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Member Spotlight: Foothold

Foothold, The Institution of Engineering and Technology Benevolent Fund, exists to ensure that no engineer or their family need to face life’s challenges alone.

Who we are

Previously known as IET Connect, we were founded in 1890 to help members of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the widows and children of deceased members in poverty. The first grant of £20 was given in 1900 - a far cry from the £1.8 million we spent on services in the last financial year.

What makes us unique

Although our primary objective is to provide support to anyone who has been a member of The IET or a dependent of a member, since 2013 we have been able to offer support with care and disability needs to anyone with an engineering interest. This enables us to work in partnership with other benevolent funds and organisations to assist this broader community.

What we do

Like many other benevolent funds, we have been offering personalised legal advice, support getting back into employment, counselling and financial assistance for many years.

But we had begun to wonder if this was what our community needed, because despite strong marketing campaigns, we have struggled to achieve a significant increase in the numbers of beneficiaries we support. So earlier this year we commissioned a research project to ask IET members what they thought their needs were now and would be in the future.

The responses turned our thoughts on their heads and helped redefine our strategy going forward because although our legal advice and financial assistance were well used, the community told us their main priorities were around work-life, physical health and emotional wellbeing. They were also very clear that they didn’t understand a great deal about what we did and who we were.

This understanding has shaped our strategy for the next three years. Alongside our new brand, which we hope will make us more visible and accessible, we now see ourselves as part of this community rather than separate from them - with everyone being able to offer and take support as needed, including our staff and volunteers.

Going forward we will be increasing the depth of support we offer around work-life, financial and legal issues. But also, through our new website, which is due to launch in December this year, and our digital platforms, we aim to provide information and advice focused on increasing the wellbeing of engineers worldwide and see a threefold increase in the people we support each year by 2022.

The difference we make

In the past we have asked for feedback from quite a small subsection of our beneficiaries. So earlier this year we set up an online survey, advertised the link through the website and our email signatures, including a question on “How much difference have we made to your daily life?”. We feel that this has been a positive first step to look at our impact from the community’s perspective rather than a number crunching exercise.

Going forward we will be developing more robust mechanisms for looking at our impact and using the results to further inform our strategy and demonstrate to our donors and supporters what they have enabled us to achieve.  

Our challenges

As about a fifth of our community live and work outside of the UK, we are concerned about equality of outcome for everyone who approaches us for support. We can’t always offer all our services to our international members, and this is something we are talking to other benevolent funds and our partner organisations about: what solutions currently exist and if we can find any novel ideas! Maybe that’s something other ACO members can share with us and each other.

If you want to find out more about us please get in touch on contact.us@myfoothold.org or go to our new website www.myfoothold.org