In Conversation with Steve Grimmett, Zurich Community Trust

Please describe your role and responsibilities. How many years have you been in the company?  

Since July 2019, I have been the Head of Zurich Community Trust, a charitable arm of Zurich based in the UK.  In this role, I have the overall responsibility of running the charity and reporting into our Board of Trustees. Preceding this role, I worked for the Trust for 20 years and the business for 7 years prior.  

What was your background previously and where did your interest in social impact begin?  

Before to joining Zurich Community Trust, I worked as a Senior Underwriter for the Zurich UK Business. Back in those early days I was the charity rep for our location.  I have always had a passion and empathy for the crucial role that charities play in the UK.  When an opportunity arose to join the Trust, I jumped at the chance and didn’t look back. 

How has your social impact programme evolved at your company? What role did B4SI play in its evolution and development?  

I’ve always been incredibly proud of the role that Zurich Community Trust has played in tackling what often have not been popular causes.  We have always sought to listen to the charitable sector when developing programmes so that our focus is very much where the need is.  As one of the early organisations to embed the B4SI methodology, evaluation and measurement has always been at the heart of how we structure programmes.  As well as looking back at what has been achieved, I have always been a fan of using the B4SI model to evaluate a future charity partnership to see what is likely to be achieved.  

What are the challenges you encounter in driving your social impact agenda and how do you stay inspired?  

I wouldn’t say they are ‘challenges’ but there are areas that we constantly need to be mindful of and do better at.  Currently, a huge focus for Zurich Community Trust is ensuring that all our programmes – grant-making, fundraising and volunteer brokerage are as diverse, equitable and inclusive as they can be.  The ‘challenge’, if we want to use that word, is ensuring that once we have addressed the current issues, we keep this agenda front and centre in our minds, on a continual basis going forward.  The same goes for the ‘sustainability’ agenda and how we make this relevant for all the charity partners we work with – the majority of which are small community and voluntary organisations.  

Staying inspired is not difficult.  The job is never done! – there is always more I can learn and a new idea [hopefully] around the corner.   

Please give an example of how the B4SI Framework (or its tools and additional services) has helped you in your role, and your company.  

As mentioned earlier, I have in the past used the model to plot a path of partnership with new charities.  At the start of the partnership we look at the framework and ask ourselves – if we put in ‘x’ amount of cash and ‘business time volunteering’ what do we think we can lever and what will be the outputs, outcomes and benefits of that both for society at large and for Zurich Community Trust and its major donor, Zurich UK? 

A recent innovative initiative adopted by your company.  

I want charities to have a partnership with Zurich Community Trust – not just for the cash grants available but for all the additional offerings we are able to provide.  One initiative I’m particularly proud of, was an offer from the Zurich UK Business to some of our charity partners. They benefitted from the 25% claw back of the ‘Apprenticeship Levy” to fund apprenticeship training costs.  Therefore, earlier this year we were able to gift 15 free, 13-month  ‘Fundraising Apprenticeships” to our charity partners.  This initiative has been so successful that we are just about to repeat it! 

How you have supported the community during Covid-19.  

At the end of March 2020, I received agreement from our Board of Trustees for a five-point plan. Included within this plan was £2.4 million for funding spent supporting our existing UK charity partners as well as skills-based webinars- to name just two of the five points.  I was particularly pleased with how we structured the release of funds throughout 2020.  We split it into three phases, with my colleagues staying in frequent contact with all our partners.  It was so heartening to hear some of our partners forego the monies early on [leaving more for those that needed it then] in the knowledge that there were other funds they could claim later in the year.  It worked out so well!  

Any examples of Business Innovation or Procurement for Social Impact at your company.  

Zurich UK was one of the initial signatories to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge in April 2016- an initiative in conjunction with Social Enterprise UK and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.  One particular current day initiative involves Zurich UK procurement of its stationary supplies through the Wildhearts Group, which is a portfolio of companies that, through their activities and profits, create global social change.  That in itself is very positive, however through that relationship Zurich UK has also used Wildhearts’ ‘Micro Tyco’ programme to promote entrepreneurial thinking within Zurich’s Procurement team- whilst driving a focus on doing business for good by focusing on the SDG’s.  So, out of one procurement for social impact decision, flows many other ideas.   

What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?  

I’m incredibly proud of the current work we are doing building a non-financial package of support for all our charity partners to sit alongside our cash donations. Informed by an Advisory Council of 12 charity partners, we are constantly evolving our offering.  This year, in addition to the aforementioned free apprenticeships, we’ve also provided free access to ‘Funds Online’ [the online funding search engine for charities], funded online governance reviews, external courses on diversifying a charity’s income streams and bid writing, amongst others. In addition, we have also granted access to a vast array of Zurich UK’s online training resources as well as seminars on wellbeing and personal development. 

What is your motto in life? 

Can I have two? ‘You learn something new every day” and “the more I know the more I realise I have to learn” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *