Like me, most Evertonians I know don't have much knowledge of the Everton in the Community separate charity which operates out of Goodison Park.
So I asked for an interview with Chief Executive Officer Doctor Denise Barrett-Baxendale. We duly met up. This is the transcript.
Q. Thanks for meeting with me, Denise. I am ashamed to say I know next to nothing about Everton in the Community. So, can we start from the beginning, can we talk about you? How did you get involved with Everton?
A. I have held a number of positions across the country since graduating from Manchester University but had always wanted to return to Liverpool to make a contribution to my home city. I returned to Liverpool about fourteen years ago and throughout that time held a number of roles in the city including Director of Liverpool City Learning Centres, a range of support and lecturing posts within the university sector and CEO of a Health and Education Trust. The majority of my professional contribution centred on change management by delivering intervention or engagement projects in areas of high deprivation, especially with young people and adults impacted by harsh social conditions. More recently I noticed that there was a position available at Everton as CEO of the Everton in the Community charity, so I applied. I was delighted when I got the job as I come from a family of life-long Evertonians. Everton has always been in my blood.
Q. When was that?
A. Almost two years ago. Since then we have experienced a real sense of growth in the charity.
Q. Were you starting from scratch?
A. No. Everton in the Community has been established for almost twenty-four years. My team has worked across Merseyside for that length of time encouraging young people and adults to engage in sporting activity via opportunities offered by the club.
In the last three years we have become much more focused on developing a social scheme and targeting areas of social involvement that traditionally we had no involvement in. For example, we now have significant programmes running across health, education, social inclusion, and fundraising and of course, our enviable disability sport section.
As the club's official charity, we are out and about across Merseyside every single day and most evenings. We work with approximately 30,000 participants each year, most of whom are Evertonians. Our community programmes range from supporting very hard to reach and hard to help members of our community. These are wide ranging and include working with ex-offenders and recovering alcoholic/drug users through to delivering community outreach sessions for young people and elderly residents and assisting member of the community to return to work after a significant period of unemployment.
Q. That's a very ambitious target. What kind of staff do you have to deal with it?
A. We have thirty full time staff, plus casual staff and one hundred and fifty volunteers. At any one time we can have circa 200 people out and active in the community. Our provision is wide ranging and I am privileged to have an exceptional team of staff who work on behalf of our charity in community venues across Merseyside. This includes our evening coaching in crime hotspots, daily session in Alder Hey hospital and workshops and learning programmes in local schools. There is a hive of community activity at Goodison Park every day.
Q. Do you need any more help?
A. We are always looking for more help! As a charity we rely heavily on both donations and offers of support. We are thrilled to have a fan base that gives so generously to our work. We are always grateful for the support we receive from our volunteers and it is this support that has assisted us in building a strong and diverse community charity. We receive tremendous feedback from Evertonians and we hope our commitment to the community serves to add an extra layer to fan loyalty, making Evertonians even more proud to be blue.
Q. What kind of budget do you operate on?
A. We are fortunate to receive "good cause" funding from the Premier League and specific community grant funding. We also receive donations from sponsors and individual fans. We operate on a budget of just under £2m.
Q. That's not a lot is it, given the work you do?
A. It can be difficult but we are absolutely committed to making a real and lasting difference so we make every effort to secure as much funding as possible. In our line of work the passion for social change makes all the difference. As I said earlier, I am absolutely thrilled to have the team that I have working with me because their dedication to our cause is unswerving. They are mad Evertonians too who recognise how the association with our club makes a real and lasting difference to the life chances of members of our community. We have the privilege of the club's name too, so we take our role very seriously along with accountability for delivering on behalf of the club in the community.
Q. Do you have open days?
A. This is something that I would really like to develop for next season. It would be fantastic to open up our scheme so fans can look at what we do and understand our aims and aspirations. Our fans know a lot more about us these days but we can always do with more exposure and we are keen to share our story.
Over the last eighteen months we have secured over thirty awards in recognition of our impact. The great thing about that is that we are being recognised for the quality and impact of our work by external bodies and organisations not connected with the Club or our fans. It is fantastic when we are used as an example of "best practice." This year we secured for the second consecutive year the Sporting Industry Award which is unprecedented. Last year we secured the award for our mental health programme, a scheme we deliver in partnership with Merseycare. This year too in recognition of our work in disability sport. It is a really prestigious award and many colleagues from other Clubs in the Premier League were delighted we received the accolade. Our recent successes encourages us to keep pushing forward, taking on additional responsibilities to tackle community issues that others may shy away from. We are certainly not a charity that is happy to take a back seat.
Q. So what are the six areas?
A. The first area we have is termed Everton Giving. We support in excess of 1,500 charities a year. These are charities that fall within a sixty mile drive time of our ground. Our support may be assisting them to write a financial bid or business plan, develop a fundraising strategy, access appearances by our players, merchandise or visits to the ground and joint fundraising opportunities. Our first team players are fantastic in the support they provide.
The second area of our work is Social Inclusion and we have been exceptionally successful in this area. Our coaches are out and about six nights a week across the crime hotspots of Merseyside generating diversionary activity for young people at risk of crime and anti-social behaviour. They operate in areas with high incidents of gun and knife crime, ASB and general crime and encourage young people to make alternative life choice. Through working in partnership with Merseyside Police and other partner organisations we have made a significant impact on reducing criminal and anti-social activity in these areas.
Q. How do you measure success in that?
A. One of our main partners is Merseyside Police. They do all the statistical analysis. The most recent analysis they have provided demonstrates a 55% drop in anti-social behaviour and a 79% reduction in crime. Now of course we are not claiming that this is solely down to the work of Everton in the Community! However, our activities are a clear contributing factor. We have moved on from working solely with young people and now also actively engage with parents, carers and community leaders.
Education is a growing area of our delivery and we work closely with a number of schools across Liverpool. We were recently successful in securing the first Premier League Free School in the country. This will provide learning opportunities for those young people who experience difficulties in a traditional learning environment.
We talked earlier of our Disability Section and the outstanding work we deliver in this area. We have a phenomenal section that offers blind football, wheelchair football, deaf football and mixed gender sport. We have 26 teams in our disability league and have a stunning success rate on the pitch. Our programme is renowned for being one of the most prestigious international disability sections.
In recent years we have developed a vibrant Sport, Health and Physical Activity provision which focuses on a range of community health matters. This includes our Men's Health programme which motivates and inspires males in our community to make positive, healthy life choices. We also have an employment programme which has enabled 50% of our participants to return to work, in many instances where they are considered to be furthest removed from prospective employment.
Our final theme focuses on Fundraising. This includes our charity challenges and adrenaline activities. We have a full calendar of events that take place throughout the year and we are always stunned by the generosity of our fans who continue to engage in our activities and raise vital funds for our programmes.
Q. How do you measure the impact of your contribution?
A. Our success depends entirely upon our ability to deliver excellence in the community. We continually and actively measure and track our performance against agreed targets. My responsibility is to work closely with our partners, sponsors, donors, grant awarding bodies and indeed my team to ensure that we maintain impact and continue to assess measure and monitor performance in line with agreed priorities and success criteria.
Q. Have you thought about setting up your own website?
A. We have our own website and have had this for some years. We are an integral part of the club's website too. However, we are reviewing the current structure of the website and intend to finalise our new site by January next year. We have also received great exposure in the local press and radio for which we are extremely grateful and we feature in every match day programme.
Q. Where are your offices located?
A. In Gwladys Street, opposite the school, on the corner. It is a small office, but we are in and out all the time. There is also a great buzz and sense of purpose in the department so it is a fabulous place to work.
Q. What involvement do you have with universities?
A. We have an excellent relationship with Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University. Liverpool John Moores University partner our health programme and Liverpool Hope University played a vital role in our Free School application.
Q. Are they doing any research work with you?
A. Yes, they are currently conducting research into our inter-generational project and our Men's Health programme.
Q. If and when you move in to new office space will you miss the camaraderie of the existing location?
A. We can operate from anywhere! I would never consider any club development as negative to our work, only positive. If we are delivering community work of real value then we should be out in the community anyway so I don't consider any move as negative at all.
Q. So where do you see it going now? If there was one thing you wanted to achieve from now, what would it be?
A. I would like 100% of our fan base to know what we do, why we do it, where we deliver, and how they can get involved. We have made significant progress over the last two years as a charity and we want to achieve even greater things. We are certainly moving in the right direction but we never rest on our laurels. We want to continue to work in partnership with our club to reach out and offer support for those members of our community who are most at risk. We have a very special bond between club and community, a unique and genuine relationship that is the envy of many other clubs. This bond has never been so strong and my vision is for our relationship to become much deeper and stronger as our scheme evolves over the coming years.
Q. Have you thought about something like fans information points at prominent positions around the ground, inside and out? That might help inform those fans who at the moment just go the game and then go home. Perhaps a bit extra could come out of your budget if it was allowed? Wouldn't it help with morale and bring fans closer still to the club?
A. Michael, I will consider anything that distributes our message and connects with our fans. I would be delighted if every fan knew about our work. This is certainly something we will consider.
Q. Have you contacted all the supporters clubs?
A. Yes. We go on the official visits to ensure fans understand what we do. We are also represented at the fans' forum. We have held a number of specific community days too.
Q. So you're reasonably happy with the way things are at the moment?
A. I am delighted with our performance over the last two years. Our scheme goes from strength to strength. Working at the charity is truly fantastic! The support we receive from our club is phenomenal and for this we are truly grateful.
Q. Well, on behalf of Evertonians, thank you Denise for your work and good luck to you and your staff. We can all be proud of your efforts. The awards speak for themselves.
A. Thank you, Michael. I enjoyed having the opportunity to spread the word about our charity.