Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) was established 140 years ago, originally to help the Jewish community in Leeds facing hardship through poverty, housing and education. Today LJWB employs over 150 people and provides a key social hub. As well as running a kosher restaurant in its community centre, LJWB provides domiciliary care, homes for adults with learning disabilities, community support and engagement activities. Its 220 volunteers are instrumental in helping to deliver its activities and run its charity shop.
Liz Bradbury, CEO at LJWB, talks about her experience of working with Pilotlight, and how our Pilotlighters helped the charity scope out forming a social enterprise.
"When we applied to the Weston Charity Awards and the Pilotlight Programme we had two clear areas we needed help with. One of these areas was the establishment of a social enterprise. Previously, we had supported a micro social enterprise, Yorkshire Moore, which made jams and chutneys. However, we wanted to explore the development of something larger - the creation of a new café, kosher shop and drop in centre in a new location.
The team of Pilotlighters helped us to reflect on why we wanted to launch a new social enterprise and very importantly how this fitted in with the charity’s aims and vision (which they also helped us to fine tune). LJWB has been going through a period of change and the team helped us to hone in on some key areas around developing the enterprise including the time, skill, resources and capital needed.
The community’s general-purpose kosher shop had recently closed and there was pressure from some members of the community for LJWB to step in and provide this. Personal ego was pushing us to be ‘the go to charity’, but some board members were questioning if it was the right thing to do. As well as looking at the challenges involved, we also had to look at our personal motivations. The project with Pilotlight helped us to take a step back, and to really question ourselves.
We realised capacity would be an issue - some of the team really wanted to work on the project, but the volume of work required would have meant a significant diversion away from their day jobs. We also looked at the financial investment needed: over £100k to upgrade the shop, a further £60k for stock and then additional costs whilst the project got started. Then one of the Pilotlighters summed it up perfectly for us - if a kosher shop was needed the old one wouldn’t have closed - there is no demand!
As with any charity, resources are a key issue for LJWB and it became evident and a hard fact to swallow that we just don’t have the resources at the moment to establish a social enterprise to the level we want. In the current climate we're facing income pressures, contractual changes with the local authority, and increasing legislation in social care services. The charity could have spread itself too thinly at a time when it needs stability.
We judge not going ahead as a strength instead of a failure. As a board we were able to have courageous discussions about our vision (and risks) and chose not to diversify. We know what we are good at and need to keep that core strong. If the opportunities come in the future, we have learnt what to look at and how to look at it, but right now its not the right time."
If your charity is interested in starting a social enterprise, take a look at our handy slide deck with advice for charity leaders from our Pilotlighters on key questions (with answers!) that you need to be asking when setting up a social enterprise.