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Image / Editorial

Helen Kelly, board director of Barnardos: “The challenge isn’t just to help; it’s to encourage others to help too”

by Jillian Bolger
19th Dec 2019

Philanthropy isn’t just for deep pockets and high profile individuals. There are ways for us all to make a long-term difference. From the December issue of IMAGE Magazine, Jillian Bolger meets Helen Kelly, board director of Barnardos, who shares her thoughts on giving wisely.

Managing director and country manager of Barclays Bank Ireland, Helen has been involved with Barnardos since 2014, on the board and also as a member of their audit and risk committee, where she shares her banking skills.

Once I understood Barnardos’ commitment to vulnerable children, it was very hard not to be motivated by that cause. I spend at least five to six hours a month doing something for them, between preparing for meetings, working on projects, meeting service users and attending events.

My day job is Barclays, but this has become another important arm to me, not least because Barnardos’ staff are all so dedicated and caring. I love my career and my job, but the real benefit of philanthropy is in keeping me grounded. You can read about the children on the website and in our annual report, but when you meet them and their parents, you do come away feeling very lucky. When you’re involved for five or six years, you get to know them really well, so you can help with the strategy as well, and that’s a really important piece of my participation.

Barnardos helped nearly 18,000 children and parents last year by family support programmes, early year services, breakfast clubs, teen support clubs and more. We offer high-impact services to the really disadvantaged and the people that need us most.

We’re all about real impacts, so we might work with a child for a number of years.

Barnardos is funded two-thirds by the State, and a third through the voluntary sector. Last year, from a voluntary perspective, we raised about €7 million; €2m was roughly from corporate trusts, foundations and donors, which we call philanthropy.

The challenge isn’t just to help; it’s to encourage others to help too. Companies might have different areas of philanthropic interest that they really want to invest in, so we try to match their aspirations to our work. The challenge is to try and raise our profile all the time, but once you get people interested and out to see the projects, it’s very hard for them not to get involved.

We run events aimed at trying to get business people connected because there’s a misconception that our helpers don’t have a day job. But actually, a lot of us do; pretty much all of my senior team in Barclays are involved with a charity of some description. You can easily do it alongside your day job, and companies are really supportive because you actually learn from it as well.

Portrait by Ruth Connolly.

This article originally appeared in the December issue of IMAGE Magazine. 

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