York RI AFC: Becoming more sustainable

by Scott | Jan 19, 2024 | Stories

York RI AFC: Becoming more sustainable

Raised £26,662 from 210 supporters
+£6,000 Extra funding from Sport England: Places and Spaces

York RI AFC is part of England Football and is a FA Charter Standard Community Football Club, and is also home to rugby and netball clubs. Run by volunteers, it is an inclusive community sports club welcoming of people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religion and faiths, ethnicities, and ages. 

They strive to provide an environment that is safe and enjoyable for all, to provide a player pathway, and to play as much football as possible and develop every player. They look to keep membership prices affordable and the sports inclusive so that they can serve the whole community with excellent sporting opportunities.

Cost of living crisis hits

Like many other organisations, the club has been hit by the price increases relating to the cost of living crisis. Over the past few years they have been exploring various options for replacing their current expensive floodlights with LED floodlights. But this seemed even more unattainable due to the increase in material costs involved in completing such a project. One of their pitches has had to be completely switched off this year because of the safety of the lights and the associated electricity costs.

This has impacted a lot of teams during the autumnal/winter months, and with 1000’s of young people and adults using the facilities each week, they found themselves at a tipping point of being able to continue to provide some of their services. 

The club didn’t want to have to reduce the time allowed on their site based on keeping the lights on or turning them off. And they wanted to avoid increasing membership payments to the point that families and individuals are paying to cover the rising costs.

Starting to fundraise

To help keep the lights on at York RI AFC, they set up a Crowdfunder campaign to replace the current floodlights with LED energy efficient heads and new stands, plus install solar panels on the roof of the clubhouse with battery storage to ensure they can power the lights and clubhouse sustainably. 

We caught up with Jo from York RI AFC; “Crowdfunding felt like a better way of raising awareness of the club’s needs, than simply applying for a grant and spending the money. It felt like a way we could let everyone in on the challenges our sports club has and let them be part of the solution. Often a grant application process can feel very transactional, hidden and cold. Crowdfunding is the opposite, it’s brash, honest and involves everyone.” 

“The smallest of contributions all add to the greater achievement of the goal. We hoped to reach our target and raise awareness at the same time. I had someone who gave £2 asking me when the project was going to be completed.”

The crowd rallied around their project, with one supporter commenting, “Thanks to everyone at the RI for the time you put in to running & developing the club and the facilities. It’s great to be going green and keeping the lights on!”

Another commented; “Pleased to support this great club. I’m happy to donate some prizes from my business too. Best of luck with it all.”

In the end, the York RI AFC project  achieved their initial target and went on to raise £26,662 from 210 members of the community. This included £6,000 in funding from Sport England: Places and Spaces.

Jo went on to say; “Crowdfunding has not just raised the money we needed to renovate our old floodlights into new energy-efficient heads but it has also swelled up a community of goodwill that we knew was there but just didn’t know how to draw together. As soon as you give people in your community even a little bit of ownership in something they care about they’re very willing to give far more than you realise. We had people give money, time, services, rewards and encouragement in ways that surprised us each day of the campaign.”

Extra funding from Sport England

When asked about the impact the +Extra funding, Jo said; “Sport England was superb in their support of our campaign before we even reached the extra funding boost. They gave a huge amount of advice and support that made the campaign successful, it felt like they really wanted to give us the money, but more importantly, wanted us to get ourselves funding ready. They wanted to believe our project had a bigger impact than just money in a bank.” 

“The Sport England funding was a tipping point in the campaign, we pushed the community hard to raise the funds to reach the threshold to access the extra funding and at this point, our target seemed doable. Even more than this, the aspiration of how far we could get was raised and it gave a new energy and passion to the campaign. The extra boost and other match funding have allowed us to raise funds beyond our original target and complete the floodlight renovation to an excellent standard.”

“After the initial project’s success, there were a lot of discussions about the money and how it should best be spent. This has pulled together sections of the club who weren’t always joined up in their thinking. It has raised aspiration and trust in our community that they want York RI to be part of the community for the future. We have built even stronger connections with the local councillors and businesses through the sharing of the story and needs of our sporting community. Ultimately the improvement of the floodlights to energy-efficient ones has saved us significant funds that will mean we’re able to be part of the community for many years to come and keep offering sport at an affordable price.”

The impact of our project has been huge and significantly reduces the energy usage and carbon footprint of our site. It will save the club thousands of pounds each year in energy costs and allow hundreds more hours of sport a year to take place. As an indication of the immediate impact, on our current energy tariff at New Lane before the installation of the new lights these 22 lights would have cost us £12.76 an hour, they now cost us £1.98 per hour!…It has been a wonderful project to be part of and the impact will be huge for many years to come.”

Top tips for others

After such a successful experience of crowdfunding, we asked Jo and the team at York RI AFC for their top crowdfunding tips; 

  1. “Don’t be afraid to ask your community for support. It feels strange asking for money sometimes, particularly when you know people are struggling but people are very willing to put their money where their mouth is. The worst people can say is no.”
  2. “Be prepared to really push it for the full period of the campaign and let people know your passion and drive is only for a season, let the deadline of raising the funds be your friend and create urgency.”
  3. “Expect moments where you feel you won’t be successful but find a solution or a new direction to the campaign which keeps it fresh.”
  4. “Don’t offer small rewards too early in the campaign… If they then give again subsequently – which often they will if they’ve given once – you’ll miss out on the bigger donation amount. Have fun with your rewards, we did a prize draw for a customised subbuteo team.”

Feeling inspired? Find out if you could receive up to £10,000 from Sport England!

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