Community business is, according to Nick Gardner, co-founder of Project Dirt, an idea whose time has come.
But what exactly is community business?
It’s business that is locally rooted, is owned locally, and re-invests it’s profits back into social good for the local community. It brings business principles to the community sector to help the sector transition away from an ongoing grants cycle to a more sustainable business model that can support itself, and I see it as very much a part of the “Good Business” movement.
I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Nick recently for the Making Good podcast (you can catch the interview here).
Project Dirt is the UK’s most active network connecting and resourcing grassroots community projects and Nick knows a thing or two about community enterprise and creating sustainable community projects.
I’ve pulled out some of his top tips from the interview to share with you here:
- Build a good team around you – this one might sound like common sense, but when we start projects around causes that we are passionate about, it can sometimes be hard to let other people in. The more people you can bring on board, the more breadth and depth of skills and experience you have access to. Which in turns means you can spread the work, making burn-out less likely, and growth and scaling your impact far more likely.
- Have fun and be seen to be having fun – remember you are asking people to give up their own resources, usually time, and they want to think that they are going to have a really positive experience.
- Engage people with creative minds in how to tell your story better – storytelling is a really key part to getting engagement and investment in your community project or business. If you can communicate your story, your “Why” and your impact well, you are more than halfway there.
- Make the best use of social media channels, your own website and websites like Project Dirt – if you don’t know how, Project Dirt is bringing out some resources to help with this, or ask around to see if there is someone in your local community with the necessary skills.
- Connect locally with other organisations who you might be able to partner or collaborate with – this is one of those times when 2+2=5!
- Connect with other changemakers doing similar things in other parts of the country – this is so important in sharing skills and resources, and also as a way to realise that you although at times you might feel alone, you really aren’t, and that there are other awesome people out there who care about the same things you do.
- Think creatively about different ways of funding your community project or business. Many funding streams are starting to dry up, so it’s more important than ever to explore potential revenue streams to allow you to future-proof and scale your project.
- Consider innovative sources of funding such as crowdfunding, which can be a brilliant way to not only raise the revenue you need, but also to get the local community engaged and on board. If you haven’t the first clue where to start with crowdfunding, check out my podcast with crowdfunding consultant Jes Bailey.
- When putting on events or starting up something new, consider a “risk-benefit analysis” rather than a straight “risk analysis”. This allows you to gain a more rounded perspective on the things that can be achieved as well as the difficult things that need to be done to get there and enables a more ‘can do’ attitude.
- Join Project Dirt! It’s totally free, and allows you to connect with people in your local area, as well as people around the country in your ‘niche’. There are over 3,000 community projects on Project Dirt, so it’s a great place to find the support you need, to share resources and to share past mistakes too.