I was pleased to be invited to the grand opening of Wall Heath Tennis Club’s brand new clubhouse recently, the culmination of hard work by a group of volunteer directors who’ve dedicated more than 2 years to making it happen!
I remember meeting Wall Heath Tennis Club committee members in their old clubhouse to talk about their vision for the new facility. My main memory: COLD! The clubhouse was so cold and unappealing that the committee members felt that it would really put off new members. What the club did have, though, was a dedicated group of people with an array of skills, and a loyal membership that could rally wider support.
Together, we chatted through the vision for a modern, welcoming clubhouse that could function as a social hub for members, a pavilion for spectators and a great space for all kinds of other activity. There was lots to do to achieve the vision, but we broke it down and I supported with:
- Encouraging the committee to think about setting the club up in a way that gave them more protection. The committee made an informed choice to become a company limited by guarantee and I helped them with putting together their governing document, using elements of their current constitution and modes provided by the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association).
- Thinking about getting a lease, which would help them with any funding applications. Understandably, funders want to know that any organisations that apply to them for work to buildings or facilities (known as capital funding) either own the building or have an adequate lease.
- Identifying funders that might support the project. We looked at sports specific funders, such as Sport England, and landfill funders that offer capital grants, such as Biffa Award and Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust, and I reviewed an early draft of their application to Ibstock Cory.
- Sharing ideas about how the facility could benefit the wider community and involving people in making a great place to get active.
It was brilliant to go to the opening to see the results of all this effort. Members of all ages mingled with people from the community and local businesses were thanked for offering sweets, flowers and cakes for the event. It was clear that the club had been cultivating links with the wider community.
On display were photographs that illustrated the work that’s taken place over the last few months to raise £75,000 for the new club house. There were trophies and an enormous folder that the volunteer directors put together to build their funding applications. I had a flick through the folder and was amazed to see it full of club documents, plans, draft funding applications and dozens and dozens of letters of support from members, their families, groups based in Wall Heath, businesses and people who were interested in basing their activities at the new clubhouse. It was completely obvious that this team effort had rallied the community and got people involved.
And I think that all helped to make a number of their funding bids a success. The club was
able to show that they’d built links with their community and could demonstrate a lot of support for the project.
Unlocking funding is about more than putting pen to paper; it’s about bringing together people with skills and commitment, building support, demonstrating why funding is needed, showing funders exactly what will happen with their money and how that will improve people’s lives. The volunteers at Wall Heath Tennis Club did it admirably!