You may remember Greenham Common from the peace protests of the 80s, challenging the decision to keep nuclear missiles on the RAF airbase. Today, peace, community and making a difference are still at the heart of Greenham Common, guided by Greenham Trust.

When the Trust acquired the former Greenham Common Airbase in 1997, the military buildings were transformed into a business park. Through the Trust, income from these property holdings is distributed to local charities and community projects in West Berkshire.

The Trust also owns and runs the charitable platform The Good Exchange. The platform brings together funding from charitable trusts, foundations, businesses and the public, channelled into causes and projects across the country. Almost £14 million has been raised since 2016.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus, Greenham Trust set up an appeal through The Good Exchange to raise funds for local food banks and delivery, counselling and bereavement services, care for the elderly and vulnerable, and support for parents and the homeless. So far, the Coronavirus Emergency Fund has raised £430,000. “We’re looking to increase our target to half a million,” says Chris Boulton, Chief Executive of Greenham Trust. “Every pound that the public donates is matched with a pound from Greenham Trust.”

Chris Boulton, CEO of Greenham Trust

The Coronavirus Emergency Appeal

Many of the charities and groups who applied for and received funding were already providing support to people in West Berkshire and North Hampshire. “The best people to deliver assistance were local charities,” says Chris. “It's a matter of ramping up what already did.”

Through the appeal, those who need funding can receive it quickly and without too much extra paperwork. If they need less than £1000, they can email The Good Exchange. For higher amounts, there’s an online application.

Large donations have gone to meals on wheels provider Age Concern, child disability charity Dingley’s Promise, and counselling provider Time to Talk for young people. So far, more than 30 organisations have benefitted from funds. “This is going to have a long tail,” he says. “An overwhelming number of people have offered to volunteer. But that’s likely to twist if we see a partial relaxation of lockdown. Lots of volunteers will go back to work. We could go from feast to famine.”

Dance like nobody's watching, sing like nobody’s listening

During lockdown, the team at Greenham Trust are doing everything they can to spread positive energy and actions. “I present a local radio show and one of my features is 3 before 8 - I play three Northern Soul track before the 8 o’clock news,” says Chris. When the Coronavirus Emergency Appeal launched, he was challenged to a dancing marathon. Every day for 12 days, he spent an hour dancing to Northern Soul tracks.

“I burned about 3800 calories without leaving the lounge,” he laughs. “Northern Soul is upbeat and up tempo - about 100 beats a minute - so it’s a form of exercise. It’s feel good and fun.” In total, he raised £2100, which was matched by Greenham Trust.

The other musical project the Trust initiated is a virtual community choir. “We nicked the idea off Gareth Malone,” he explains. “We ran a bunch of sessions for people to learn the song I'd like to teach the world to sing. At the end of the week, people could record themselves and submit it.” More than 300 people sent in recordings, which were all stitched together into one video. “It gave people something to do and it was entertaining and educational.”

Adapting to a new normal

Wellbeing is something that really matters to Chris. All 18 people in his team are working from home, except Sue Goodwin, who usually works as a receptionist but is now out in the community volunteering. “The transition to working from home was pretty seamless,” he says. “Pre-lockdown, our team spent 30% to 50% working from home anyway.”

To keep motivated and upbeat, the team do weekly quizzes and activities. “On Friday afternoons, people can send in a picture of their workplace or pet. Rather than keep it strictly business, we want a bit of a social element,” he says. “People are working far more efficiently because there is no downtime. There’s no chats or water coolers moments but we want there to be a bit of light relief.”

Keeping tabs with Timetastic

“We already had the capacity to work remotely but we’ve augmented that ability,” says Oonagh Dockley, finance director at Greenham Trust. As part of that process, she looked into digital tools to support remote working.

“Timetastic was an obvious choice,” she says. “Beforehand, we had manual holiday sheets - we didn’t have a need for anything more whizzy.” But with remote working, they needed a simple way of checking when people would be taking time off. “People weren’t interested in taking holidays but we had a staff family bereavement and there were others who needed time out to care for friends and relatives. We’re a closely knit team and we know each other very well,” she says. “If we couldn't get a hold of each other, we’d want to know, is everything ok?”

Oonagh Dockley, Finance Director of Greenham Trust

With Timetastic, everyone can see when people are taking time off. Each member of the team receives 25 days of holiday plus bank holidays. They can also carry over up to five days each holiday year, which runs from April to March. “Because of the visibility of Timestastic, it’s helped people see what their entitlement is and that they’ve got control over cancelling their leave if they need to,” she says. “It’s just a little bit of feeling in control when a lot of people are feeling out of control.”

If you'd like to donate to the Coronavirus Emergency Appeal, you can do so through The Good Exchange. Charities and projects in West Berkshire and North Hampshire can also apply for funding through the website.