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New Chair At Halifax Foundation Looks Forward To Post-Covid Challenge


The new chair of Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland Paula Leathem is looking forward to using her skills and experience to help the third sector in a post-Covid world. The Senior HR Business Partner for NIE Networks predicts the challenges for the Voluntary and Community Sector post Covid will be huge but will also present an opportunity to do things differently.

“Coming out of Covid will be challenging for the sector but it has made us look at new ways of thinking and doing things. We need to be positive as we look at how we best support the communities most in need,” she said.  Paula, who has been on the board of Halifax Foundation since 2013, explained that the organisation adapted quickly to the pandemic and made it easier for grassroots groups to access vital funding.

“Our amazing team could see early on what was happening and how the Foundation could provide an emergency response. As the pandemic hit, they quickly repurposed the Community Grants programme and awarded the first batch of grants on the day in which the first lockdown was announced,” she said.

Through this emergency Covid-19 fund they provided grants for 234 projects with a total of £893,225 benefitting 193,394 people. Funding supported food parcels to the most vulnerable, resource packs, digital support both for charities to set up online and for children to access remote learning as well as much needed core funding.


As the Foundation looks to the future, she says she sees her role as encouraging the team to delve deeper into the learnings from the past year and consider whether there’s a better way of doing things. “It’s important for all organisations to step back now and look closely at their processes to see if they need to be adapted. Some things will have changed and some won’t but we need to query that,” she said.

The Foundation’s team of six, led by Executive Director Brenda McMullan, has more than 80 years’ grant-making experience between them but it’s their energy, passion and enthusiasm that has made the organisation what it is today. “They are all doing a job they love and that shows. They take the time to connect with charity representatives of each grant application, ensuring they fully understand the unique issues and needs of each community and the impact our funding can make on local people,” she said.


The Foundation’s funding comes from an annual donation from Lloyds Banking Group to fund all its Grant Programmes, including its Matched Giving Scheme, which supports the fundraising and volunteering efforts of staff from Halifax and Lloyds Bank in Northern Ireland. Part of the chair’s role will be as an ambassador for the Foundation continuing to develop the excellent working relationship with the banking group. “Working with people and developing relationships are two of the things that I most enjoy,” she said.

Paula brings a wealth of experience to this role. For the past 34 years she has worked for Northern Ireland Electricity Networks and now holds the post of Senior HR Business Partner, having worked previously in Customer Services. She is responsible for leading the company’s diversity agenda and also specializes in change management, employee engagement and personal development. A mum of four grown-up children, she also recently joined the board of Women in Business and says she believes in the importance of supporting voluntary and community groups.

“At NIE Networks we encourage our team members to give time to voluntary boards. It’s a great experience to be sharing the skills you’ve developed over your career to help others,” she said.


Executive Director Brenda McMullan said that she believes Paula’s skills and experience will help Halifax Foundation to meet the challenges of the future.“We are so fortunate to be supported by such a strong board of trustees. As chair, Paula brings a depth of knowledge of the sector but also years of experience working closely with people, and that’s what the Foundation is all about,” Brenda McMullan said.

Paula takes over the chair from Imelda McMillan who served as chair for eight years. Brenda McMullan said: “We’d like to thank Imelda for her hard work, dedication and time supporting the Foundation. She played a vital role in helping our team through the early days of the pandemic when we needed to make essential decisions quickly.”

Debbie raises £3,500 for Action Cancer!


We are so proud of our Halifax Foundation colleague Debbie Taylor, who raised £3,500 for Action Cancer!
Following a routine mammogram with Action Cancer in November 2020, Debbie was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) and had lumpectomy surgery on New Years Eve, followed by 5 days of radiotherapy in March this year.
Debbie said, "I really wanted to give something back and fundraise for Action Cancer, without whom my cancer would not have been detected as I had no symptoms at all.  I decided to do a 30km per day cycling/walking challenge every day during the month of February before my radiotherapy was due to start on 1st March." Debbie was able to avail of the Foundation’s Matched Giving Scheme, providing an additional £500 in matched funding for the charity.
Through this fundraiser, Debbie hopes to highlight the importance of being breast aware and urges all women aged 40-49 to avail of the Action Cancer breast screening programme.
Thank you Action Cancer!

Halifax Foundation commits £678,439 to NI projects

Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland is committing £678,439 funding to 38 charities providing vital services for some of the most disadvantaged people in the community.


The Foundation has released two special grant streams to target groups most affected by the pandemic at a time when charities are under unprecedented pressure.

The Large Grants Scheme will provide funding up to £50,000 over the next three years for ten charities working in areas such as mental health and domestic abuse while the Special Initiatives Scheme gives up to £20,000 to seven major organisations supporting the sector over two years. In addition, through its Community Grants programme, another £76,446 will go to 21 charities.

Brenda McMullan, Executive Director of the Halifax Foundation for NI, said: “The community in Northern Ireland has suffered greatly over the past year. This money will go to supporting key projects that will make a major impact on people’s lives by targeting the areas of most need.


Charities supported by the Large Grants Scheme include:

· Mental Health projects for Eating Disorders Association NI, Mid-Ulster Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Tackling Awareness for Mental Health Issues (TAMHI)

· Domestic Abuse projects for Omagh Women’s Aid and the Cithrah Foundation.

· Other charity projects include Hands that Talk, East Belfast Independent Advice Centre, Invisible Traffick, Creggan Country Park and Armagh Traveller Support Group.

Foundation Chair Paula Leathem said: “We felt it was imperative to provide additional tailored support to local charities as we start to rebuild after the pandemic. Not only will these projects receive funding but they will also have mentoring support from key staff at Lloyds Banking Group.”


The Special Initiatives Scheme is designed for organisations that support the community and voluntary sector, helping it to grow and develop.

These include projects for: C03, NICVA, Northern Ireland Sports Forum, Rural Community Network NI, Volunteer Now, Will to Give and Sported Foundation.


The Foundation has just marked its 35th anniversary of grant funding in Northern Ireland. Over that time, it has given £39 million to local charities.

The organisation receives an annual donation from Lloyds Banking Group to fund all its Grant Programmes, including its Matched Giving Scheme, which supports the fundraising and volunteering efforts of staff from Halifax and Lloyds Bank in Northern Ireland.

Halifax Foundation Publishes Grants data through 360 Giving!

360 MainHalifax Foundation for Northern Ireland is committed to transparency,

and we work with 360 Giving to publish information about our grants. 

We are delighted to announce that all 2020 grants have now been published through 360 Giving. This information can be found here.


Halifax Foundation NI celebrates 35 years of giving!

The Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland has contributed £39m to more than 11,000 projects improving the lives of disadvantaged and disabled people since its start in 1985.

The figures were revealed as one of Northern Ireland’s largest corporate foundations marked its 35th birthday with the pledge to continue to fund charities supporting the most vulnerable groups in society during and beyond the current Covid-19 crisis.

Brenda McMullan, Executive Director of the Halifax Foundation for NI, said it would maintain its vital role in identifying and funding valuable projects improving the lives of thousands of people.

She added: “We are committed to continuing to support our hardworking, dedicated charities. The past 35 years has seen this Foundation respond to the needs of forgotten communities, providing services such as disability support, debt counselling, support for the elderly, drugs and alcohol awareness, early years interventions and so much more.”

When the Covid-19 outbreak struck earlier this year, the Foundation responded immediately, restructuring its grant giving to support charities and constituted groups to support the most vulnerable during the crisis.

It changed its funding criteria, freeing up resources by allocating emergency grants to groups running food banks and delivering food parcels to those in need. It also funded organisations providing domestic abuse support, mental health provision and online employability support for those who had lost their job as a result of the outbreak.

The Foundation is already looking to the future with the re-launch of two special grant schemes that were deferred at the start of the pandemic but have since been re-instated. Applications are now being considered for 20 projects with a total of £700,000 in funding.

The Large Grants Scheme involves a payment of £50,000 over three years. Successful applicants will be assigned a mentor from Lloyds Banking Group as well as bespoke support relevant to the each charity’s needs. A total of ten awards will be announced in March 2021.

The Special Initiatives Scheme, which allocates £20,000 over two years to successful applicants is designed for charities that support the community and voluntary sector. A further ten awards will also be announced in March.

The Foundation receives an annual donation from Lloyds Banking Group to fund all its Grant Programmes, including its Matched Giving Scheme, which supports the fundraising and volunteering efforts of staff from Halifax and Lloyds Bank in Northern Ireland.

Jim McCooe, a spokesperson for Lloyds Banking Group, added: “The past 35 years has shown that Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland has been there for communities most in need. It has made real, positive changes to the lives of people right across all areas of our community and it will continue to do so. We are proud to support a wide range of charities creating a better Northern Ireland for all.”

Halifax Foundation Chair Imelda McMillan said: “We have a proud history of supporting those who need it most and looking back on the past 35 years we can see the impact that this funding has had in Northern Ireland. We are determined to continue to support our third sector and make a difference to the lives of many more people here.”


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