What if... every professional firm in Birmingham gave only ten hours of their time per year to use their professional expertise or skills to support community organisations in their local community? Would this make a difference to the communities we enjoy and in which we live and work?
Birmingham ProHelp has proven over the course of the past few years the answer to this question is undoubtedly yes, consistently delivering more than £100,000 of pro bono support per annum to more than 40 community projects.
Now, with the support of Big Lottery funding for the next three years, ProHelp is looking to build on the Birmingham success story and significantly increase the impact the programme not just in Birmingham, but across the West Midlands.
Simon Littlejohns, chair of Birmingham ProHelp said: "Pro bono work is not something new to many professional firms but without expert brokerage and support this can be somewhat ad hoc and perhaps not always hitting the areas of greatest need and potentially greatest impact."
"ProHelp is a way of ensuring this happens and the additional resource the Big Lottery funding brings, means we can make a step change in our aspirations.
"I am confident with the enthusiasm and skills already around the ProHelp table, new members with new skills and some innovative ways of delivering pro bono support there will be considerable benefits not only in the community but also to the businesses involved in this work. I would encourage all professional firms to get involved."
Eversheds LLP have been involved in ProHelp for over five years and were quick to respond to Simon's challenge. Last week the firm ran a "Keeping Your House In Order" seminar for over 20 community representatives.
The session provided some real hands on professional advice and guidance for the delegates around three main topics : "Being a Company - Are you? Should you be?", "The Disability Discrimination Act" and "Leases - relationships with your Landlord. What to look for in new and existing leases".
Karen Ashton of Eversheds said, "We are supporters of Pro-Help, locally and nationally providing legal advice, by reacting to a community need.
"When we were asked to run a seminar it seemed to be a way of proactively supporting community organisations which may prevent them from getting into difficulties in the first place."
" I was delighted by the response from the community organisations, there seems to be a real appetite for this type of support.
"This was mirrored internally within Eversheds; all employees that took part found it a very rewarding experience".
Mike Lee of Breathing Space, a delegate at the seminar, commented: ""The information was concise, extremely well presented and very relevant to us."
What if. You are a professional firm and would like to find out how your business could get involved or you are a community organisation and would like to find out more about the support ProHelp can offer then, contact John Guilford on 07786 800124 or email john.Guilford@bitc.org.uk .