I had a crazy Idea – and then I made it happen!
It just shows, that when you really put your mind to it, and take a few little steps every day, you really can make things happen.
Do you remember that blistering hot bank holiday weekend back in August 2019 (a bit different from our usual UK weather)? Well that weekend I very quietly launched the Straight Forward Membership Programme.
I was so nervous, that I chose that weekend hoping not many people would notice – just in case I messed it all up! It’s quite scary putting your heart and soul into something – and then sharing it with the world.
I’m used to rejection (hey, I write grant applications – I’m more than used to it!!) But this time was different, this time I was sharing the contents of my head, and my heart and hanging it all out in public for people to see – and to criticise.
But now, it is tried and has been tested!
I have had a small group of Founder Members working through the Membership Site resources, taking part in live workshops, and generally ‘finding their feet’.
And it has been fantastic, those Founder Members have come from five very different, very diverse Community focused businesses. A sports club, a school, a community centre, an outdoor learning centre, and a social enterprise.
I had no control over who would join – but for me this was perfect. Different backgrounds, different parts of the UK, different levels of experience – I couldn’t have asked for a better way to test out whether the Membership was ready.
It’s now 10 weeks into the Membership being ‘live’ and I’m sat here at 8am on a Saturday morning, with a large pot of coffee, thinking about what we have achieved.
Each month we have a planning workshop. It takes place online, so Members can take part wherever they are – at home with a glass of wine, at work with headphones on, or even in a coffee shop. It just takes one hour, but I take Members through a simple process to help them become much more focused upon the month ahead.
This is what one member said after completing the Monthly Planning Workshop
Q: How confident do you feel, on a scale of 1 – 10, that you will achieve your ‘big goal’ next month?
A: ‘5’ That doesn’t seem a lot, but I feel overwhelmed by how much I have to do at the moment. Before this webinar it would have been 1!
Q: Do you feel more in control as a result of doing this workshop?
Q: Would you recommend this workshop to a friend?
I can’t tell you how pleased I was with this response; solid proof that I was making a difference. Evidence that the Founder Members were genuinely finding it useful.
Setting up this Membership Programme has been a labour of love – with a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ along the way. It isn’t something that has happened over night. First came the 20 years working with sports clubs, schools, charities, and various other community groups.
The writing of hundreds of grant applications; the frustrations, the moments of despair when they were knocked back – and thankfully, the many more moments of elation when they were accepted – and myself and my partner organisation of the time had the opportunity to deliver a project that would go on to really make a difference.
In 2016 I began to slowly develop the idea of the Membership Programme. I didn’t want it to just be another site stuffed with dozens of ‘Fact Sheets’; and I didn’t want it to be a faceless corporate resource. I wanted to create something that became a place that people could genuinely ask for and receive help. A place to be signposted to other existing resources – without having to trawl through the endless amount of often overwhelming information out there.
By this stage I had been working on a freelance basis with a whole range of charities, sports clubs and social enterprises. Very fulfilling, very enjoyable, and we had a huge amount of success. Helping one club to become ‘Sports Club of the Year 2016’ was a particular highlight.
But it was equally frustrating that I couldn’t afford the time to also help those grass roots organisations that couldn’t afford to pay a ‘bid writer’. I did as much as I could for free, but long term that just wasn’t sustainable, and I could never help them all – there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
(By the way, I don’t really class myself as a professional bid writer. I get too involved with the organisations I work with for that. I am more of a Virtual Development Officer, who just happens to focus quite closely upon the benefits that grants can bring to an organisation – and its community).
I had no idea where to start – but by investing in a Membership Programme myself (Jo Bendle – the Wildly Successful Society), I learned how to focus on my goal, develop a solution and take tiny bits of action, every single day to make it happen
I looked at the problems, the stresses, the frustrations I had faced myself with the whole grant funding landscape; I realised that I had developed some really good systems that could actually benefit other people and organisations if I could find a way to share them
I really, really wanted it to be, quite simple and straight forward.
I wanted to find a way that would be accessible for everyone. That would complement, rather than compete with the other support organisations and resources out there. A programme that would help people untangle the mysteries of grant funding applications, bring clarity and reassurance, and focused practical support. Something that was low cost, but high impact. And I also wanted it to be fun, (how the heck do you make grant applications fun?)!
So, in August 2019, I pushed myself well out of my comfort and launched the pilot version of the
And now I am gearing myself up for a full on, ‘not letting myself hide’ launch. It’s terrifying yet exciting not to mention slightly overwhelming!
I’d love for you to follow the journey, see how it unfolds, and watch the success that it brings to all those community businesses. Because they aren’t just ‘not for profit organisations’, they are most definitely businesses; it’s just that they put social impact, sporting success, peoples need – above profit.
Come over and follow me at my Facebook Page, or if you are looking for grant funding yourself, you may find our group useful Straight Forward Funding Sources. I post regular updates to this group about the different sources of funding available, and the group is full of people who themselves run a huge range of charities, social enterprises, sports clubs and other community focused businesses – there are also lots of people who work in schools, who are looking for ways to enrich the lives of their pupils. It’s a great place to network.
And of course, if you would like to find out more about the Membership Programme you can read about it here – make sure you sign up to the waiting list if you would like to know when it next opens to new members.
And finally, if you run a sports club, a social enterprise, a community centre, or any other type of organisation that has a social impact.
Its people like you, that make a real difference to peoples lives.
PS I also invested in some help.
Jo Bendle, who I now consider a dear friend, led by example and made me believe in myself. You can read about her here
I have the best website designer ever. He has the patience of a saint, and a great sense of humour. He also built me a fantastic website and membership programme. You can find him here
The other person who kept me sane, constantly believed in me, and picked me up when it all felt too hard, is my partner, Dave. He is mine – no contact details provided!!