SportsAid's partnership with The Nottingham Building Society and Harrison Murray has seen 128 up-and-coming athletes helped through the charity since 2013. The Nottingham provides financial awards and additional support to athletes who are based within the communities in which it trades. The society reaches across 67 branches positioned throughout the East Midlands and beyond.
The athletes receive an annual cash boost and are presented with further opportunities to top up that figure by engaging with staff at their local branch and supporting fundraising activity. Staff at The Nottingham have raised £37,000 over the last four years which has allowed athletes to purchase brand new equipment and cover essential costs they are faced with at the beginning of their careers.
The athletes also benefit from workshops offering media training, expert advice on nutrition and mentoring from Olympians and Paralympians. Previous recipients of SportsAid awards from The Nottingham include table tennis player Sam Walker and T42 sprinter Julie Rogers, both of whom competed at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games respectively, and T12 sprinter Zac Shaw.
How did the partnership between the Nottingham Building Society and SportsAid begin? What was the main motivation behind supporting young athletes?
“We partnered with SportsAid in 2013 to reflect our rapidly growing sports sponsorship and commitment to people in our local communities. We set up our formal CSR programme in 2011 drawing on the work of our founder to build strong and thriving communities and sport is definitely part of that in today’s world. We have been a sponsor for a number of elite teams and tournaments, including Nottingham Forest FC, Leicester City FC, Leicester Tigers, the National Archery Finals and AEGON Open, and also support a number of grassroots football clubs and local events. SportsAid is unique in its support for rising sports talent and we liked that we could choose to focus on a particular sport or geographical area to channel our resources.”
How many athletes have you supported since 2013? What are the main advantages of helping athletes close to your heartland and various branches?
“Over the last five years we have supported 128 athletes....the youngest was 12 and the oldest 35, and covered every sport imaginable from archery to water-skiing. We choose to support athletes who are from communities in which we trade. We now have 67 branches covering 11 counties across the East Midlands and beyond – as far north as Sheffield and south into Hertfordshire. We are well-known for our commitment as a business in local communities and it gives us a real hook to be able to support rising sports talent and get a whole community behind them too. We are able to tell an athlete’s story, engage our teams and generate publicity. Most athletes regularly pop into branches to share their latest news and many have opened accounts too.”
You have a high level of staff engagement with lots of fundraising activity. How much money has been raised? How do you involve the young athletes?
“As the athletes are local, we definitely get them involved in fundraising. Our customers and wider community contacts like schools really enjoy meeting athletes, having a go at their sport and being inspired. Over the last few years we have raised £37,000, with each location’s efforts going directly to support their chosen athlete. The fact that athletes are able to tell our teams exactly what the money will be spent on gives them a big motivational boost to go the extra mile. Last year, for example, our Eastwood branch raised £500 for wheelchair tennis player James Shaw to put towards his new wheelchair whilst the Groby branch raised over £600 for archer Lizzie Warner to buy a new bow. Athletes have been involved in shaking-buckets, getting their sports clubs involved and even cheering on sky-divers!”
You send out regular newsletters with updates about your SportsAid athletes – do staff enjoy being kept up-to-date? How much pride do they take in seeing the success of the young sports stars?
“We regularly engage our staff through athlete news particularly when there is a big competition coming up. For Rio, we had news flashes and reminders to tune in for events our athletes were competing in (Sam Walker in table tennis and Julie Rogers in the T42 100m) and share pictures and updates from athletes on our intranet and social media channels. Our staff are incredibly proud and often have displays in branch with all the latest news and photos. We also invite athletes into the business and earlier this year, T12 sprinter Zac Shaw came along to one of our branch meetings to talk about his experience on setting goals. Many of the staff remembered Zac from when we supported him in 2015 so it was brilliant to see them so inspired by his stories of representing his country at elite level. Olympian Sam Walker also popped into head office for SportsAid Week just after getting back from Rio and spent an afternoon chatting to staff and letting them have a go at ‘keepy-uppies’ on a table tennis bat. We also keep athletes up-to-date with a quarterly newsletter sharing news and results, fundraising stories and the odd recipe and bit of fun which helps to engage them in The Nottingham brand.”
You run a yearly workshop for athletes to provide them with mentoring opportunities and to educate them in areas such as media and nutrition. How well received is this support? Have you had positive feedback?
“The workshop is a key part of our year with SportsAid athletes. It gives them, and parents and coaches, the chance to meet us and some of our branch teams as well as some very practical advice and support. The workshops are increasingly well-received with 100% rating our last workshop as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. The networking and meeting other athletes outside their own sport is often cited as one of the highlights of the day and over the last few years, have seen several athletes go on to make some fantastic friendships with other ‘Nottingham’ athletes they would never have met otherwise. We draw on our contacts and also SportsAid’s expertise to put on these days as we know how important and valued this is. It is great to see athletes progressing year-on-year in media confidence for example and increasing their knowledge in nutrition. We also give them access to some pretty cool venues thanks to our partners Nottingham Forest FC and Leicester Tigers. Last year Forest legend John McGovern took some of our athletes on an all-access tour of the City Ground. Not many athletes get downtime so it is really nice for us to be able to offer this perk!”
You have a very active online presence, especially through Twitter and Facebook, which allow you to continually engage with athletes. Has this helped to grow an affinity with your supported athletes?
“Definitely! We have a clear social media strategy to communicate and engage though our community news and particularly shout about our work with charity partners like SportsAid. Athlete news gives us some fantastic topical and exciting content to share via both these channels. We launched our Twitter page last year specifically to engage community partners and athletes and it has been very successful. Our brand reaches audiences it never would have done through traditional media channels but also helps us engage with our athlete community including our alumni. For athletes it also gives them practical experience of working with a sponsor as they set themselves up for a professional sports career. This is very much part of the journey with SportsAid and The Nottingham.”
You launched a special savings account last year to help mark SportsAid’s 40th anniversary. How did this work? What was the take up like on this?
“We have previously run affinity accounts with a few of our partners including Nottingham Forest FC and homelessness charity and long-term partner Framework. As a building society, we attract savings to lend mortgages so we constantly balance this against the market and customer trends. We saw a market opportunity to launch an affinity account and with the Olympics and Paralympics around the corner, SportsAid were the obvious partner to benefit. Basically, for each £1 saved, the society would pay SportsAid 0.25% (with the customer receiving 3% interest). Over 7,000 accounts were opened and so far more than £10,000 has been generated. We are on target for a significant payment later in the year with every penny raised directly benefiting our athletes. It’s really pleasing to be able to use business resources to benefit the charities we work with. We don’t have shareholders which puts us in a nice position of being able to do philanthropy work with profits and give back to communities.”
The Nottingham has a very strong community ethos – what other projects are you involved in? Does this help to create a closer bond between staff and the company?
“When we launched ‘Doing Good Together’ in 2010 the aim was to engage and work with local communities to make them thrive. Very much driven by the work of Samuel Fox, a local philanthropist and founder of the society, we are strong believers in team work to make things happen and for us, it is partly our staff. We launched with one charity partner Framework in 2011, followed by SportsAid in 2013 and Young Enterprise (financial education) in 2015 all helping us to target and deliver in chosen areas of our community. We also work with a plethora of local projects through our ‘Grants for Good’ scheme which targets grassroot work being done by smaller charities to improve employability, basic skills like financial literacy and also aid and prevent homelessness. This sees financial donations coupled with volunteering and support from our local branch network who are instrumental in delivering on the ground. Since 2011, our staff have raised more than £110,000 for a number for charities including SportsAid and regularly get involved in local football, community events and projects. We also work with our commercial sporting partners to put on events in local communities such as ‘Tigers in the Park’ and the Leicester City Schools League. In addition, each branch has a pot of funds to spend as they wish in their local community whilst team members have up to two days a year to spend volunteering in local communities. Last year, we topped 1,000 donated hours which was a massive achievement! More than 75% of staff engage in some sort of community activity with 89% believing they have an active role to play in their community. It definitely is one of the things that helps us to attract and retain talent. We have almost 800 employees and for some, it is a development opportunity so there is a definite business benefit to us as well as building profile. We are fortunate and unique in that we have a wide range of activities to get involved in, from teaching kids about money through to having a go at archery and chatting to budding SportsAid athletes.”
SportsAid Week is coming up in September – what plans do you have for this? Does it work well having a dedicated period of action in which to celebrate your relationship with SportsAid?
“We tend to have active fundraising going on throughout the year but it is always good to have a focused period to drive a bit of competition internally. We are very keen to use our resources and for SportsAid Week this year we are encouraging customers and staff to give up some loose change and hopefully create a mile of pennies for the #MyMiles challenge. This would raise around £800, enough to help an athlete out for a year with travelling to competitions. We will also be inviting a few of our athletes to Head Office to get our teams doing something active and our branches have everything from static bike rides to raffles in the planning.”
Lastly, can you explain the link between The Nottingham and Harrison Murray?
“The Nottingham is the largest home-grown financial services organisation in the region and a top eight building society in the UK. We are wholly owned by our members and offer a range of services though our own products and partners too covering savings, mortgages, financial planning, pensions, estate planning, insurance and also estate agency services. By the end of this year we will operate in 67 branch locations. This rapid growth has been partly organic, however also made possible through acquisition - we have doubled in locations from five years ago. Harrison Murray is the estate agency business we added to The Nottingham family of brands in 2013 and merged with our Nottingham Property Services (Nottingham Estate Agency is the trading name north of Nottingham, Harrison Murray in Leicestershire and the south). We also offer a range of estate agency services such as conveyancing, lettings and mortgage sourcing through our own company, Nottingham Mortgage Services (which search over 50 lenders!). As not all Harrison Murray branches have a building society, they remain trading in their trading area as Harrison Murray due to the strength of the brand. Nottingham Building Society remains the name of the ‘parent’."
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