The third in our Masterclass series, this week on Behind the Goals we speak to Erin Fulton, Volunteer & Interns Manager at PAS about volunteering for community sport clubs.
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We made the trip to AMS, a charitable organisation which uses football as a means to support education, employability and sports development in Fife. An SFA Legacy Mark club, it was set up by Austin MacPhee, who is also assistant manager for Hearts and Northern Ireland.
A fascinating character, Austin filled us in about his career as a player and about the experiences which inspired him to set up AMS, and his perspectives on the game.
Supporters Direct Scotland are proud to support AMS through their Club Development Scotland unit, where they offer ongoing support in the areas of development, governance and finance. Want to find out how we can help support your club? Get in touch.
My girlfriend’s Mum bought me a bottle of Brewdog’s 5AM Saint as a stocking filler for Christmas. I’d never really fancied myself as much as a craft beer drinker, often preferring my more ‘safe’ (or bland if you like) larger, however I soon realised I’d been missing out.
A couple of days after losing my Brewdog virginity, I was out book shopping with my Dad when I came across ‘Business for Punks’, written by James Watt, co-founder of Brewdog. I’d heard about some of their stunts and took the book as an opportunity to find out a bit more about their story, ethos and approach to business.
I quickly realised this was not your average ‘Business Management’ book – but a much bolder statement about how you should approach your business. Although packed with interesting insights into all aspects of management, the line that still stands out for me was ‘Create Fans, Not Customers’. It’s something I’ve been dwelling upon ever since.
If you just want to sell a product, you’ll offer promotions and incentives to lure customers in. It might work once or twice, but unless you’ve really sold the customer on you and why you exist within those exchanges, they won’t care about going back to you. And that’s fine for one off purchases, but if you’re in a sector where you’ll rely upon repeat business – your time and effort will be better spent in telling people what it is about your organisation that is better, or rather, why they should care about you – speaking to people on a deeper level.
If you’re looking to start a business to make money, the chances are, your business has already failed. So start a mission (or a revolution!), not a business. Even if you’ve got a great product, or a good price – someone will come along and do it better than you, and they’ll do it sooner rather than later. Instead, the most successful companies will focus upon ‘why’ rather than ‘what’ they’re doing. Perhaps the best example of this is the Apple iPod. Although it arrived just under 2 years later than the first MP3 player, it’s tagline was ‘1000 songs in your pocket’, instantly more relatable than the Creative Zen’s (remember them?!) ‘5GB MP3 Player’ (I had zero understanding of much 5GB was at the time of release). Apple have successfully sold on their ‘mission’ (to think differently) and with it developed a raft of fans that are prepared to physically queue up and wait for the release of new products and pay extra for the privilege. Not only this, fans will actively promote your product and will be ambassador for your organisation.
Focus on what it is about your business that makes you different (and ideally, better). You need to sell a customer on your mission, rather than your product. The same ethos applies to clubs – although it’s a slightly harder sell for professional clubs – as we all know you often don’t ‘pick’ a club and it’s for life rather than just for a ‘one-off purchase’. Let’s be honest though, most (not all) clubs are just companies that use supporters’ loyalty to their financial advantage – rather than considering what is it that separates them from the pack and how to gain new fans.
Perhaps the best examples of how clubs have successfully approached this is by really selling (and committing to) what they’re preaching. FC United have told the story of how they’re member owned and operate on a democratic basis. People know about the commitment of Dulwich Hamlet to use football and the clubs’ fan base as a vehicle to help less fortunate people. If you’re reading this and wondering what your mission is – you started in the wrong place!
Successful business have put values at the core of your business/organisation and whatever your club, you should too. You can use the hedgehog concept to do it (see below or Jim Collin’s ‘Good to Great’ for more information on this – it all applies to sport clubs). Of course, you should be flexible and examine opportunities as and when they arise, but make your mission wide enough that you can pursue these opportunities without straying from your mission.
I always used to think of team strategy days that examined values and missions as fluffy stuff that didn’t really matter (and were generally a waste of time), however I’ve now learned to appreciate the value in having a team of people committed to (and understanding) the mission. If your colleagues don’t subscribe to your mission and values – you need to get them ‘off the bus’ and get the right people ‘on the bus’ before you’ll start to make headway with what you’re aspiring to do.
With Club Development, our mission is to support sport clubs clubs at all levels in fulfilling their social and community value and that win for everyone – not just a few. Our aim is that people will want to use our services because we deliver a quality niche service and they believe in Supporters Direct and what we stand for.
The reason I now am willing to pay extra for a bottle of Punk IPA over a Stella or San Miguel, is because I’ve become a fan of Brewdog and their approach to business and their commitment to tasty beer. I’ve become a fan, not just a customer.
Written by Andrew Jenkin, Head of Supporters Direct Scotland. Visit Club Development Scotland for more information on Club Development’s services.
Through Community Assets grants, The Big Lottery aim to “empower people to create strong and resilient communities by helping them to acquire, manage or develop assets such as buildings or land.”
As our mission at Club Development Scotland is to;
“Enable the development of sustainable clubs based on community involvement and ownership”
this fund sits very comfortably with us and is one we’re keen to help clubs make the most of. Community Assets is a rolling fund which groups can apply for between £10k-£1m. It is well primed for sport clubs currently leasing assets who wish to develop their activities through purchasing facilities.
Although there is nothing that prevents sport clubs being able to apply for this fund, to date only one sport club has been successful in securing Community Assets grant funding. Real community sport clubs are extremely well positioned to be able to deliver the outcomes required from Big Lottery and must be able to demonstrate their application is:
- rooted in the community, are genuinely community-led and gives the community a stake in local decision-making
- is connected to other organisations and services in the community
- shows clearly the changes that will take place and why this is the best way to deliver these changes
- and shows the developments will be economically sustainable once our grant has ended.
This fund is very much about community development through sport, so just applying to take ownership of a club house for activities which are purely sport for sports sake will not progress. Applications will need to focus on how sport is being used as a vehicle for positive social and community change. Big Lottery will focus their funding where it will have the most impact and will prioritise applications that address disadvantage and inequality.
There is no end to the amount of work sport clubs are currently doing in this area and could do in the future and we’d be happy to share some of the examples we’ve come across of clubs that operating in the wider geographical community’s interest.
Before you apply to the Community Assets fund, you may want to develop your idea further and if there is development work that needs to be conducted (i.e. a feasbility study), the Big Lottery’s Investing in Ideas awards grants (between £500 to £10,000) could be right for you. The fund is open to organisations to enable them to think about, develop and test new ideas or improved ways of working that will bring real improvements to communities, and the lives of people most in need.
If you’re interested in support and advice on the fund, feel free to get in touch with us. We recently wrote a blog for Sported on how sport clubs can make create positive community capital which might get some thoughts following.