Wednesday, 21 August 2019

AN UNEQUAL PARTNERSHIP

A recent article 'Understanding the hidden costs of grant making' really got to the heart of the charitable sector problem. Its shocking revelations concluded that it often costs more to apply for a grant than the money you receive! That is of course if you are successful; with most applications it seems you've got more chance of winning the lottery than being given the cash.


So much work goes into even small grant applications; reading the guidelines, understanding the questions, making up another budget, getting three quotes for small amounts of work, speaking to funders. Then you are rejected but with no explanation as to why. Understandably many charities don't want to bite the hand that feeds them and an unequal partnership has developed where you tip your hat for any crumbs you can get.
The stark reality is, like so many small charities we will always need grants to keep going. Despite cutting our budget to the bone, it still costs £6,700 a month to keep our head above water. It's a tedious hand to mouth struggle which makes planning for the future impossible. That's why its so frustrating when you get someone telling us what we need to do to make us sustainable like tapping up business. Like we haven't tried! Many businesses are happy to give you a team building day but no cash for organising it. We’ve been hunting for years in totally wired Brighton for someone to revamp our website but with no luck. School funding has been shot to pieces, disabled people's services have been slashed, with new people being sent to us with the expectation that we can provide a free service. If we charged our true costs the people we set up to support wouldn't be able to access our services.
We've been busy in the summer holidays with visits by Moulsecoomb Primary youngsters, children from the carers centre and Into University. It's income, the sort grant funders love, but it doesn't really touch the sides.

That's not to say they are not important. It's why we exist! At our busy open day, parents from Moulsecoomb Primary booked up our free summer scheme course before we'd even advertised it. These are exactly the children we want to support, those who often miss out on these experiences for whatever reason. We organised a fishing trip for older ones that unfortunately had to be cancelled because of the weather. Getting parents to fill in consent forms was a logistical nightmare, so once again those that really need a break and the chance to do something different, miss out.
So while I’m filling in another monitoring report for another small pot of money I wonder why our annual report and accounts won’t do. I know the people on trusts means well, but they need to put themselves in our shoes and realise that they are often contributing to small charities drowning in paperwork and stopping them doing what they are meant to be doing in the first place. Just ask yourself, why so many questions and what do you really need all those monitoring reports for? 
As one young lad excitedly scoffed the raspberries, a fruit he said he had never tried before and hunted for newts, a pond creature he had never seen, we know that our work is needed more than ever. Funders need to rip up those forms and start again, go visit projects to see what they really get up too before there's no small charities left to support.

* Like what we do? One easy way to support our work is to become a Friend of the Forest Garden. Currently we earn over £400 a month this way and it really helps with budgeting.

* Don't believe us? Pop up one Friday to see what we get up to, share a meal with everyone and see how our little charity tackles some of the big issues head on - like loneliness, food poverty, education and feeling part of a community. We might even let you dig for some spuds.
 

Monday, 8 July 2019

GETTING READY FOR OUR OPEN DAY

Everyone is welcome to our open day this Friday.
The event is free thanks to sponsorship from Homity Trust and Brighton & Hove Food Partnership but please be generous on the gate. We are fed up of looking behind the sofa for pennies. 
We have lots of raffle prizes. Who doesn't want cream tea at The Grand, a trip on the i360, a remote controlled car, duvet covers and much more.
How about making a small monthly standing order ? And if you have made a standing order, check with us that you have ticked the gift aid so we can claim more on your donation.
Please ask for a tour at the gate and one of our volunteers will show you round. And don't worry, we won't then send you an email asking how you rate your experience. You can make your own pizza, enjoy homemade cakes and a cuppa, try out some primitive technology, check out our wildlife and our bees, even spend a penny in our compost loo. You might even get a selfie with the Mayor if you arrive at 2pm
See you all Friday.The welcoming committee awaits!
 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

MOULSECOOMB PRIMARY : AN OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY SCHOOL

The other week a woman who ran a puppet show at Moulsecoomb Primary said the school had a 'big heart.' The show was about children's mental health and one of the activities was getting children to write a list of things that help them with their well-being. At most other schools pupils said - X-box, toys, theme parks etc - but she noticed at Moulsecoomb it was ‘playing with my brother’ ‘going outside with my friends’ ‘time with my family.’

She got that the school is the beating heart of the community and really is a 'compassionate, learning community.' You can read the school prospectus here

Over 40 organisations work in the school, all of them helping to enrich the pupils lives and support the children’s learning. Just look at what was happening in one week alone! Brighton and Hove's Reading Centre is based here, the library has been turned into a jungle, its a bike hub of excellence and pupils from across Sussex are taught the pre-history curriculum in the stunning school grounds. We are home to Little Green Pigs space station, bringing literacy and storytelling to life while Albion in the Community use the power of sport to provide high quality interventions improving children’s English, maths, communication skills, teamwork, resilience and physical literacy. Moulsecoomb Forest Garden uses outdoor learning and the power of nature to teach all children, but especially those that struggle in the classroom. Finding a leech in the pond led to conversations about it and maggots healing powers! Outdoor learning might be the new flavour of the month, but the school has been ahead of that game for over a decade. 


 

We are the only primary school in the city where our brightest pupils have the opportunity to go to Christ Hospital Independent School while Into University provide after school homework clubs.

Sussex University will be moving one of its student teaching modules into the school, that will help us evaluate these interventions, along with Brighton Table Tennis Club moving into the back buildings using sport and Ping Maths to teach pupils.

Where many schools would show the front door to some of our more challenging pupils, the school bends over backwards to be inclusive going above and beyond to find a way of reaching and teaching them. There's opportunities for parents to learn as well as regularly be in the classroom finding out how they can support their children at home. When the Bridge Community Centre suddenly closed, it was the school that hosted an emergency meeting to find a way to keep activities going and now hosts some of the adult education facilities that would have been lost.

As a parent now community governor I work hard with others to make sure the school has the ability to keep this level of community support going. This is despite losing a staggering £388,000 since 2015. We have found funding from organisations like East Brighton Trust and the Fonthill Foundation so we can continue with school trips and are working with the Youth Hostel Association to give Year 6 'transition' holidays as well as looking at giving families who never get the chance to have a break a chance to go away with their children.

I haven't got the data skills or numbing crunching that OFSTED obsess about, but being in the school so often I see how hard the teachers work and care, and how often governors are in the school observing, supporting, questioning and challenging to make it a better place - and what's often left out in the measurements - seeing how happy the children are. 

I understand OFSTED are changing; looking for schools that offer a rich and varied curriculum. Moulsecoomb Primary has this richness in bucketfuls and on this measurement is outstanding and a school where I am proud to say my children attended.

Warren Carter
Project Manager Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project

Community Governor, Moulsecoomb Primary

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

PLANT SALE THIS SATURDAY

We've been on a seed sowing, potting up frenzy over the past few months with our volunteers and pupils at Moulsecoomb Primary School along with some of the people that run Friday Friends and keep the Bevy community pub garden looking stunning. We've now got plants coming out of our ears and this Saturday 4th May is our annual plant sale 10am till 2pm.
Profits will be split between the Forest Garden and keeping the Bevy garden looking good. We will also be selling cakes to make money and The Bevy will be serving breakfasts till 1pm and beer from 12. You could even push the boat out and become a Friend of the Forest Garden with a monthly standing order. 


Plants for sale 

Tomatoes 
Black Russian and Italian Heart (Heritage) Alicante, garden delight, moneymaker, stripie, red alert.
Herbs: Parsley, chives, sorrel, basil
Veg: Runner beans, cucumber, kale - ragged jack (heritage) yellow and green courgette, cape gooseberry, celery, peas, french beans, sweetcorn, leeks  
Flowers: Morning Glory,  red toadflax, mallow, geranium, sweet william, montbresia, pink cosmo, acanthus, French marigolds, calendua, echium, chrysanthemuns,, nasturtiums, pansy, lobelia - blue upright and trailing dolly mixture, carnation, asters, daliah, busy lizzie, antirrhinum, alyssum, Californian peppers, sweet peas, passion flower, pinks, coleus, petunia.   
Two oak trees 

 

Monday, 4 February 2019

RUNNING ON THIN AIR

Over 30 people came to the forest garden last Friday – a melting pot that included people with learning difficulties, students and a youngster in care who we are working with to achieve an Open College Network qualification.
The winter sun shone, people worked hard, had a laugh and tucked into a home made pie cooked over the fire.
It was perfect, and this happens week after week (just not always in the sunshine). You can see from our annual report how much of a punch our small charity packs on a shoestring. And you can see the positive impact our work has to all involved.
And yet the night before at our trustees meeting we scratched our heads and asked just how are we meant to function on thin air. 
 
Thanks to school budget cuts, the education work we had built up for years, collapsed and now we have to fundraise to offer subsidised places.

Disability services are decimated, so more people are being sent to the project with no funding attached.

Funders want fun, excitement, something new – not boring old core costs. No one wants to pay for the essentials like insurance, rent, wages that support the charity’s continuity and longer term sustainability.

This is nothing new, but it’s the perfect storm that so many small charities are facing. Increasing demand, with fewer funds available - and greater competition between charities for each funding opportunity. No wonder so many are going to the wall.

But there is a very simple way you can help. Become a Friend of the Forest Garden for as little as £2 a month. Currently we earn £330 a month this way and would love to get it to £500. This would cover the boring stuff and stop us having sleepless nights.

If you need convincing, come up one Friday to see what we get up to, share a meal with everyone and see how our little charity tackles some of the big issues head on - like loneliness, food poverty, education and feeling part of a community. 

* Details of how to become a Friend of the Forest Garden are here