Community groups have fund raising opportunities opened up

Posted on: 26 July 2018

Community groups have welcomed a new way for them to attract funding for projects that will benefit local residents.

Groups and individuals with plans to get new projects off the ground often find it a struggle to attract funding.

As well as trying to raise money in their community – for equipment for a youth group or an older person’s day service for example – they might also apply for grants or funding from national pots, such as the National Lottery or larger charitable organisations, and bid for funds made available locally by local councils.

Councils in Devon and Devon and Cornwall Police have long-supported local projects via various funding pots.   But now some authorities are piloting a new way to help give that support.

For the first time, Devon County Council, West Devon and Teignbridge District Councils, Exeter City Council and Devon and Cornwall Police are pooling their financial support to communities, in partnership with Crowdfunder.

They’ve launched Crowdfund Devon, a centralised online platform that enables community groups, start-up businesses, charities and individuals across the county to raise money to help get their project or venture off the ground.

Dawn Bebe, Director at Crowdfunder, said:

“A good idea will remain just an idea until it’s got the financial support to turn it into reality.  Traditionally funding can come from many places, but increasingly one of the key areas of funding a grass roots idea is via ‘the crowd’ – the local community, local Councils and other funders.

“Quite simply, Crowdfund Devon puts it all in the one place.  It’s the place where local groups or individuals can promote their projects in order to attract funding from the crowd, by way of pledges in return for rewards. They can also attract a match pledge from one of the participating authorities’ funds or even a national fund like M&S energyfund – which could double the money they raise.

“More than 320 projects in Devon have already raised £1.5 million on Crowdfunder so far, but with the ability now to attract additional pledges from partners in the county, we hope to turn even more great local projects’ ideas into reality. And in time, we hope other Devon authorities that have funding available to support local projects and join the partnership.”

Mary Anne McFarlane is a member of Social and Environmental Action ‘Round Chudleigh (SEARCH), a cooperative based in the town that runs various community projects including a befriending group, Chudleigh Together.  

SEARCH has also been asked by a local homelessness support charity, Homeless in Teignbridge Supports (HITS), to set up a Community Fridge in the town, which is an alternative to a Food Bank.

HITS receive surplus food donations from local businesses and individuals to give to people who are homeless.  And they receive sufficient for them to invite SEARCH to take some of their food donations for a Community Fridge in Chudleigh.

“The plan is to have the community fridge, which will be a commercial sized fridge, under cover, at the back of the Town Hall,” says Mary Anne.  “It will be filled with surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, that people can take.  SEARCH will provide the volunteers to maintain and clean the fridge.  We’ve spoken to our local retailers, and they understand that we’re not in competition with them. They are happy to provide us with waste but edible food as well.

“SEARCH welcomes the Crowdfund Devon pilot because it will provide support for small community groups such as ours to attain the knowledge and expertise to access grant funding for our numerous small community projects.”

SEARCH has recently started a new initiative to create a plastic-free Chudleigh, with Surfers Against Sewage.

Chris Hill from Ottery St Mary is involved with a drama group for people with learning disabilities in East Devon, and they’re making a sci fi film.   Chris raised some funds to get the film project started, but now they now need further financial support to fund the next stage.

“I was very excited to hear about the Crowdfund Devon pilot,” said Chris.  “Crowdfunding seems to be the best way forward for us, so it was very useful to come along to the Crowdfund Devon launch event to learn how to get the application process started.

“Everything seems very straightforward and the crowdfunding folk were friendly, supportive and incredibly enthusiastic – just what we need right now!”

Jacqui Perks from Totnes is trying to raise funds to support Jamming Station, a Community Interest Company that empowers young people through making music together.  She is also helping to raise funds for a new skatepark in Totnes. She says:

“Crowdfund Devon is a great way to have your project seen by a much larger audience, and to build a stronger relationship with your local supporters which is important both in real terms and to future funders.”

Devon Councils and the Police gave thousands of pounds to local projects last year, which included funds to help pay for a really wide range of projects including the provision of defibrillators in a number of towns and villages, work to encourage people to be more active, even for a landing pad for Devon Air Ambulance.

Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Communities, said:

“We already do a lot to financially support local projects and local groups, to help pay for equipment, improvements, and to help get local projects off the ground. Those groups also usually need to raise finance from other sources to support their ideas. By bringing these applications for funding into the one platform, Crowdfund Devon will be the place where projects can be brought to the public’s attention in order to attract donations, and the authorities with discretionary community budgets can also choose to support bids with match-funding.”

Cllr John Goodey, Teignbridge District Council’s Executive Portfolio Holder for Community Neighbourhoods, said:

“This is an exciting opportunity for anyone in Teignbridge and we are delighted to join the Crowdfund Devon partnership. This is about supporting people and communities and helping them to help themselves. We hope it will inspire people to grow local projects and make Teignbridge an even better place to live, work and visit.”

Cllr Phil Bialyk, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Health & Wellbeing, Communities and Sport, said:

“We’ve already had massive support for this scheme from local community groups wanting to get involved. We’re fortunate in Exeter to have lots of groups and willing volunteers who are prepared to give up their valuable time for their communities and we’re hoping that Crowdfunder will allow them to access much-needed funds. Over the coming months we’ll be speaking to all these groups about how they can get involved in the process.”

Cllr Lois Samuel, West Devon Borough Council’s Deputy Leader, said:

“This initiative is a great way to support local groups with their funding needs.  We’re thrilled to be part of this pilot and look forward to an exciting future where communities can access support and funding from the public sector as well as individuals.  This is going to be of great benefit to local charities and groups within West Devon and also complements our recently launched SeaMoor Lotto.”

Partnership Superintendent Jim Gale said:

“Devon and Cornwall Police are delighted to be the first police force in the Country to invest in the Crowdfund initiative. Supporting local people to help each other is at the heart of making communities safer, and this modern and accessible approach helps to reduce isolation and vulnerability by investing in areas which communities themselves identify as being the most important.”

To find out more about Crowdfund Devon visit their website .

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