Nick Hopkinson MBE is just a few weeks into his new role as High Sheriff for Cheshire but he is already spearheading a hugely ambitious campaign to raise £2million to support the county’s charities helping the most vulnerable people in society affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
What does being a High Sheriff involve?
The role dates back 1,000 years and involves supporting the Royal Family, judges, police, emergency services, local authorities, church and faith groups and ensuring the welfare of visiting High Court judges. I will also assist the Lord Lieutenant on Royal visits and act in his absence supporting charitable and worthy institutions nationwide.
With the world in the grip of Covid-19 you’ve dived straight into the role.
It’s impossible for me to imagine all the different scenarios of dreadful suffering caused to so many by the virus. From people in isolation dying without loved ones holding their hands to say goodbye, to the homeless person on the street who has nobody to buy them sandwich, to the young teenage carer of a big family left all alone to shop, cook, clean and care for loved ones with mental health problems. My heart goes out to all those who are most vulnerable at this time. I’m lucky, I’ve run several successful businesses, have a lovely home and family. With success comes responsibility to give something back.
Why did you team up with Cheshire Community Foundation?
I wanted to raise £1million for charities across the county. I spoke with Cheshire philanthropist and businessman Steve Morgan CBE. His Foundation blew us away by offering to match fund up to £1million through CCF as part of his incredible campaign to donate £1million a week to help charities in crisis for 12 weeks.
Between us we could raise £2million. This is a huge sum of money and we wanted to make sure every single penny was spent wisely. That’s simply impossible to do on your own. I’ve raised millions for charities over the years and learnt lessons along the way. It’s easy to be duped as a charity giver. If you just throw money at charities it can be wasted. You can hand over the cash and have no real idea where it’s going and what benefit it has had. Cheshire Community Foundation know the charities in Cheshire inside out and know exactly where the need lies. CCF have a proven track record of getting money to the right people quickly and efficiently. Charities do amazing things but they can become wasteful and get ‘mission drift’. CCF put rigorous processes into the world of giving. They keep charities on track, scrutinise reports and keep the donor fully informed of where the money is going and what it has achieved. By donating through CCF we can have confidence that every pound is stretched and used to best affect.
How is it going so far?
Incredible! We raised £450,000 in week one. Donors have ranged from business people to small donations from locals in my village who have dug deep to give what they can because they have been so moved by the suffering.
How can charity donations change lives?
We had a mum come and visit Warrington Youth Zone, where I am a Founder Patron. She was desperate, her 13-year-old son was autistic, excluded from school and never left his bedroom. The day before he’d told her “life is too hard”. We sent a buddy out to see him and quickly discovered this incredible boy had an encyclopedic knowledge of films. We invited him to our film club. He was nervous but he came and now he runs the film club. We built his confidence, he went back to school, passed all his GCSE’s, some of them a year early, and went on to win the National Film Institute Film Club Award. It was incredible, he attended a red carpet ceremony and was handed his trophy by actor Michael Sheen. He’s now at University.
Who is your inspiration for charitable giving?
My late father Peter was an orphan and had a rough start in life. He developed a great social conscience and was determined to help the vulnerable. Dad was part of the team that ran the Variety Club of Great Britain. I was selling raffle tickets at an early age and by age 16 I was auctioneer at some charity events. Because I was cheeky I did better than the adults. I’ve honed my skills since then and absolutely love bringing some creativity to fund raising. I’ve also learnt that people get a fantastic feeling knowing they have helped a charitable cause if it’s done in a positive way. My dad would have been absolutely amazed at what we have achieved with the Fund so far. But we can take it so much further and there’s no time to rest knowing how many charities out there need our help.