Abba sang ‘money, money, money must be funny in a rich man’s world’. Unless you are rich, running a voluntary project needs to be financed by other sources. However good your idea is, there is nothing funny about trying to run a project with no money.
Again, I would like to share my learning from leading the Phoenix Legacy, which you can apply to your own voluntary or business projects.
Get the money sorted out first.
It is very easy in a community project or business venture to be so caught up in the passion for the concept, that the financial aspects do not receive the attention they need. I learnt this lesson the hard way. It is a common mistake that many start-up businesses can make too; leading to failure due to lack of cash flow.
My view is that applying for funding can be a time consuming, brain numbing process with no guarantee of success. However, it has to be done. The time delay between applying and being notified of success (or not) can be several months. In the current austerity measures, the competition for any funds is extremely high and experienced bid writers can potentially out write you. Often it is not that your idea isn’t good, you just haven’t ‘sold’ it correctly to the funders.
The best thing I did was to get training on effective bid writing. It was money well spent. Community Action in each County and similar bodies run these courses and I would recommend attending. Alternatively, you could pay for a bid writer to do it for you. Training in finance for businesses is also available from various sources and is often free or part funded. If you pick up one tip which helps secure the money, it is worth it.
Funding or Sponsorship?
The Phoenix Legacy managed to secure both funding and sponsorship in the form of money and goods. We are grateful to all parties.
Funding bodies often have specific criteria and restrictions to meet. This can mean you jumping through hoops and having to change what you do to meet these criteria. You can be notified of funding availability at www.governmentfunding.org.uk or www.fundingcentral.org.uk or www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org
Sponsorship by companies can be less restrictive, and despite the recession, I was amazed at how generous some businesses were. It can cause issues of marketing their brand, as it may conflict with being seen as a voluntary project. For the Phoenix Legacy, my own company, Training for Results, sponsored it to a large extent. This seemed a faster and easier option than time spent writing bids, but it was not sustainable. This prevented us applying for some funding or being accepted on the ‘inspired by 2012’ scheme, as we were seen to be commercial.
Finance may be a difficult topic, but it is vital for the success of your project. My suggested priority order for planning a project is money, money, money.