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Report from Funding community sport conference

The conference was held on 4th September 2019 at the University of Hertfordshire and run in partnership with 

The starting point was that the funding landscape for community sport and physical activity is changing…and the world of sport is no different from the world of technology or commerce where the rate of change is increasing all the time.  Governing bodies, social enterprises, charities must not only have the appetite for change but must also implement these changes and adaptations or they will struggle to exist.

Svend Elkjaer, founder and director of the Sports Marketing Network covered how providers of community sport and physical activity can develop a balanced income model. He introduced the concept of community sports enterprise where providers attract and serve customers in a sustainable way, whilst serving a sporting and community purpose. 

He asked the audience whether there was a fit between their ‘mission’ and their ‘money’ and whether they generated their income in many different ways, getting away from relying on one single source of income. He then introduced a number of simple initiatives where providers of sport and physical activity have developed income-generating ideas which, at the same time, had activated people, such as The £1m Great North Dog Walk and the the Hospice Movement’s series of Midnight Walks, held across the UK.

His final recommendation was to get started, learn from the experiences, improve and then forward – he called that approach ‘baby- steps’.

How to secure new public-sector funding was the title of the presentation from
Melanie Antao, Specialist Advisor for Funding, London Sport

She started by stating how vital it is for providers of community sport and physical activity to develop robust project proposals to secure new public-sector funding and provide evidence base to support project roll-out opportunities.  She then highlighted the large and diverse funding landscape from sports bodies to public heath and commercial income emphasising that the funding landscape has changed and is now more user led (bottom up) and focused on bringing communities together, promote well being and stronger focus on outcomes and evidencing impact. 

She then highlighted four case-studies where London Sport supported and advised local providers in areas such as:

  • Assess existing client programme to identify alignment opportunities with sport sector policy priorities
  • Identify target funding opportunities for programme expansion
  • Identify target funding opportunities for programme expansion
  • Convened a range of new and existing stakeholders representing the public, private and third sectors.
  • Developed insight model to identify project roll-out opportunities aligned to funder priorities
  • Brokered meetings between project leads and key funder decision makers
  • Facilitated engagement between project leads and Local Government stakeholders to secure local buy-in

The outcomes were often that they help the providers secure £’000.000s of funding.

Generating a surplus through innovation and transformation was the title of the presentation
from Ken Masser Chief Executive of Rossendale Leisure Trust

He described that in 2015 Haslingden Sports Centre (built in 1972) was a standard community leisure centre in the small Lancashire district of Rossendale. Now rebranded, ‘Adrenaline’, with a range of adventure activities sitting alongside a more traditional fitness and sports offer, the centre is a regional family attraction.

This story was not only one of innovative facility development and community based marketing initiatives, but also the essential organisational and cultural changes that have made success possible.

He emphasised that it is important to develop a culture where everybody has got something to believe in – why is so much more important than what.

Other points they learned from when it comes to small budget facility development

  1. Develop confidence and competence
  2. Be creative with space
  3. Complementary diversification
  4. Marketing is critical
  5. Development by itself is not enough

Their defining principles and behaviors were to be as one:

  • Be One – work together in the pursuit of a great leisure experience for everyone
  • See One – value every individual for who they are
  • Help One – support every person to find and achieve what works for them
  • Reach One – find someone else and help them start

Developing a ‘vibrant and visible’ community sports club – a summary of Valleys Gymnastics Academy’s
journey was the title of the presentation by Melissa Anders

She told that in 2011 two voluntary gymnastics clubs located in the Welsh Valleys with combined membership of 100 and a combined annual income of £24,000 merged. 

They owned large amounts of gymnastics equipment and Melissa was gymnastically qualified – but had no business knowledge. Their plan was to stay open.

Now fast forward to 2019 where VGA is an award-winning social enterprise with clear aims

  • With 3000 members (only 100 take part in competitions)
  • 4 ‘merged’ gymnastics clubs
  • Fully developed 11,000sq ft gymnastics facility + 3 dedicated sports halls + 3 leisure centre halls
  • Turnover > £800,000
  • 45 paid staff
  • 100+ volunteers
  • No ongoing reliance on public funding

So, how did they achieve this remarkable transformation?
Their vision to be an industry leading gymnastics and physical activity provider was key
They aimed to develop a high profile in the local community by

  • Increasing participation (non-sport objectives) which sustainability
  • Increasing potential talent pool
  • Attracting ‘harder to reach’ groups and  developed new funding streams and  support
  • Building on their brand strength/community awareness which leads to funding and sponsorship, while attracting new members

Concrete initiatives initiatives including:

  • Working with partners, e.g. deliver a family walking/running group
  • Non-sport activities, e.g. slime making workshops
  • Organise collections for local charities
  • Deliver multi-skills events
  • Deliver on ‘holiday hunger’ programmes
  • Birthday cards, certificates etc
  • Plethora of opportunities – something for everyone!
  • Product ambassador
  • Representation on local boards / workshops / conferences

To conclude Melissa strongly recommended that you modernise your offer and provide excellent customer experience.

How can alternative forms of finance be used to develop trading activity in community and social enterprises within the
 sports and physical activity was the title of the presentation given by Matt Smith, Chief Executive, Key Fund

His starting points was that as grants become increasingly competitive to obtain, how can alternative forms of finance be used to develop trading activity in community and social enterprises within the sports and physical activity, to enable these organisations to become more sustainable in impact and financial terms?

There are a wide range of alternative finance providers who provide finance for those unable to secure affordable mainstream finance. They are focussed on regenerating communities (economic) and (often) enabling social impact. Social investment is the use of repayable finance to help an organisation achieve a social purpose.

Matt Smith explained that charities and social enterprises can use repayable finance to help them increase their impact on society, for example by growing their business, providing working capital for delivery, or buying assets.​
Social investment is repayable, often with interest. Charities and social enterprises may generate a surplus through trading activities, contracts for delivering public services, grants and donations, or a combination of some or all of these. This surplus is then used to repay investors. 

Matt compared it to ‘old-fashioned’ relationship banking where the bank manage got to know you and your business and the impact you wanted to make.
He recommended that you:

  • Work with your investor through the process as they are often trying to find a way to do the deal – we are brave, but have a duty of care
  • But speak up if things aren’t going right or no common ground – consider voting with your feet
  • Expect questions
  • Keep working at the relationship post investment – and tell the news early (good or bad)

Organic fundraising for sports clubs-The Power of Adult Panto,  the title of the presentation
by Simon Plumb, Marketing Consultant The SPA Group Ltd & Lymm Rugby Club

The Lymm Panto, from small beginnings, became a world-famous institution and is now in its 32nd consecutive year. The scripts are sold worldwide and the Adult Panto template, when adopted by other clubs, works time and again, helping sports clubs create a thriving, vibrant atmosphere and build year-on-year success. Furthermore, this fun-filled activity brings disparate groups together, creating cohesive teams, working for each other and the community.

Over the last 30 years, around 50,000 people have now seen Lymm Rugby Club’s panto which have also raised £250,000 for the Lymm Grass Roots Clubhouse Appeal.

The club is creating a 3G pitch and building a state-of-the-art clubhouse

The shows consistently sell out and this year’s production is expected to raise about £40,000 towards the clubhouse appeal. Two of the reasons the panto has been a success are collaboration and blending everyone’s strengths.

There are no in-jokes. The whole purpose of the show was to bring people in from a very wide area, which is why audiences get bigger.

How to sustain challenging and innovative work was the title of the presentation by
Navjeet Sira, Director of Design and Impact, Change Foundation

The Change Foundation was founded in 1981 following the Brixton riots in south London, using cricket as a tool to promote community cohesion and peace during the conflict in the heart of the local community.For 39 years The Change Foundation has been delivering sport for social change programmes designed and led by young people creating opportunities for marginalised groups to make positive change using a variety of sports and mentoring.

This presentation demonstrated how The Change Foundation has been able to sustain challenging and innovative work by sharing:   Insight into the charities business development journey
–           How to translate your USP’s to help you ‘sell’ your work
–           Analysing and using your network
–           Examples of meaningful and high performing partnerships 


Insight into sector trends

  • Review in line with new strategic vision
  • What are our USPs?
  • Sector trends – do we follow? Do we align?
  • Stop trying to delight, just solve their problems
  • Creation of a Business Development Group
  • Creation of an Ambassadors programme

Navjeet also made these three recommendations

  1. Be fearless – diversify
  2. People – invest in your team
  3. Use your network – it exists, make it easy for them

Supporting football clubs in developing themselves into safe and sustainable community organisations was the title of
the presentation from Karl Lingham, Chief Executive Officer for the Hertfordshire Football Association 

He stated that the FA we have a real clear purpose and that’s to unite the game and inspire the nation.
Clubs within grassroots football have a huge part to play in us achieving this vision as they establish the communities and create the environments that unite individuals and inspire individuals week in week out up and down the country.
That’s why we do what we do in this landscape and will focus our attention on these special individuals that make up our clubs and paint a clear, simple and effective picture of how club by club we will provide the most relevant support services to help them continue to provide for their community of people and develop a lifetime love for the beautiful game.
He also highlighted that in Hertfordshire there are lots of clubs and a stretched workforce.  There are many poor facilities, limited links with schools and a focus on male participation.  We are also facing a traditional approach and entrenched views.

It was decided to focus on experience, be innovative, provide vision and build on foundation and develop clubs that are catering for the whole community – male, female, youth, adult, disability, and walking football. The clubs should be run as SME businesses but still mainly volunteer run.

The FA now provide the clubs with services that are suitable, supportive and sustainable including FA Technology  Whole Game System, Full-Time and Matchday App
There is coaching support and bursaries, professional services including marketing expertise, industry expertise for developing club structures and platforms for knowledge sharing and best practice.

Strength in Numbers was the title of the presentation given by
Tony Jameson-Allen FRSA, Co-founder & Director, Sporting Memories Network CIC and The Sporting Memories Foundation

Tony explained that the Sporting Memories Foundation is the World’s first charity dedicated to sports reminiscence and physical activity. 

Founded in October 2011 to test out a possible intervention to engage older men in activities that might alleviate the impacts of loneliness, dementia and depression, this session will chart the journey of Sporting Memories from its roots of the two co-founders working with 10 care homes in West Yorkshire to a sustainable, income generating international organisation.

Having trained over 700 partner organisations and volunteers in the delivery of sports reminiscence, developing a credible evidence base and impact reporting, through academic collaboration, has seen over 130 free, community based, volunteer led, Sporting Memories Clubs established.

Sporting Memories move to including accessible physical activities to its sessions has in the past 18 months attracted funding in excess of £1.5m from organisations including Sport England, the Welsh Government, Sport Wales and Public Health Wales, Life Changes Trust, Robertson Trust, Spirit of 2012 and Sport Scotland.

Eight years on from founding the organisation, Sporting Memories now collaborates with 100s of organisations to support former footballers and older fans living with dementia, depression or loneliness.

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