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Additional funding in South Bermondsey

October 2014

Ann Clayton is a community engagement manager in South Bermondsey for Big Local. She’s been involved in Big Local since it was announced in the area in October 2010. Both she and other workers in South Bermondsey Big Local have committed to try to bring in at least as much money as they are paid, to ensure that Big Local becomes sustainable and the pot of money stays full. 

Ann had previously done a lot of work with the council and used this experience to find small amounts of additional funding for Big Local. Ann uses a paid-for IT-package that helps her to identify where there are funding opportunities and stay up-to-date, particularly with trusts. Although she has developed skills in applying for funding, Ann is keen to emphasise that once you get started it is possible to develop these skills and build confidence quickly:

“The biggest thing is learning how to fill out a funding application. Once people have overcome this hurdle, they can then move onto other funding bids.”

South Bermondsey’s approach to additional funding

Once a year in South Bermondsey they have a Big Local away day to look back at their achievements over the year and decide what to focus on going forward. Whatever they decide to put in their plan for the year, they also explore whether they can secure any additional funding for that project and how much Big Local money they will need. Ultimately, the more alternative funding they are able to attract, the more projects they can complete. 

Promoting Big Local to develop local relationships

In South Bermondsey, they decided to participate in all of the major local events to increase awareness of Big Local. For example, at the Bermondsey carnival they had a strong presence with lots of branding to promote Big Local amongst the hundreds of people that visited. Ann is confident in communicating the value of Big Local and promoting their achievements publicly. She says:

“Once a year we do a champions event and invite everyone we can think of, all of the groups operating in the area, local funders, businesses, and we hold it in a prestigious venue – Millwall (FC), to showcase all of the work we’ve been doing.”

Supporting young people through a collaborative football project

As part of the Big Local partnership’s decision to focus on improving opportunities for young people in South Bermondsey, one of their big projects is aiming to develop local football pitches so that they are fit-for-purpose. Through their events and by developing a presence in the area, they have developed their relationship with Millwall FC, who share their aspirations to support young people locally. Working with them, they have been able to approach the F.A., Sports England and Awards for All, hoping to gain investments of up to £50k to invest in this project.

Securing in-kind support

The Big Local partnership also works hard to secure other forms of support. Working with entrepreneurs and UnLtd through Star People in their area, they have secured solicitors and business advisors to help support individuals with social enterprise and small business plans. 

The Big Local partnership has built up a strong relationship with a local business. This has been a process that started by letting the business know about Big Local, keeping them informed of their local project successes through inviting them to events, and requesting help. The business has now become very supportive of Big Local, providing free training, raffles for any events in South Bermondsey, and volunteers to help with the local festival and green project days. 

Exploring all available opportunities

Ann is keen that residents explore all possible opportunities for funding and in-kind support and emphasises the value of persistence. Even if these are small amounts or limited opportunities, they all add up and can provide extra resources to make Big Local go further. As Ann says:

“Once you start looking there are lots of opportunities, it’s just having the confidence to ask”. 

Ann’s tips for developing relationships with funders:

  • Be totally honest and be yourself – sometimes it helps to be grassroots.
  • Returns may not be immediate – for example it took a year to develop the relationship with a local business but now Big Local is the only charitable cause they support.
  • With funding bids, allowing enough time is important so plan ahead to ensure this is possible.
  • Using a photographer at all Big Local events and sharing these with funders is a strong visual way of communicating the positive impact of Big Local. In South Bermondsey, they will also be producing a Big Local film to help further promote their achievements.

Ann’s tips for developing applications:

  • Be very clear about what you want to achieve in 10 years’ time, because every application you put in is meant to support that goal.
  • Use the people and the networks that you have. Could you secure some premises for an event by joining with the local school? Is there anyone who could donate prizes? Who else do you know that might be able to help?
  • Ensure that the lead for funding applications, whether that’s the worker, or someone else, is able to spare the time they’ll need for the application.

Ann also emphasises how important it is to communicate the long-term goals of Big Local effectively in any application for funding:

“When you do your application, you must look at what the long-term effect is going to be. There is no point putting in an application for a one-day fete without listing what change is going to take place and a lot of people forget that.”

Learning from disappointments

With any kind of competitive funding process, it isn’t always possible to win and it may be particularly difficult if you are just starting out. However, Ann emphasises that these experiences can be used positively: 

“If we get turned down, we ring up, we’re quite open and say ‘look we’re novices to this funding application, is there any advice you can give us for future applications?” 

Building relationships with funders and other organisations locally can have a positive effect in raising awareness of Big Local over time. This can also help to improve the success rate. Ann adds:

“When your application hits their desk and says Big Local South Bermondsey, they immediately know who you are.”

Vision for the future in South Bermondsey

Ann expects to continue raising money for Big Local in the key areas identified in their Big Local plan – green projects, young people and older people. Part of the money they are using is also to train people to continue developing these skills locally, and provide pathways to employment too:

“We don’t want to leave a totally empty pot, obviously we have to put in capital investment and infrastructure, but the idea is that will all be replaced by the end of the 10 years and some of the pot will remain, with people trained to secure external funds.”

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