If you’re from Fleetwood, you probably knew of the late Doreen Lofthouse. Mrs Lofthouse was the business powerhouse that turned Fisherman’s Friend Lozenges from a family business aiding local fishermen to a global brand with annual revenues of more than £55 million.
But in the Lancashire fishing town, it wasn’t just her business acumen that earned her the nickname the “Mother of Fleetwood”. Mrs Lofthouse was an incredible philanthropist who dedicated not only tens of millions of pounds through the Lofthouse Foundation, but her time and care to the town of Fleetwood until she passed away March 31st this year, aged 91.
Tributes to Mrs Lofthouse and her philanthropic work online are wide and vast. She’s pictured opening an MRI scanner, YMCA, waving off a tram, the list goes on! It’s clear that as well as being a tycoon of industry, Mrs Lofthouse put in the work to gain her philanthropic reputation. And, as if she hadn’t done more than enough in her lifetime, last week it was reported that Mrs Lofthouse left £41 million to the Lofthouse Foundation in her will(to put this into context a little – the foundation operates with an annual turnover of around £100,000 currently). The Lofthouse Foundation was the charitable organisation through which Mrs Lofthouse undertook her philanthropic giving. In other words, she left £41 million to the town of Fleetwood.
This is first and foremost an astounding reminder of the transformational capabilities of legacy giving. However, the gift also stands as an illustration of Doreen Lofthouse’s dedication to building up the fishing town in which she built her fortune and spent her life.
Mrs Lofthouse is a brilliant example of one of the last few year’s biggest fundraising buzz phrases: “Place-based giving.” Place-based giving is where funders and philanthropists, communities and local charities come together to tackle the particular needs of a specific geographic location. It comes from the idea that while it may be hard to see meaningful societal change from big picture ideas, it’s much easier to build up from the ground. It also means that those within the community lead the agenda for change, so it really is what is best for the community itself.
With all of Mrs Lofthouse philanthropic efforts, she was making her beloved hometown a better place to live, be that through transport, health or community charity work. This isn’t uncommon in philanthropists. (Though we may hear more about a philanthropist’s link to a cause close to them, say for example Oprah Winfrey’s dedication to the development of young girls, it’s also pretty usual for them to dedicate a certain amount of money to their hometown, say Winfrey’s Boys and Girls Club in her hometown Kosciusko.)
But, over the past couple of years, Place-based giving has been a key strategy for government in rebuilding communities. In 2018 the Government’s Civil Society Strategy was published, providing £100,000 of funding to six Place-based giving schemes in England. It’s also a plainly stated mission in Arts Council England’s recent initiative as part of Let’s Create Priority Places. If you’ve not come across this yet, over the next four years, Arts Council will prioritise funding for 54 places across England where their investment and engagement is lowest.
Doreen Lofthouse was a shining example of what happens when you have both the love for a place to transform it and the financial means. In both the government and Arts Council’s new strategies, it seems that they are almost stepping to provide funds to those with Mrs Lofthouse’s know-how, if not money. If you live or work in one of these places but lack the funds to become the “Mother” of your town by yourself, this new strategy from Arts Council is a perfect opportunity to pair your local knowledge of your cultural landscape’s needs with Arts Council backed funds. It’s interesting that in all of the photos of that I’ve been looking at of Mrs Lofthouse’s brilliant work (highly recommended to anyone looking to admire the work of such a respected philanthropist!) I’ve yet to come across one of her in an arts or cultural venue.
Our love and wishes to the Lofthouse family, and thank you to the wonderful Doreen Lofthouse for being an inspiration to us all.
How do you feel about the Arts Council’s Priority Places scheme? Or any other brilliant examples of Place-based giving? Let us know @artsfundraising