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Becoming involved with the local community

How is it that many of us end up in doing a job we never thought we would do when we left school? In the 1980s I started work in the textile industry and after a couple of personal and professional twists and turns I ended up working for the Community Development Foundation. A lot of what qualifies me for the role stems from fundraising for projects in my community.

In 1991 with a young family and a bit of time on my hands I became involved locally. I had no idea or experience of being part of a community group – does anyone ever? But with a young child I started with the Parent and Toddler group. I soon took a shared interest in making a run-down 1920s village hall fit for purpose. Several of us grouped together and we begged and borrowed resources and expertise; a local business provided flameproof curtain material at cost and, helped by other mums, I deployed my textiles skills in replacing the rags which hung at the windows.

Then a local resident who worked at the council told us about a grant scheme and, in exchange for a pint, he guided me through writing an application. That grant partly paid for the dusty wooden floor to be refurbished and a new kitchen to be installed.

More importantly, he imparted invaluable advice which stuck with me through my future fundraising – income should always match or exceed expenditure!

Building a new community facility

But these were baby steps! Our community had grown 97% in 10 years and it was clear that the two-room hall could not serve a village of 2500 people. So a few of us got together to explore the possibility of building a new community facility.

To cut a long story short, from 1996 we raised £1.5m from many public, private and independent sources and in 2000 our 15,300sqft, multi-purpose building opened. Almost 20 years ago this was a mammoth amount and £25,000 of this had been raised locally.

How Crowdfunding can benefit your community

So, why am I writing about this? Well, some of you may have heard about support CDF can give you for Crowdfunding to reach your community fundraising goals. When I first heard about Crowdfunding a couple of years ago, I thought it was something quite new and different. I now know that the principles are the same as the ones we deployed, if the method is different:

  • When my community was fundraising we had a clear common target – to raise funds for a new community facility.
  • We broke our targets down into chunks – we wanted funds for the whole project, but you could buy anything from a personalised brick, to a piece of children’s furniture or play equipment, to the whole sports hall.
  • We had a timeline – we wanted it open for the Millennium.
  • We had developed ways of communicating our goal to our community – we all had our own networks and groups we could mobilise.
  • We made it fun and there were incentives to some of the activities. We held Crazy Auctions (don’t ask), discos, a monthly 200 club with prizes – you name it, we turned it into a fundraising opportunity.
  • We generated a sense of excitement around reaching our goals; cutting the first sod, topping out, the official opening – with Prince Andrew, no less – to which the whole community was invited.

Traditional fundraising vs. Crowdfunding

So, it turns out, there is no difference between traditional fundraising and Crowdfunding, except with the amazing speed and reach of online technology what took my project four years to achieve, a project today could achieve in a fraction of the time.

At CDF we know that there are brilliant projects out there with the creativity, energy and commitment of people in communities behind them. These are the most important facets of fundraising – communicate this and the money will follow.

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