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Funding & Fundraising – A conversation with Active Kent

Wednesday 11th January 2023

Active Kent & Medway LogoWith the continued growth of recreational cricket, clubs need investment to enhance and expand facilities like never before. Following several turbulent years, grant funding has had to react and adapt in ways we’ve not seen before. On that basis, we have started 2023 by catching up with Sophie Ward, the Funding and Partnerships Manager at Active Kent & Medway (previously known as Kent Sport) to get the latest take on what clubs can expect in their quest for funding…

Sophie, thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us and in turn, cricket  clubs in Kent…

What is the context to the current funding landscape?

 ❝ During the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, financial support went crazy! It’s very rare to find a club or group in the country that did not benefit from financial aid of some sort. Hopefully, this helped with costs during a time of need and supported sports clubs to avoid any catastrophic financial challenges. 

Now, we find ourselves in this almost ‘limbo’ space. Some funders who put grants on hold or diverted them solely towards COVID support have ceased to exist, whilst others have resumed business as usual, or are instead trying to fathom how to balance their plans with the Cost-of-Living crisis knocking on our doors. 

Don’t get me wrong there’s funding out there, but its more competitive than ever and fool proof community engagement and a strong business case needs to be at the centre of your project, or it will struggle.❞

Profile Photo - Sophie Ward, Active Kent & Medway
Sophie Ward, Funding & Partnerships Manager. Active Kent & Medway.

The Community Engagement piece has been gaining importance over recent years, how do you best describe it?

❝Community engagement it is what it says on the tin. You need to think of your cricket club broader than cricket. Consider  what your club is, or  could be at the heart of the community, a community asset, a central meeting place or a coffee pitstop, this thinking will not only attract more funders, but will engage the community and potentially generate income too!

You might be fortunate that your club has usable facilities to offer a local mums group toddler time; host birthday parties; or approach a local yoga instructor to deliver their sessions on the cricket field in the summer, and in the pavilion in the winter. Try not to limit yourself to the ordinary, think local, what is unique to your venue and location? Could your club be used as a meeting place for runners, or a pit stop for cyclists? You could even offer teas, coffees or if you’re really pushing the boat out a slice of cake!❞

We are often faced with the challenge of clubs who would love to do more, but need investment to enable that. What would your advice be to them?

❝This is exactly where funding can support, but only if community engagement is front and centre, rather than an after thought.

For those working on capital projects, the rise of labour and materials have gone through the roof. If you look at a project that was funded pre-pandemic, sadly it is not unrealistic that if you costed that project now for it to have nearly doubled. There is no magic answer to this and it places greater strain on the available funds nationwide. The only thing I can suggest is to take time and look at your project in more detail and prioritise the essentials. Could you look at a phased process to it?

If you complete one element now, could you look at addressing another later? However, view this with caution, as depending on what elements you fund it could be seen that you have started your project retrospectively which funders in the future then won’t support. Your phase needs to start and finish, such as building a room, but fitting the kitchen later? Not lay the foundations and build the room later.❞

Let’s finish by talking about Crowdfunding… What is it?

❝Excitingly we have seen a huge rise in Crowdfunding, with some fantastic success stories for cricket clubs in Kent.

Crowdfunding is a commitment, it is a process and needs to be thought of almost as an investment, a mentoring programme as such. If you are expecting to treat crowdfunding as a quick cash injection it won’t work, but if you can apply time, invest and be willing to learn, it can create a sustainable future for your club and open eyes into a whole new world of self-sufficiency and income generation.   We are lucky here in Kent that both Sport England and Kent County Council have got behind the concept and will provide match funding if you reach your target. ❞

For other sources of funding, remember to check the Active Kent funding page which includes a search function to help identify possible funds.