Whoever you are funded by, whatever you do, it is more important than ever that sport and recreation organisations better demonstrate their impact so they can continue to create more opportunities to unlock funding. This is the challenge facing the Sport and Recreation Alliance as well.
Demonstrating impact is more important than ever in persuading funders to support projects, particularly as competition for the limited funding available is fierce as:
Local councils face cuts to budgets and the Local Government Association predicts that there will a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020;
The performance of the economy and concerns over the impact of BREXIT means that central government funding is also being squeezed;
Individuals are seeing the direct impacts on their disposable income and as a result National Lottery sales have reduced, which means less money for good causes.
We also know that the way funders have allocated money in the past, is not a guarantee for how they will approach future funding decisions. The Government has been clear it wants to see public investment directed to activities which deliver on the outcomes of the Government sport strategy. As a result in their 2016 strategy Sport England committed to allocating at least 25% of their funding to programmes which get the inactive active, which opens the door for non-traditional sport and recreation organisations to attract investment.
We broadly support the direction of the new strategy because we welcome the focus it puts on the wider contribution the sector can make to society. We are, however, concerned about the expectation that sport and recreation can and should solve every public policy issue without significant further investment from the departments it can help, such as the Department of Health and the Home Office.
But whether that’s the right approach isn’t the point here. Aside from the “push” towards diversification of funding that comes from less public investment, there are good “pull” reasons for organisations to broaden their sources of income.
Diversification of funding means that organisations are more sustainable in the long run, and less vulnerable to short term changes in approach from different funders. The emphasis on creating new revenue streams also causes organisations to think about creating new connections or partnerships. These can bring wider benefits, such as broadening an organisation’s customer base. But reducing the proportion of income you receive from one funding source isn’t easy – otherwise, we would all be doing it.
There are some good examples in the sector of organisations that have tried different approaches and been successful, which is why we have created sessions at some of our events called SPORT Talks. These talks focus on making sure we continue to share what works and doesn’t work so that our members and the wider sector can understand how to approach new challenges.
In January, we will have four SPORT Talks involving our members sharing how they are approaching this funding challenge at our Fit for the Future Convention in Loughborough.
An example of a different approach to funding is the campaign coordinated by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) called Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million, which aims to raise £1 million for vital repair work in the UK’s 15 National Parks via crowdfunding. This is their second crowdfunding campaign which focuses on generating support from corporates, charitable foundations and outdoor enthusiasts, while creating a sense of pride and responsibility for looking after our most valued landscapes. This type of activity isn’t new in the charity sector – but sport and recreation organisations getting involved is a fairly new and creative approach to income generation.
We know that the sector needs to continue to evolve as it takes on new challenges and seeks new opportunities to grow. The good news is that, as we have evidenced above, there is the will and the ability to do this within the sector.