Free property advice: a win-win proposition

Sally Robinson | 04.12.15

Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving designed as an antidote to shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday, took place earlier this week and gave individuals and companies the opportunity to help the causes they care about. Donations surged. Visa Europe reported a 36% increase in contributions from last year and online fundraising platform JustGiving raised £1.25m. Appetite for 'giving back' - whether as a remedy to Christmas Shopping, or otherwise - appears to be growing. And the property industry is following suit. 

In July 2014, LandAid launched its free property advice programme, a match-making service that pairs property professionals with charities seeking advice on their buildings. In the first year of the scheme, 16 companies lent their expertise to 15 charities, saving those organisations an estimated £1.2m. While the internet and social media have changed how we give, it is programmes like this that are changing what we give. Time can be just as valuable as money. And in the case of our free property advice programme, the gains are huge. For the charity it's a chance to receive professional services at no cost whatsoever, often saving the organisation thousands of pounds.

And for the professional? Well, among other benefits it's an opportunity to use their day-to-day skills to create tremendous charitable impact. 'I don’t consider any of the tasks we have completed as complex but it is clear they were all new to the charity. It’s rewarding to know that with very little effort from our side we are providing an invaluable service to a charity and its beneficiaries,' Ben Walford, Partner at Prestbury Investments tells me. 

Ben signed up to LandAid's free property advice programme shortly after it launched in 2014. His company Prestbury Investments was paired up with the Bath and North East Somerset Carers Centre (BANESCC), a local charity supporting people who care for family and friends. The team behind the centre wanted to buy their building but didn't have the confidence to begin the process. Prestbury helped the charity to evaluate whether the building was right for them, assess whether they had the funds to acheive the end building they envisaged, and guided them through the purchase.

Prestbury utilised their contacts to draft in a full pro-bono professional team. Planning advice was provided by Jo Davis of Bilfinger GVA, Andy Mcvey of Ramboll Environ assisted with environmental issues and Louise Tobutt of Taylor Wessing managed the legal aspects of the purchase. Prestbury benefitted from the exchange in more ways than Ben had expected: 'the opportunity to work with our business contacts on a charitable endeavour has strengthened our relationship with them [our business contacts], far more than any corporate entertainment ever could.'

BANESCC completed on its purchase in October of this year. 'Our dream of securing a permanent base for carers in our community has been made a reality', said Chief Executive Sonia Hutchison who paid tribute to Prestbury's contribution by naming an award at the centre's Unsung Heroes ceremony after the business. ‘Ben has been a fantastic support to the Carers’ Centre, he has helped to ensure the building we are purchasing didn’t go on to the open market, negotiated the terms with the landlord and put us in touch with other pro bono or good value services to progress the sale. All the way along Ben has provided us with the confidence and expertise to make this step change in our charity.'

Since the project, Ben's involvement with LandAid has increased. He has visited other projects supported by LandAid and met young people benefitting from the property industry's generosity - something he admits he wouldn't have done prior to his experiences on the pro bono programme. 'I imagine one of the biggest tasks for any charity is keeping their sponsors engaged. I am proof the pro-bono programme promotes continued engagement. Continued engagement and providing benefit to charities without any cash investment, that’s a win win!'

LandAid is currently looking for more property companies to donate their time. Find out more by emailing Elizabeth Pearson, or get involved today by filling out a pledge form.