the front line of Manchester’s lockdown that’s never been done before. Two days normally it takes like a month for all this processing and applications when our trustees approval.

It was a scary amount of work but it just had to be done when there’s no other way about it. And so we gave out just under a million pounds to over 300 groups doing these vital services in the first six months of the pandemic. You know, food banks, landlords and stopping illegal evictions that can lead to homelessness, domestic violence, refugees, all sorts of advice and material support, honestly, I mean, it feels like a bit of a blur now. But it was really full on for those first six months when the need was in the highest demand because of people losing jobs and homes. We did a survey of all the groups we supported and it works out that 50,000 People have been directly touched by the support that we’ve funded through the Community Response Fund, which is like one in 10 Mancunians so, it really helps us know we’d done the right thing. Yeah, so we felt like Manchester’s spirit, a community that came together during the lockdown.

If we’re talking about how we respond as Manchester’s own charity. You know that recently with the devastation in Ukraine, we set up the Manchester Ukraine welcome fund. A couple months ago in partnership with the City Council, who kicks off with a £50, 000 donation. And this is to make the arrival of Ukrainian refugees to Manchester as welcoming as possible and grants have already been released to local charities with experience in this to allow the creation of dedicated support workers who are going to give that support to incoming refugees, the first of which is actually starting next week. There’s a long standing Ukrainian community in North Manchester and I’m glad we’ve been able to coordinate but you said that public support in such a way to make positive impacts on those affected.

However, it’s not all grants. One thing that I’m really I’ve personally been so chuffed with been able to do. This is after a three-year break, thanks to COVID, it isn’t this therapeutic family breaks, it’s a programme where we give money to new families who’ve been having a rough time of it for many reasons, the chance to go for a short break for a few days to get ahead in the Lake District. Now I don’t know if any of you went to primary school in Manchester. But for most of us it was a given that in year six as you’re about to go into high school, you got to go with your whole year group for a few days away. And it’s like an Outdoor Resort right on Lake Windermere and you get to do loads of stuff as an innocent kid that you’ve never really done before. Things like Segway’s, kayaking on the lake Windermere and spending time in the forest with your mates learning about bushcraft and stuff.

And that’s exactly the same stuff that these kids and their families will be will be experiencing. Although, bear in mind for me that was in 2005 and none of us have phones. So you know, this is the difference. So with that, we worked with the local Manchester City Council’s care team and the charity Barnardo’s to make sure that local families who could really do with these breaks are offered that chance. And We Love MCR Charity covers that travel overnight stays and everything else to make sure it’s as stress free as possible and gives them positive experiences they can go on. The last load of people that had gone and honestly the words genuinely made me cry because adults there who’ve made friends for life and build support networks from the people that I’ve met on the break and then Manchester kids who are experiencing this kind of outdoor stuff for the first time in their lives. And so yeah, I’m beyond buzzing to say that we’ll resume in this next month. And that’s, that’s long awaited. So that’s a bit of a snapshot of, say a snapshot. It was a long snapper. So it’s more of a vital share of what we do. But yeah, it’s a small team with tonnes of support, people like yourselves that we help is everything we were able to do this work and keep going on to bigger and better things.

Kara Goward: So that moves is kind of to why we are here today. So on the 16th and 17th of July, 105 people t might be more, Nick, you can tell me if that was actually more, but fundraisers over the course of two days completed in a 270 ft abseil at One Regent Tower in Castlefield. So myself and Danielle took part in that. With all money raised, going directly to the We Love MCR Charity. So I’ve got to ask this question, last year I know you did walking on fire at St. Peter’s Square so why abseiling this year? How did that come about?

Nick Clarke: But like you said, last October we did a never before challenge right at the heart of the city centre, a fire walk in St. Peter’s Square. Right outside central library actually. I think it was about a 50 people walking on 700 degree hot coals yet to raise money for us again, and it was our first in person fundraising event since 2019. Again because of covid and see if I think it’s fair to say it had to be something special. Reminded one that we’ll have one since there is a you know, we’re back and we’re doing great things so to say that we love so much so and because it was so incredible. I said it with a proper electric atmosphere. enables the kind of urge to why don’t we do something like this every year? You know what, why don’t we try to do the most manc, the most challenging possible ridiculous. But how we could do it I didn’t have a clue.

We took some time came up with a few ideas. Right at the start of January, we gave our supporters and the public the chance to vote through our social media platforms on what our next one would be our next challenge event would be. We gave 4 options, one was ridiculous, one was a one’s a skinny dip on the coast, one was a dive off a 20 metre diving board which I’d say would look a lot taller than 20 metres if you were standing on it. Believe it or not the Skinny Dip nearly won! But yeah, thankfully the thrill of a city centre abseil won, which gave us the challenge to work out how do we go about that and make that as exciting as the fire walk and obviously an upsell in itself in urban citizens. We knew it would be great anyway, but how about we do the biggest Manchester has ever seen. We didn’t realise that’s what it was. At first. I did a lot of intensive research going through the MEN back pages to find out if it hadn’t been one done in a straight distance as long as that and no, it never was. So yeah, that was crazy. But you guys did it. I didn’t actually get to do it. So how did it feel for you?

Danielle Tompkins: Scary! It was really rewarding. But it was it was very scary, I think as well because we’ve been waiting for like quite a while for it to actually come around and then it came to the day and we’re like, oh, yeah, not ready. But it was amazing.

Kara Goward: I didn’t really think about it. When we signed up I think at the time we registered for the pre-release of the places so we were straight on that email, the communication was with yourself Nick and we were very keen, very eager. Then we got the email to say you probably will get a place and then got the email so your place has been confirmed, fill out the form, do your Just Giving page and then we were like, we’ll just raise some money. It was actually when people started asking what you’re up to this weekend. And then I was like, usually it’s you know, I’m chilling. I’m going out, I’m abseiling and they’re like, oh, okay, that’s actually happening. Like Danielle said, on reflection, it was just so rewarding. Probably the best experience I’ve ever done. And I think being with everyone when you’re in the waiting room…

Danielle Tompkins: Yeah, it was it was a really good atmosphere. I think obviously, everyone was feeling really nervous, some people seemed really excited and confident but the majority of people were really nervous, but it was like such a good feeling afterwards. You just couldn’t believe that it just happened, one minute you were at the top of the building looking down, Thinking, Oh my god, I might die. And then you go down, it was so good!

Kara Goward: It’s the sort of thing we keep thinking about. Even now. We talked about it just this lunchtime. We were just talking about it again and our experience and honestly, it was great. How was it for you to watch it?

Nick Clarke: I mean, I was nervous as you can imagine because this was the first event that I had moulded, recruited and distributed the processes all the way through, so it’s very much like my baby. So when it actually came, I was overwhelmingly relieved and great this is happening now finally. It was nice to see so many people but as nervous as people were, they were in really good spirits. To even just stand on the edge of 26 stories where you can see the entire city, being high or everyone even stood on the edge, let alone went down on the shoulder and amazing bravery. So it was just very, wow, and all these people are doing it as well obviously for the experience. They’re doing it and raising money for our work and that’s a really fulfilling feeling. The fact that you’re still talking about it days, weeks after. That gives us an inkling for next year, maybe.

Danielle Tompkins: I know you’ve got to do something big to top this one.

Nick Clarke: The obvious one people are saying is skydiving. But that is just ridiculous. It costs a lot apparently from what I’ve heard anyway, I’ve never done it myself. I would I trust professionals taking people down abseil, they’ve been doing it for decades. I will never trust anyone that tells me it’s okay to jump out of the plane haha! In total, I think we’ve raised collectively over £30,000 think it’s that £36,000 When I checked.

Danielle Tompkins: Where’s that money going to go? Is that planned or is it going to go in a few places?

Nick Clarke: At the moment, I think it’s just nearly up including all of the costs and in including all the other donations that it’s looking like it may be our biggest ever fundraising. We’ve never had something that big. It’s just incredible, was so tough. And proud of all the supporters, so many went above and beyond and you guys yourselves did brilliantly. The money so all of our fundraising events will always go to keep making sure that those two biggest programmes can keep going as long as possible. So the stronger communities fund and Manchester’s rising stars fund.
We award grants every single month, but just last week, we had a quarterly board of trustees meeting so I can give you some more fresh examples from the strong communities. And the first one to me encapsulates what it’s all about is a we awarded to a community group in Openshaw called Happy somedays that are actually an inclusive Football Club. And in short it’s for people who in their own words, don’t fit the norm or certain social circle to go to the regular football club and what started as a kickabout for anyone who’s grown into regular sessions with more than 400 participants in Seoul, and every week they get 100 people which is a huge number of doing local communities, sports and stuff like that. They’ve got ladies men’s mixed football sessions and they’re even expanding to offer fitness sessions.

The sessions are mostly self-sustaining. Participants pay subs, but they also employ an honesty policy to allow for people who can’t afford every session because that’s the way things are enforced in our communities. In order to take that stress off them, we’ve awarded them with £4000 to cover their pitch costs for an entire 12 months. So for a whole year, that’s a massive cost they’d have really struggled to come up with on their own it’s now not a worry. And then they can continue looking after each other and show them what community is all about, which is brilliant. And another one which will be close to you guys. So last week, one of the other last week ones we’ve worked, it’s a Hideout YouthZone in support of the LGBTQ+ members and provides educational resources and loads of great stuff that they’re really well placed to deal with some sort of youth institution. And you know I loved Adam on the last podcast as well. But yeah, so we’re all about celebrating Manchester’s communities in all the ways that they present themselves and you see it in the breakfast projects we support. You two collectively raised just under a grand I think we include Gift Aid which is amazing. We regularly award grants of that amount to change the lives and prospects through that Manchester rising stars one like I said you’re both making massive individual differences there.

Kara Goward: That’s great because like you said, Godel Technologies have been a founder patron since 2019. So we regularly see what this money and the support for Manchester is doing for young people of Manchester and support in career prospects, the confidence, giving them the opportunities that they might not just have before, we see that every day when we see the updates coming in from Adam.

Nick Clarke: That brings me on to the Manchester’s rising stars fund. This is the most recent, big programme, but is by far one of the most important. It exists to award talented ambitious young mancunians who unfortunately experienced and a bit of disadvantage through no fault of their own. With the resources or training or equipment or wherever they need to, to reach the ambitions that they’ve set for themselves. We don’t give cash directly to them. We will buy stuff for them so they know that they need to have a specific laptop with some software if they’re for example an aspiring graphic designer, or is there room and mechanic apprentice mechanic and they need to buy, but there was no way to do for me because, you know, because of parents situation and stuff like that. It stops funds from being a barrier to young people making the best out of their talents. And I think that’s so important. We like to link together all the rest of the city. And I think that’s what we’re all about, you know, the whole the way in we love Manchester is really important.

In the rising stars fund, we have a fantastic referral partner network, which is people like manc groups that youth zone areas of the council in terms of like believing care service city in the community at for youth and masa do these even some of the Manchester college How can I forget them to Manchester College is one of the one of our biggest referral partners. What that means is that we can get trusted referrals from groups who’ve been doing this grade where we have young people in Manchester for years. With these referral quotes he will let us know exactly about this young person needs and when we speak to them, we get a bit of an in depth thing about them and learn how we can help if we could help them more or in a different way and stuff like that.
Just giving young people to not depriving them basically not depriving them of their own future really that they could reach themselves. You know, with this placement, you know, if I hadn’t been given this placement, I don’t know where I would have been, so it’s nice that it runs all the way through what we do with these young people now with the rising stars fund.
Like we said the way that things are at the moment not just in Manchester, nationally, but Manchester has it tough. I think 40%, and even more in the most recent stats of Manchester kids are growing up in poverty or relative poverty which is awful and it’s just it would be a shame if we can do everything we could to help break that and to help these kids reach the ambitions that they’re able to be able to reach. The funds that you raised will directly like say you could afford a couple of grants like that. We try to get out between 10 and 1000 a month and the amount we can give only depends on how much we can raise, so thank you again.

Kara Goward: It’s really nice to hear where that money’s going. Sometimes with large charity organisations you don’t always see the endpoint. Obviously you’re raising awesome, amazing money, but you don’t know where that’s going to land. It’s amazing hearing that from you about who that’s helping and you know, even people that are starting drone businesses. However I’m not sure if I want to see the footage of me trying to clamber down the building.

Danielle Tompkins: No it’s amazing. The fact that you as a charity, giving people either experience which is going to help them with the future or just opportunities so they can grow their career and have things to look forward to in the future and like, build their own businesses. It is amazing.

Nick Clarke: Really appreciate that. Like I said, we couldn’t do what we did without people like yourselves doing crazy things like abseils. So really, really appreciate you guys for that.

Danielle Tompkins: So happy to be part of that. So one question I have for you, we kind of touched on it, but you didn’t give too much away. We want to know what’s next. I’m not sure if you know, but have you got any ideas for future events?

Nick Clarke: We’ve got some ideas but I’m very glad that we’ve got couple of months to decide before we get cracking with what the 2023 challenge is going to be. I will say though, this is the whole point of it. It’s a collaborative process. We listen to people we listen to our support as listened to my Manchester. If you’ve got an idea, let us know. I’ll let slip that, I think there is an element of potentially very, very, very cold, cold immersion happening. We’re open to ideas. Just be like, throw them out there.

Danielle Tompkins: Wonder if you could do something involving bees?

Nick Clarke: You know, that’s really funny. A few months ago. Did you know that Manchester City Council actually has some of its own hives, and they have their own beekeepers? They have their own hives and they started selling off the honey and they gave us the proceeds from the holiday this year, which is amazing. So you know what, if anyone could do something with these legally it would probably be us. But also I don’t know. I don’t know if the RSPCA may get involved. I’m really going to speak to these beekeepers.

Kara Goward: What has been your favourite so far? Any you did on the lead up to COVID or even any that you did during lockdown?

Nick Clarke: Because of lockdown it was hard. It was a really tough one. We tried to do a landmarks of Manchester sort of a 10k thing when people were allowed to go out and do their own thing individually and not as groups. That was really fun when we got people going past Manchester, a proper 10k route drawn up on a map past Manchester City’s old stadium main road in Moss Side.
Two months ago we did the Greater Manchester 10K VIP experience where we let people into the town hall. Logistically, it’s tough finding anywhere to go hide keeping your bugs, but let people in for that. We did what we did. And then last month before the abseil, we did the three peaks at Yorkshire for our corporate partners. So we had 100 or so one less than the abseil officially so that made the abseil our biggest event. Hunting for people in the Yorkshire three peaks in under 12 hours. That was incredible. It was incredible. I didn’t get to do it. Because I was just stood at the side and giving the water bottles that that was great. Three years prior we did the national three peaks with one city council’s leadership team. That was really, really tough. I don’t ever want to do that again. I’m glad to say I’ve done it. I never want to see Ben Davis. I think my favourite event is always the next one that we’ve not done yet. So there you go. That’s a politician’s answer.

Kara Goward: Well, we’re looking forward to hearing what it is.

Nick Clarke: We’ve got one left to this year. In collaboration with Manchester youth zone we’re doing a really exclusive thrilling Teen Challenge. Eight teams will be going against each other from corporates in Manchester. It includes an overnight stay everything, that’s in a month and a half team what maybe October. Half the proceeds go to us and half the proceeds going to Manchester youth zone. That’s going to be a really exciting one, but unfortunately not for the public. We’ll have to wait till next year.

Danielle Tompkins: It sounds great, you definitely had a busy couple of years and a couple of months especially.

Nick Clarke: Maybe we’ll try and space out the events. But as you know, we don’t get many weeks of guaranteed half decent weather.

Kara Goward: Yeah abseiling in November, I’m not sure that would go down well.

Nick Clarke: Exactly. It got paused for half an hour on Sunday because of the wind.

Kara Goward: I’ve got one last question, please describe the We Love MCR charity in three words.

Nick Clarke: Okay, so the ‘we’ element. Togetherness. Straight up together. So it’s all about what can we do together as a city, as a charity and fundraisers. Belief, belief in our communities, belief in the old people that yes, they can do everything. They just need the right support sometimes and three, determination because we’re determined to go through these ridiculous fundraising events as they face up to wherever my anything that gets thrown at them. I’ve not been asked the question on that before.

Danielle Tompkins: Thank you so much for your time, it’s given us such a great insight into the We Love MCR charity, and for all of the work that you continue to do to help improve the lives of local people and communities. It’s amazing and we’re so thankful for being able to participate in the abseil. It’s something that we will never forget.
Kara Goward: Absolutely not. Thank you so much.

Nick Clarke: Thank you Danielle and thank you Kara.

Danielle Tompkins: It was lovely to meet you.

Nick Clarke: I hope I will see you again at the next whatever the next thing is or if you’re bored, we’ll be doing the group Manchester Run VIP offer again next year so there’s always that.

Kara Goward: Bring it on!

Danielle Tompkins: We will see you again soon.

Nick Clarke: I hope so.

[Outro] Kara Goward: Thank you for listening to this instalment of the Godel pod. If you like what you hear and would like to know when we’re releasing more, please subscribe to the Godel page on Podbean on Spotify.