When we set up the project the theory was that it was going to pay for itself because clients would pay from their personal budgets (which were just being introduced) and we would have a company that funded itself from fees and produce sales.
Things didn’t quite develop as we intended. The council still seems to control the budgets and they have cut many of our clients back until one of them is now paying only half the daily rate we started with.
We weren’t expecting to make a fortune but we were expecting to take a small wage out of it. We don’t, and that’s why we have several other part-time jobs to make ends meet. However, this is about funding, not about me moaning about housekeeping.
When we started, other projects couldn’t believe what we were doing, or that we were viable. I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up in an era where people throw money at you. Soon, though, we noticed a change, as people were coming to talk to us about how we did it. Don’t get me wrong – there are other people out there who cover their costs without grants, but they are few and far between.
Unfortunately we can’t advise people how to do it because they can’t replicate what we have, such as a modest lifestyle, a small house with no mortgage and a willingness to work for less than minimum wage.
The only advice we could give, apart from lowering costs and expectations, and becoming a charity as you can access more funds that way. With so much competition for funding most people with money to give away will only give to registered charities. We are a Community Interest Company (Quercus Community CIC, according to our full title) and have never followed my advice.
Many local groups have gone this route over the years, though it’s still relying on grants rather than earning your own money. We have applied for grants now and then but are generally turned down. I know it’s nothing personal because it was much the same when I was involved in fund-raising for junior sports clubs. We once wanted new shirts for a junior rugby team – it eventually took over six months, including grants from three sources, four days of bag-packing in supermarkets and some nifty sponsorship deals. If you don’t have a good brand and a good sob story it’s a long, hard slog to raise funds.
I’ve just been reading a report from the NCVO on the current funding of charities – small charities have more erratic funding due to fewer income streams, the emphasis is shifting to income generation from grants and legacies are a neglected form of fund-raising – are three key points, though not unexpected.
In one way it’s good to be vindicated about income generation, but in others it’s a bit of a worry. As for the legacies, I’ve known about the benefits of legacies for years (from a sport-related training course believe it or not) but I don’t think we have a big enough pool of people to mention it to. It’s a delicate subject unless you can blanket a large membership with a reminder about it. With just a few elderly people about the place we’re more likely to be vilified as a modern Burke and Hare.