EFDN Interview- Thomas Buchanan from Celtic FC Foundation

16 June 2020

EFDN Interview- Thomas Buchanan from Celtic FC Foundation

The next EFDN Interview features Thomas Buchanan who is the Business Development Executive at Celtic FC Foundation.

Thomas Buchanan has worked for Celtic FC Foundation for five years and is the organisation’s principal bid writer. Thomas’ achievements include successful grant applications to The National Lottery Community Fund, Comic Relief UK, Scottish Government and BBC Children in Need, among others. As well as bid writing, Thomas’ experience also includes event management, community fundraising, marketing and public relations as well as charity governance and trusteeship. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, he holds an undergraduate degree in Politics and an MSc in Political Communication.

EFDN: What is a typical day in your role like? What do you love the most about working for the club/foundation?

As Celtic FC Foundation’s bid writer, my principal objective is to identify and pursue grant funding streams, allowing the organisation to expand and diversify our project activity. Typically, my day involves researching opportunities to engage with like-minded trusts and grant-giving bodies, as well as progressing ongoing grant applications. Bidding processes are extremely competitive, often requiring several weeks – even months – of meticulous working to develop a capable submission to a prospective grant funder.

As such, preparatory work regularly features In the course of my day, whether conducting primary/secondary research with our target client group, or liaising with Celtic FC Foundation’s Outcomes team to identify areas of need and create an effective project design – there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

I’m fortunate in the sense that my role is truly collaborative and I’m often working closely with members of the Foundation team who are at the forefront of what we do in the community – it’s always inspiring to hear about the positive differences we are making at home and abroad.

Celtic Football Club is a part of who I am. It’s something that, in one way or another, I’ve probably thought about at least once-a-day since I was four or five years old – that type of constancy is special.

Working for the Club’s charitable arm, especially in the context of Celtic’s origins, bears a certain sacred importance –and I’m grateful to be a small part of this. It’s a rare and fulfilling privilege.

EFDN: What are the main target areas of your foundation?

Celtic FC Foundation upholds and promotes the charitable principles and heritage of Celtic Football Club. Our priority is to provide assistance to the most vulnerable in our communities, within our key priority areas – Health, Equality, Learning and Poverty (HELP).

The Foundation’s ethos is typified by a determination to create opportunities for society’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups – principally, we address root causes of poverty by equipping individuals with the tools and means to reverse inequality.

Charity is fundamental to Celtic’s identity, and as the Club’s charitable arm, we recognise the responsibility of honouring the legacy of our founding father, Brother Walfrid.

Geographically, we prioritise and conduct activities in the north and east of Glasgow. This subsequently extends to Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire with the rest of Scotland, Ireland and the UK following thereafter. Celtic FC Foundation’s work also retains an International focus, emphasising Asia and Africa, and we now fundraise and invest in New York City.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, we delivered around 30 live projects; the Foundation’s work encompasses a diverse variety of groups, with our work promoting employability, health and wellbeing, diversionary activities and disability sport initiatives

EFDN: What is the foundation’s most successful programme? Can you please explain in more detail what the project is about, including the projects main aims and objectives and the impact this programme has had, within the community?

Given the range of our project portfolio, it’s difficult to single out any one initiative. However, our Annual Christmas Appeal is a prime example of Celtic FC Foundation’s capacity to deliver positive change in our communities, year-on-year.

In honour of the Foundation’s founding fathers, the Annual Christmas Appeal lies at the heart of Celtic’s charitable beginnings as it aims to help those in our communities who need it most.

And the Foundation’s 2019 Appeal was our most successful to date, raising a net total of £310k.  We helped hundreds of families within our communities who are facing poverty. Giving them the kind of Christmas most of us take for granted. We also supported pensioners across Glasgow and beyond. And through our charity partners, we made a difference to the lives of children, the homeless, those living in refuge, refugees and those facing other challenges.

Celtic FC Foundation’s Annual Christmas Appeal 2019, delivered the following:

– 645 families (£129k monetary support) in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, Belfast/Lisburn and Dublin who are facing poverty and hardship, with a significant Christmas gift. Families are nominated largely by Primary Schools but also other agencies including Foodbanks in Coatbridge and Bellshill and Women’s Aid organisations in Ireland.

– 100 vulnerable pensioners in the North and East of Glasgow, who were each given a significant Christmas Voucher.

– 539 hampers (containing food/utilities/toys) were delivered to families

– 400+ toys distributed through partner organisations

– £54.5k given to homeless charities

– £43k given to children’s charities

– £38.5k provided children with a Christmas party

– £20k given to four women’s aid charities

– £15k given to refugee charities

– £10k given to vulnerable elderly people

EFDN: What kind of initiatives are you currently delivering to help to overcome the COVID 19 crisis?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Celtic FC Foundation has indefinitely suspended all public, event-led fundraising activity and community-based project delivery. As a result, the Foundation, alongside key partner organisations, has pivoted to coordinating urgent interventions and support for the most vulnerable, at-risk groups, including:

– Families
– Pensioners
– Individuals affected by the current COVID-19 situation e.g. those asked to go home without pay
– Homeless and destitute individuals
– Frontline NHS staff

This project working is being delivered under the banner “Football for Good Fund” (FFGF).

At present, the Foundation has committed £450,000 to frontline community-focused interventions, primarily providing food as well distributing urgent essentials to those most in need.

Thus far, the Foundation has provided funds to around 55 organisations supporting vulnerable children, families and the homeless and launched two projects through our partnership with Glasgow North-East Foodbank- a free self-referral service providing food parcels for people living in Glasgow affected by the current COVID-19 crisis, as well a service providing food parcels to those who have been discharged from hospital, ensuring access to food upon returning home.

We are also working in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) to provide food to frontline staff.

Support has also extended to additional locations in Scotland, England and Ireland, including the Isle of Skye, Greenock, Oban, Edinburgh, Fife, London, Newcastle, Dublin and Belfast. Additionally, the Foundation has aided two partner charities in New York, Coalition for the Homeless and Children’s Aid, providing food and essentials to vulnerable children and families in the city.

EFDN: What makes the role of clubs and their foundations so important during this crisis?

I often describe football clubs as a lightning rod for community action. Uniting thousands of strangers under one banner – or indeed a shared set of values – is a powerful asset and can mobilise people to reach a common good.

In this context, on behalf of their supporters, football clubs can utilise a visible presence (locally/nationally), pooled expertise, resources and community buy-in to deliver widespread, meaningful interventions quickly in a time of crisis.

EFDN: How do you stay safe, healthy and fit? Do you have any tips or advice?

We are still in mandatory lockdown in Scotland, so first and foremost to stay safe – I’m at home most of the time. When I do leave the house, and for staying healthy, I run five kilometers about three or four times-a-week and walk as often as I can.

EFDN: What are your (foundation’s) goals for 2020 and the near future?

Given the circumstances, we believe our Football for Good Fund will be our key focus for at least the next six months before social distancing measures are relaxed to the point where we can resume project delivery and standard fundraising activities.

Our priority is always to assist the most vulnerable in our communities, and create opportunities for those who need it most – we’ll continue to monitor the situation and adapt accordingly.

EFDN: EFDN believes that Football is #More than Football. Why do you think your foundation is #morethanfootball?

Celtic Football Club is unique in the sense that it was formed initially for charitable purposes. Our founding father, Brother Walfrid, established Celtic as a means to raise funds for poor and destitute people in the East End of Glasgow. The Club was also formed as a means for community cohesion between the immigrant Irish and resident Scottish populace – hence the name, Celtic.

In the present day, Celtic FC Foundation continues Brother Walfrid’s vision of football as a force for good and we uphold this charitable heritage in the name of supporters worldwide – it’s our reason for being.

EFDN: To whom would you like to #passiton too, and why? 

I’d like to nominate Boris Liebing at FC Schalke 04. We had some good conversations at the EFDN Conference in Barcelona last November, and it’d be great to hear more about their work.

If you want to know more about Thomas Buchanan and his work at Celtic FC Foundation, then you can download his presentation from the EFDN Conference in Barcelona here or visit his LinkedIn profile.


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