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Byline: OWEN HUGHES Business Correspondent

HUNDREDS of hours of expertise have been donated to voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises through a pioneering scheme that helps small and medium sized companies make a sustainable contribution to their communities.

Created by Business Supporting Communities (B2C), a Big Lottery funded partnership project between North Wales's county voluntary councils, B2C Professionals has attracted a host of companies from accountants, surveyors and solicitors to graphic designers and marketing professionals.

All of the professional advisers offer their time and expertise without charge. "The response from companies and individuals has outstripped our expectations," B2C project manager Sarah Thomas explained.

"When people think of corporate responsibility often they imagine large companies, but B2C Professionals has showcased how much SMEs are willing to give back to their communities.

"B2C Professionals is driven by genuine community needs across North Wales, receiving appropriate advice and early intervention is the key to success for many community groups and organisations.

"The project has been a real success, with one local company alone donating PS16,000-worth of time over the past two years."

Through the scheme, B2C's team helps voluntary sector groups identify support that they wouldn't otherwise be able to access. Over the past two years 179 community groups and 210 It all adds of Sage Sheriff individuals have benefited.

For businesses it means an expert team to coordinate their charity giving. Brian Gelling, of Daulby Read Insurance brokers, said: "Working with B2C has definitely helped us achieve our goal, putting us in touch with organisations that need our help, and helping us gain a deeper insight into some of the challenges faced by the voluntary sector, which in turn helps us improve our services."

ACCOUNTING ADVICE Accounting has started 'making sense' for one artistic community interest company (CIC) that accessed help through B2C Professionals.

up: Clare Porter & Co with a High of Clwyd award Llangollen based Making Sense was introduced to accountants Sage & Co through the scheme.

accountancy firm hand with cash accounts and general The St Asaph based has offered a helping hflow forecasts, bank accountancy.

s cultural and s create nces, largely for le with learning ia.

Making Sense helps heritage organisations multi-sensory experieyoung children, peopldisabilities or dementTicky Lowe, directosaid: "Although I have working for other chafundraising and projebeing self-employed, I of setting up a CIC quconfusing."

or of Making Sense, experience of arities and ct Management and found the process uite daunting and Sage & Co director nitial stages of nse.

Ticky worked with Clare Porter on the insetting up Making Sen"Clare had already rplan and seemed to haunderstanding of whaachieve.

read my business ave a really clear at I was trying to "Her support fills a for me, it is really impsomeone there that I cmassive skills gap portant to have can ask even the silliest questions about accounting," she added.

Sage & Co has been supporting small organisations and charities for many years.

Clare said: "I believe that, for new business ventures, charity or social enterprises, receiving appropriate advice at the right time can make a huge impact upon the success of the venture.

"Hopefully these small new businesses will grow and eventually become employers in their own right which can only have a positive effect on our local area."

FREE PR TIPS Social enterprises and community groups from across North Wales pored through newspapers such as the Daily Post as part of a PR course.

The three-session course, organised by B2C and run by Denbighshire-based Accord PR, aimed to help the organisations learn how to generate greater awareness of their good causes.

Thomas Hughes, North East Wales service development manager for the British Red Cross explained how he has put his training into action.

"The course provided me with very important skills to deal with newspapers, social media, radio and even TV," he said. "I feel able to convey my organisation's message in a targeted way and have feature published."

Other organisations taking part included Vale of Clwyd Mind, Mental Health Advocacy Scheme, Crossroads Care North Wales, Artisans Collective and Heritage Inc.

Peter Harrison of Artisans Collective, a social enterprise that helps artists and crafts people showcase their work, said: "There is no doubt that we are going to benefit not just from the course content but also from the 'insider' knowledge. We have started forming relationships with media and are seeing benefits from that already."

Along with press releases, those on the course analysed their stakeholders, messaging, media and methods of distribution.

Claire Savage from Accord PR, who led the training, said: "I loved watching people taking on ideas during the sessions, but seeing how they have put them into action when I login to Facebook, pick up a newspaper, or turn on the radio, is an amazing payback."

PUTTING THEATRE CENTRE STAGEA RHYL theatre group looking to improve their base in the town benefited from some expert advice thanks to Conwy and Denbigh-based Matthew Jones Architects. Volunteers running The Little Theatre want to develop the venue into something that can be used by both community groups and professional dramatists.

The team would also like to develop theatre in education programmes to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges. Through B2C Professionals, architect Matthew Jones and student Stephanie Roberts helped the theatre group gauge whether their development ideas were structurally viable, practical and cost effective. Neil Taylor, secretary of The Little Theatre, said: "It was helpful have Matthew's input.

He set out rules and conditions that apply when you want to develop a property - things that a lot of organisations would not about.

"He also provided the costing in order that we might our business plan." " Matthew explained that, as wellthe obvious benefits for the group, volunteering could bring benefits to his business. He said: "Stephanie was a out student with us to gain so this was a good for her to see a project its very beginnings.

Every year try to accommodate students to them gain experience so with B2C may provide opportunities such as this.

I that businesses should do they can to give back to the and you never know volunteer work might lead, to other work, so it can be beneficial to all parties."

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Read all about it: Community groups and social enterprises from across North Wales picked up tips on what makes a newsworthy story from the Daily Post

B2C project manager Sarah Thomas (left) and Gwyn Williams and Neil Taylor at the Little Theatre Rhyl
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 4, 2014
Words:1077
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