New £5million to help community business navigate pandemic

Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England, is launching a new £5 million package of support to enable community businesses affected by the Covid-19 crisis to adapt, renew and rebuild their businesses so they can remain financially viable and best serve their local communities during the pandemic’s ‘new normal’.

The Community Business Renewal Initiative has been designed by Power to Change based on evidence and input from partners and community businesses themselves. It aims to support community businesses in a variety of ways and working with partners it will include:

  • A new fund offering unrestricted grants supporting resilience, renewal and restructure of community businesses
  • Capacity strengthening support to help community businesses increase knowledge, resilience and equip themselves to ‘re-boot’ successfully
  •  Two match-funding programmes to support community businesses with different types of fundraising
  •  Tailored support to help community businesses protect community assets
  • A programme of work highlighting the role community business can play in the economic recovery

 

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, said: “As the country continues to adjust to a constantly shifting ‘new normal’, we know there are tough times ahead. In order to survive community businesses need to adapt and build long-term resilience. Community Business Renewal will help communities take the steps they need now to put them in the best possible position to weather future uncertainty, so they are able to continue serving their communities for years to come.”

Building on emergency response

This new £5million package is the second part of Power to Change’s £12million response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In April 2020, the trust announced rapid emergency funding to support community businesses during lockdown.

The money was available previous Power to Change grantees as well as to members of Power to Change’s strategic partners – Co-operatives UK, Locality and the Plunkett Foundation – all of whom played a key role in designing this response.

There was very high demand and Power to Change awarded more than 356 grants totalling £6.75million to community businesses in England.

Without this emergency funding many community businesses would not have survived lockdown. The funding enabled many community businesses to carry on trading and diversify during lockdown, providing essential support in their communities – in some cases stepping in to support local authorities to deliver services, particularly health and social care.

The money enabled community businesses to deal with immediate cash flow issues as a result of paused operations. 54 per cent of grantees used a portion of the money to pay staff salaries, whilst 18 per cent used some of the money to adapt buildings so they could reopen and carry on trading.

Community businesses in lockdown

Scotswood Natural Community Garden, Newcastle

Grant: £12,783

Scotswood Natural Community Garden in Newcastle is a two and a half acres greenspace with ponds, meadows, woodland, a sensory garden and orchards. Highly valued, the garden team and volunteers work closely with the community providing a space for people to get in touch with nature and learn about sustainable living.

Before Covid-19, the garden ran a vibrant programme of events including forest school training sessions and workshops where people could learn to keep bees, make jam and create botanical prints. It also sold produce. When the coronavirus lockdown came into effect, cancelled workshop and training sessions meant the garden faced trading income losses of at least £13,000.

However, the team at Scotswood continued to support their community and began a new telephone befriending service; a shopping and prescription pick up service; and delivered activity packs to local families, older people and vulnerable adults.

A grant of £12,783 from Power to Change has enabled Scotswood’s to develop plans to diversify its trading income so that it can continue to successfully operate in a Covid-19 landscape. Along with developing new online workshops and training, it has also enabled them to make the necessary changes to the garden to ensure it is Covid secure as visitors return.

Bread+Roses, Bradford

Grant: 25,000

Bread + Roses is a unique café, co-working space, rentable kitchen and event space located in Bradford. The business is used by everyone from refugee groups to local artists and was planning to launch a healthy lunchtime delivery service from the café to local offices when the lockdown came in to affect.

The impact of lockdown on the business has been severe, with the café shut, catering bookings cancelled and income from co-working spaces and event space hire reduced to zero. The lunch delivery service was also put on hold and it is estimated that the business will have lost tens of thousands of pounds of trading income this year.

A £25,000 grant from Power to Change has helped the businesses survive lockdown and diversify its offering. It has enabled the organisation to undertake a partial reopening; invest in video conferencing facilities to better meet business needs in their meeting rooms and co-working spaces; and further develop its online shop.

Tonic Music for Mental Health, Portsmouth

Grant: £3,218

Based on the south coast of England, Tonic Music for Mental Health supports participation in music and the arts to aid recovery from mental illness. It particularly supports isolated and vulnerable people in their community.

Tonic runs two choirs, which prior to Covid-19, regularly performed at gigs, festivals, rallies and events throughout the summer months and which made-up most of its annual revenue. Lockdown meant all these events were cancelled and combined with lost fundraising revenue and the closure of its merchandise shops the organisation is set to lose over £80,000 of trading income in 2020.

Power to Change awarded Tonic £3,218 to help cover its reduced running costs. It has also been used to enable Tonic to provide some of their services remotely while they are unable to provide them face-to-face including workshops via Zoom and a series of videos providing advice on wellbeing. It has also set-up WhatsApp groups to offer support and maintain engagement with its community.

Vidhya added: “During lockdown community businesses stepped up to support the most vulnerable in their communities. But loss of trading income and staff through shielding, meant many found themselves in a perilous situation. Our emergency funding was imperative to their immediate survival and so far most have weathered the initial storm. Now we need to give them further support to adapt and build resilience so they can continue long into the future.”

For more information and resources for taking action in your community, visit the My Community website.