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An Interview with Francesca Roberts, Chief Executive at CRASH

December 2021
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Barbour ABI Content Team

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    This month in our 4 Questions interview, we spoke to Francesca Roberts, Chief Executive of CRASH about their unique position charity dedicated to the construction industry.

    For 2021, Barbour ABI has been raising awareness of the charity’s long-standing Christmas Card Campaign. But there are also many other ways you can get involved to further enhance your company’s social responsibility strategy.

    To find out more about how you can support CRASH, please visit the CRASH website.

    Can you tell us a bit about CRASH, and why and how it all started?

    CRASH was started 25 years ago to help people who are homeless by providing accommodation they need, particularly those who have been rough sleeping. In recent years, the charity also provides the same construction help to children and adults who are in hospices. The charity was started by a gentleman called Tony Dennison who was from the construction industry. Tony died in 2012 but what a legacy he has left both the industry and our country in this really unusual charity.

    CRASH is only supported by the construction industry. And we don’t go outside of our objectives, which is to help these charities with their construction projects. We don’t go away from that because that’s where our expertise lies. The reason we’re needed and we have so many applications is because the homelessness charities and hospices – they’re experts at delivering their services, but they frequently don’t have much experience if any in a major refurbishment or maybe even fully understand the lease they’re about to take on, or looking at “is this building we’re planning to buy really able to deliver what we need”. So CRASH can provide three things through the help of companies within the industry: professional expertise, so right from the beginning that could be building surveyors, engineers, designers, architects, quantity surveyors, right through that process of getting on site and understanding everything in that process; once on site our patrons and supporters can help through providing either free of charge or significantly discounted construction products; and then also through the fundraising provide grants to charities for any aspect of the construction project we’ve not been able to get donated.

    One of the things that’s wonderful about CRASH is the way we’re tapping into what people and companies are already good at, so it’s about sharing of yourself and your company with your natural gifts. For example, some of the criteria that’s become incredibly important both during the lockdowns and since is that guidelines for night shelters and hostels is there can be no shared accommodation. So where CRASH has been providing improved bathrooms and single rooms for people, it’s making such a huge difference and has allowed them to come off the street into a fully protected area. For many people, it’s a progression usually through coming into a night shelter, then moving on to a hostel, then supported accommodation and CRASH helps in all those areas. For hospice charities, one of the things we never expected to be so important but became so during lockdowns is where we provided improved bedrooms with windows, and conservatories. During lockdown that became critical for children and adults to be able to see family, pets and loved ones. And even though it was from behind glass, that became so important for people. What we’re seeing now is we’re getting a lot of applications from hospices and homelessness charities because they’ve got to reconfigure the space they have to provide as much unshared accommodation as possible and that is going to keep us busy for quite some time.

    Your latest campaign is the CRASH Christmas Card Appeal – what can businesses do to get involved?

    The CRASH Christmas Card Appeal has been running for quite a few years and we’re really proud of this appeal. It’s very important to the charity and how we then continue to help homelessness charities and hospices. We create an animated e-card and in return for a donation the company gets the e-card with their own brand associated with it to send to their supply chain, their customers, their employees, whoever they would like. It’s a beautiful card, but also it shows that they are investing in communities around the UK through this very simple act of making a donation to CRASH and then receiving this card with their logo in return.

    The CRASH Christmas Card Appeal has been running for quite a few years and we’re really proud of this appeal. It’s very important to the charity and how we then continue to help homelessness charities and hospices. We create an animated e-card and in return for a donation the company gets the e-card with their own brand associated with it to send to their supply chain, their customers, their employees, whoever they would like. It’s a beautiful card, but also it shows that they are investing in communities around the UK through this very simple act of making a donation to CRASH and then receiving this card with their logo in return.

    If anybody would like to support us in that way, if they go on our website at www.crash.org.uk, it’s the very first thing you will see. If you prefer to speak with a human being, you can email my colleague Lucie Gillard who’s in charge of the appeal at fundraising@crash.org.uk add she’ll be able to explain. It’s very simple, you make your donation, let us have your logo and we can in return let you have the card.

    The industry press and Barbour ABI have been incredibly helpful spreading the news about this appeal. In the industry press in the new year will be the thank you advertisement letting everyone know how much we’ve raised and which companies have taken part in the appeal. So we’re really grateful to [Barbour ABI] and the industry press for helping us in this way.

    What are some of the benefits of becoming a CRASH Corporate Patron?

    CRASH has two levels of support from companies in the industry. We have supporting companies and we have our Corporate Patron Companies who really are the lifeblood of the charity and ensure we’re able to continue our work. In return for a £9,000 donation each year, patrons will get the first opportunity to take part in the projects. So once we’ve done all our due diligence on the applications, we then contact the patrons saying “this is what this charity needs to achieve, this is where it is geographically, this is what we’ve done so far, do you feel you’d be able to help with x, y or z?”. If they have time and it fits with them, then they get involved.

    It’s a wonderful way for companies who are serious about their social responsibility. We’re also able to keep records of all the ways they’re involved and the values of that, so it becomes part of their social impact report which we produce for them each year.

    It’s a great opportunity to meet other companies in the industry who are getting involved. I think it’s a really good way of demonstrating to employees and potential employees that your company is serious about social impact in a genuine and tangible way. Also if you’re tendering for work, to be able to demonstrate all the ways you support CRASH and therefore have helped homelessness and hospice charities right across the UK, it’s a very powerful statement.

    Currently two of the staff at CRASH are on paid secondments to us from two companies in the industry, which is a great way for the companies to develop some of their bright stars of the future. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for CRASH to have people who are really at the top of their game. It broadens their understanding of both the industry and society. It’s a real win-win – we’re grateful to the companies who support us in this way, and their staff go back to them after a year and take with them all that interesting development and lessons learnt from working with an industry charity, but part of the industry that’s quite different to their normal day job. I started it almost three years ago because we had difficulty attracting somebody to take the role of our Projects Manager, but also it’s a bit difficult for someone’s CV if they come out of the construction industry, work with a charity and then try and get back into the construction industry. So this gives someone the opportunity to really help and share their expertise, develop themselves but then have that security they know they are going to go back to their company. Currently our Projects Manager is a Chartered Building Surveyor who will be going back to help [their company] with their social responsibility strategy and sustainability. Then we’ve just got a super young lady who’s joined us who’ll be working in communications and fundraising – while she has comms background, the fundraising side is quite new to her, but they’re closely linked.

    Are there other ways businesses or individuals can support CRASH?

    We love to have support in whatever form that it comes. While being a Corporate Patron isn’t for every company, there are individuals or companies who don’t want to become patrons and can support us either by making a donation themselves personally on site. We also have events running throughout the year which companies can either take part in or if they want to run their own event then make a donation to CRASH, then that’s brilliant and we are so grateful.

    Coming up to Christmas, we have the CRASH Christmas Jumper Day, which even with staff working at home they can take part by wearing a jumper and making a donation. Also we’ve got a 5k Santa Run and that’s on our website as well. You could have a simple coffee morning where either people, even if they’re not coming into the office, you could have a Zoom coffee morning or you could set up a Just Giving site and ask people to contribute the value of what you would have spent on your cup of coffee to your company collection page. So there are all sorts of different ways. I know one company who at the end of January has a Bring and Buy Sale, in as much as we all have little Christmas gifts that we’re possibly not going to keep, and so people bring those and then buy something else. Good old Bring and Buy, it’s still a winner.

    Working with CRASH as a partnership, it’s such an opportunity for companies to partner and engage not just with us and with the hospice or homelessness charity, but with fellow industry companies. Everybody bringing their talents together, it is quite extraordinary what that collaboration can deliver. At the end of the day it’s remembering it’s about human beings – we’re investing and helping human beings.

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    Barbour ABI Content Team

    The Barbour ABI content team is apart of the Marketing department and they thrive to produce engaging, relevant content to keep you up to date with the latest construction industry insight.

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