The new project is established, staff and volunteers recruited and work has started. Now comes the task of delivering the services in an efficient manner. This may feel less stimulating and exciting than the early days of fresh inspiration, but long-term success requires slow and steady growth into maturity. Gentle nursing and support is required in order to reach the point of being firmly established. Apart from the usual needs of a business, special conditions arising from the nature of the project will have to be addressed. These include:
Vision - The continued holding of the original inspiring vision of the completed project helps to keep positive energy flowing throughout the organisation. As progress is made, conflicting ideas will flow from staff, customers, banks, professional friends and the community at large. Interpreting this information, and acting upon it, requires discernment and the ability to make firm decisions. This in turn means listening to guidance and fine-tuning the vision as necessary.
Sustain - This is defined as ‘the capacity to endure’. After the first enthusiasm, may come a time, when support fades away. At this stage, methods of sustaining the project in the long term need to be investigated. This means updating the services to ensure they are relevant and interesting, developing a source of regular income, and being clear how new staff and volunteers will be recruited. Clarity about the long-term sustainability of the venture will become an increasingly important factor in ensuring ongoing enthusiastic support.
Funding - As progress is made, the need for additional finance will begin to loom large. The income generated from the services being delivered to clients, and the wider community, may not be generating sufficient funds to meet the growing costs, and it may still be too early to obtain support from conventional banks and funders - so where to turn ?
Income Generator - The next thing to look at is setting up a separate profitable business. . Often there will be a way of creating a new business from a slightly altered version of the services already being delivered to the clients of the project.
Conventional Funds - As the project develops, its services will be more widely understood and seen to be serving not only its customers but also the community as a whole. Establishing this understanding opens the way to seek funds from local councils and charitable trusts. Caution is needed, when considering funds of this nature. They will usually be focused on a particular objective, be short-term, require match funding and stipulate onerous reporting conditions. Of the total funds required for a particular task, half will have to be found from some other source as the match funding, the other half coming from the funder. It is also often found that the additional reporting costs absorb a significant part of the cash supplied by the funder. Such finance is helpful as a one-off, but cannot be relied upon to build a truly sustainable project.
Endowment - When the project is firmly established, credible, sustainable and delivering a worthwhile service to the community at large, it will be in a position to seek endowments. This is the classic underpinning of the finances of some of the key Glastonbury charities, including the Abbey, Chalice Well and the Glastonbury Trust.
As the level of activity increases, the members of the Association will be exposed to increasing financial risk. At some point it will become advisable to set up a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. Careful thought needs to be given as to whether or not to become a registered charity. Being a charity gives tax advantages but with the disadvantage of restricting the objects of the project. See our website Savaric.com for information on corporate constitutions
Creativity - As the project grows and develops, the need for holding the balance between practical, material reality and spiritual inspiration will become ever more important and new opportunities need to be recognized as they arise. The continuing guidance will give subtle hints on possibilities. It will not always be easy to understand these ideas, but no long-term progress will be made without responding to the encouragement and support forthcoming from this source. As the range of activities expands, the core group needs to be sensitive to the needs of new staff and volunteers, and how they are to be be trained and supported.
Support network - Support of the community at large is a vital component in achieving long-term sustainability. This needs a perception of the project as being worthwhile and useful. Once this is so, there will be a wider interest in attending events, working as volunteers and in making cash donations. If the services offered are seen to be making a useful contribution to the economy of the town, it may be possible to obtain support from some of the traders. The level of regular donations from supporters is a useful indication of how the community values the project.
Achieving support means providing information on the objects of the project and how they are being achieved. A Newsletter, website and Facebook page will help with this. Building a good relationship with other community projects will also make a positive contribution to the steady growth of activities.
Problems – see our a drawdown page for Problems that will inevitably be experienced
Success and Failure - Any new project will have its ups and downs - moments of triumph and of despair. Through all this, the core group needs to continue in their belief in the project and their ability to achieve final success. Strength and courage will be required to keep going, often in the face of active opposition from others and they will need to constantly reassess the purpose of the project.
Ifthe originating vision is truly honoured, then success is assured
Success is not necessarily the fulfilment of the original plan. Not every project is able to continue indefinitely in a sustainable and effective fashion. This may necessitate merging with some other venture, reducing the range of services offered or even closing. This might feel like failure but it is not. If the project is established in harmony with the original guidance, what ever has been carried out will be useful regardless of the outcome. The core group may wonder why their labours appear to have turned to ashes, but this work will have set the foundation upon which a future project can be built, with less expenditure of energy than would otherwise be necessary.
A typical pattern seen over and over again in community projects is a start being made with great enthusiasm by the inspired initiators. The activity may go from strength to strength in the early days, but often moves into a second stage, where no forward progress appears to be made, but it keeps going in a rather unexciting and plodding fashion.
This middle period often lasts for many years. If the project is destined to come into being, there comes a moment when the time is right, new people arrive with enthusiasm, and the project is taken forward into next stage of its growth. Those caring for it during this ‘marking time’ period have maintained a firm platform upon which, in time, new energy can build and grow. This process of moving in surges of activity and periods of tranquillity – a sort of staircase – is often seen. It is necessary to recognise these quiet interim period as making a positive contribution to the ultimate fulfilling of the vision.
Keep Going -It is vital that all concerned believe in the value and achievability of the objectives. Hearts are bound to falter, but this key belief will help the project to survive when all seems too difficult. Holding a clear vision of how it will feel when the project is up and flying will ensure final success.
There are no failures with these projects
– only steps upon the way to realising the ultimate vision.