Sally-Anne Greenfield’s work in the city region has been officially recognised by the University, awarding her passion and commitment to tackling issues of social isolation, mental wellbeing, child sexual exploitation, domestic violence and the poverty gap in the community.
University of Cambridge graduate Sally-Anne started her career in fundraising, running major capital projects across the North of England. It was in 2004 when she set up Leeds Community Foundation from her dining table, which has since become the largest independent grant-maker in Leeds, with a team of 16 staff and a turnover approaching £4m.
The Foundation is now in the top five community foundations in the UK. During the past 12 years, Sally-Anne has led the team in raising more than £50m in donations and distributing over £30m in grants to local community groups. In her entire fundraising career, Sally-Anne has directly helped to raise more than £75m for charitable causes.
Sally-Anne said: “This is an incredible honour for me, but I’m really accepting it on behalf of the communities in Leeds in which we work who have given me so much support over the last few years, but it’s just amazing to be recognised by the University in this way.
“As Chief Executive Leeds Community Foundation I sometimes describe my role as Robin Hood in that it’s about redistributing wealth. So it’s making sure that the people who have been successful in the city then have the opportunity to give it back. Leeds is unfortunately a city with great divides and our role is to ensure that we invest in local communities throughout the city, particularly people who are vulnerable who are having a tough time in life and we do that by making grants to community projects that you can find throughout the city in local communities, so it’s a great privilege to bring those two sides of Leeds together.
“My message to the graduates today is about compassion. I think sometimes in today’s modern society we are too hard on ourselves and I think one of the big issues in society is the rise in problems in mental health – and many people are just not giving themselves a break and not being compassionate to themselves so to me it’s very important to have that balance.”
Speaking about the advice she would give to graduates, Sally-Anne added: “My advice would be follow your dream and don’t think that there are any barriers if you want to do something – I think too often people think ‘I can’t do that or I’m afraid of that or I’m not good enough’, but if you’ve got your dream, follow it and it really will come true.”
Sally-Anne and her team work with the private and public sectors to channel financial resources to the local community. Over £30m of grants have been made to community groups and charities across Leeds because of the Foundation’s work, which persuades businesses to engage in philanthropic activity through charitable giving, and finds ways to make Leeds better for everybody.
Leeds Beckett University Chancellor, Sir Bob Murray CBE, said: “It’s a privilege to award Sally-Anne’s contribution to the community with this Honorary Doctorate.
“Her drive and determination to improve the lives of people in Leeds and beyond is inspirational. She is exactly the type of female role model we want for our graduating students, and shows just what can be achieved from small beginnings. Her leadership in creating what is now one of the most successful Community Foundations in the country is to be applauded.”
The full list of the nine honorary degrees to be awarded by Leeds Beckett University is:
Wednesday 26 July, 1pm – Professor Susan Price CBE, Hon Doctorate of Arts. Susan is the former Vice Chancellor of the University and a long-standing contributor to the Higher Education sector.
Wednesday 26 July, 4pm – Nahid Rasool, Hon Doctorate of the University. As CEO of Shantona Women’s Centre, Nahid provides crucial support to women of all different cultures and backgrounds.
Thursday 27 July, 10am – Ben Wilkins, Hon Doctorate of Arts. Ben was the sound mixer on the BAFTA / Oscar- winning film ‘Whiplash’ in 2015. He works at Warner Sound in Los Angeles.
Friday 28 July, 10am – Ady Hinchcliffe, Hon Doctorate of Sport Science. Ady is a national coach within the Australian team, a former British Olympic Diving Coach and former Head Coach for the City of Leeds Diving Club, home to six of the British podium divers. He is also a Leeds Beckett graduate.
Friday 28 July, 1pm – Dr Bob Price OBE, Hon Doctorate of Sport Science. During his work on various international Paralympic committees, Dr Price, alumni of the University, has created a lasting legacy for athletes across the world who have an intellectual disability.
Friday 28 July, 4pm – Kadeena Cox MBE, Hon Doctorate of the University. Kadeena is a Leeds Beckett graduate and Paralympic world record-breaker.