Below is a post originally published on the Bath City Farm blog. I thought you might find it interesting – I’m sure the issues raised apply to all small charities and community groups. I hope it illustrates our struggles to provide the services we do, let alone continue to develop and innovate (and yet we do….)
I’ve been involved with Bath City Farm for almost three years. The magic still works on me every time I visit the farm.
Two years ago I became a trustee, and then I became Treasurer. As you’d expect, I take a keen interest in the money side of things.
We’re so fortunate to have such a large mixed site (37 acres!), with wonderful views and a sense of peace and quiet often hard to find in a city. All this is nurtured and cared for by our dedicated staff and many hard-working volunteers.
Best of all, anyone can visit the Farm any time and we offer most of our services free. That’s really important to us. Bath may seem like a prosperous city, but for many people who live here reality is very different. Bath is a city of massive inequalities, and we think one of our great strengths is that our site is in the heart of some of the most deprived communities, and we are a vital part of those communities – no-one need feel excluded from Bath City Farm by an inability to pay.
But – as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Everything we do and everything we are costs money: paying our amazing staff; feeding and caring for the animals; looking after the site and keeping it looking beautiful; providing the buildings so that we can run our range of programmes; providing training and meeting rooms. We have to raise every single penny of the money ourselves – around £250,000 a year just to stand still, and rising as costs increase (animal feed; materials; utilities…).
Staff and trustees work hard to get funding. This means writing many complex applications to charitable funds. Grants from charitable funds are, quite rightly, restricted for use for specific purposes, and are also for a fixed time. For example, for several years we’ve had money from Big Lottery for our volunteering programme for adults with multiple or complex needs and several other projects. It runs out later this year so we need to find a lot of money to replace it so we can carry on running those programmes. The same is true of all the charitable funding we get across our range of programmes.
As a charity that’s been going for over 20 years now, we’re used to this. What has changed more recently is the increasing level of poverty and deprivation as wages and benefits stagnate or fall while prices rise and public services and public funds diminish. Our services have never been more important, but with increased demand for grants from charitable funds, competition is intense.
We’ve seen this coming, and we’re working hard to raise a larger proportion of the money we need ourselves so we’re less dependent on grants.
One of the ways we plan to do this is by building a proper café – I expect you’ve read about our ambitious building plan. But it’s going to be a while before this is up, running and able to make a profit.
Staff and trustees spend a lot of time working on fundraising. Our aim over the next five years is to significantly alter the balance between money we get from charitable funds (now around 2/3) and money we raise ourselves (around 1/3). We need your help and support to achieve this. There are all sorts of ways you can help us. How? There are lots of ways.
If you’re financially able to, we’d really appreciate it if you would give us what you can towards our running costs. There are lots of ways to do this. You could:
- donate in the boxes around the site
- buy food and drink in our kiosk when it’s open
- buy something from our farm shop.
- donate to our funds when you come to our events (our brilliant bonfire night is a highlight in the autumn!)
- raise money yourself by doing something you’re really good at, in a good cause (Bath City Farm, of course!)
- best of all, if you’re able to commit to regular giving, is to set up a regular monthly payment.
Regular giving is one of the most useful things you can do. It helps us know in advance how much money we have to allocate to projects, removing some of the pressure of constantly needing to find new sources of money.
If just 100 people can commit to giving us £5 per month, that’s £6,000 in a year. If each of those people are tax payers and tick the Gift Aid box, the government will add an extra £1,200 to that, giving us a total of £7,200 a year. And of course, if some of those people can afford to give us more, the figures become even higher (and if more people commit to regular giving the benefit multiplies…..)
You may think that your £5 per month would be just a drop in the ocean, and I won’t lie – it would take a massive number of supporters to raise the whole of that £250,000 per year. But all those drops in the ocean add up to a great big sea, and I’m an optimist!
If you’re able to commit to regular giving to the farm, you can easily set this up through our localgiving page, or we can provide you with a Standing Order form.
Of course we know that for lots of people, giving money is not an option. Even if you can’t afford to donate money, your time and energy are just as important in helping us keep going – carry on visiting us, enjoy yourself, join in with our work days on the farm, and be part of what we are.
Whatever your situation, we love having you involved. And we love being involved with you.
And in case you’d like a reminder of what we offer, have a browse of our website, and enjoy scrolling through the photos below (I have fewer than I imagined – but there are lots on the website)