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Despite growing demand for its services, supporting black and ethnic minority migrant women fleeing domestic violence, Phoebe's work had always been chronically underfunded. Along with financial support, we worked with Phoebe to develop a sustainable funding model, building organisational resilience during tough times. CEO Mollin Delve explains.

In 2002 a government initiative saw Zimbabwean social workers and their families, including myself, come to Suffolk to work. After a few years of living here, we recognised that our children needed culturally appropriate youth activities, so we founded a youth group funded by the council. However, the youth group evolved and naturally expanded its support to eventually be renamed the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre. As more people started to hear about us, women from other migrant communities approached us for help and PHOEBE was born - meaning Promotion of Health, Opportunity, Equality, Benevolence and Empowerment of Black Asian and minority ethnic women and children. We are the only local specialist women's organisation, focusing on the complex needs faced by migrant women.

We support around 350 women a year, providing specialist information, education, advocacy and counselling to survivors of female genital mutilation, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Our services include weekly individual crisis counselling, safety planning, free family law legal clinics, immigration referrals, human rights and repatriation advice, reunification with family members, and court and medical assistance. We help register with a health service, secure temporary shelter and practical support with housing applications, and weekly English classes.

A group of women from various ethnic backgrounds and ages are sitting on a table and smiling
A group of four women and standing and in conversation. The main focus is a women in the middle who is speaking to PHOEBE's CEO
A group of women are standing in a line and taking part in an exercise class. In this action shot, the women are in various positions, but all are laughing and smiling

As a Black Asian and minority ethnic organisation, those we support are more likely to suffer during an economic downturn, so we wanted to be able to provide welfare aid and hire more specialised staff to address this. We needed to ensure financial stability to continue offering this support. And in 2020, we successfully applied for a two-year unrestricted grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation, this gave us £50,000 to use on anything we saw fit, form staff salaries to the running costs of our charity.

CEO Molin Delve is sitting on the left, speaking to Regional Manager Frances Warwick, on the right. In front of them are two mugs and a plate of biscuits

CEO Mollin Delve with Regional Manager, Frances Warwick

The grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation was a two-way partnership. We were the experts, and we explored and adapted to where we could make the most impact rather than have a fixed instruction on what to do. And with the various conversations with our regional grant manager and the consultants she introduced us to, we reshaped and re-evaluated how we spent the money and were encouraged to use the funds creatively.

- CEO Mollin Delve

We have received non-financial support from several funders in the past, but often it felt tokenistic and didn’t achieve results. We were delighted when the consultants we worked with as part of Lloyds Bank Foundation funding were sincere – they really listened to us, understanding our challenges and how they could make a difference! They met us where we were at that moment and took the time to get to know our organisation. They supported us through the process of change and growth, which we found very helpful.

This support shaped how we spent the grant. Specialist consultants worked with us to develop a strategy for how we could reach our long-term goals, which included developing marketing and communication strategies to make those who use our services aware of the changes within our organisation, and how to access our services. We reviewed and developed our governance and IT systems through the Foundation's capacity building programme and received dedicated coaching support. 

As well as addressing immediate needs such as paying for training of our domestic abuse advisors, through consultation we created a manager role to help organise and lead the team. We also employed a Monitoring, Evaluation and Grants Officer to help us map out funding opportunities and develop proposals so that we can sustain our work.

Meeting the other charities the Foundation partners with on a regular virtual call was very informative and helpful. We supported each other with ideas and discussed issues such as team management, what systems and processes had worked best, overcoming challenges etc.

A group of women are standing behind a table laden with food, and serving. They all look happy and smiling

As our funding from the Foundation comes to an end, we are entering a very different and exciting time. With the purchase of our premises, we will be able to offer back-to-back activities for women and children and support these families facing the cost of living crisis. We will have a community fridge and a food bank. We will be able to train social care workers on how they can support the women we work with to make it easier for women and children to escape abuse.

The next few years are going to be difficult for us all. The support we have received and changes we have made over the last two years have meant that PHOEBE is now more secure and resilient as an organisation, and in a strong position to support our community to work through the challenges ahead. We are confident that we will be able to continue to support the women and children who need our help – to learn to speak up for their rights, learn to read and write, volunteer, find employment and achieve independence.