We're aiming to put £10 million a year into community sport

July 6, 2020

North East Times Q&A with GiveToLocal CEO Neil Gardiner

As the region’s leading independent business and lifestyle magazine, North East Times plays a pivotal role in shining a light upon those who are shaping the local economy.

Every month, they publish a 100-plus page issue that is distributed to business leaders and influencers throughout the North East, with each addition featuring news, interviews and views from across the region.

Recently, GiveToLocal CEO and co-founder Neil Gardiner sat down with North East Times to discuss the ambition behind the organisation and its plans for the future.

North East Times: Tell us about the ambition behind GiveToLocal

Neil Gardiner: GiveToLocal sprung from a desire to permanently solve the ever-present funding problem that exists in grassroots sport. By tackling it head on – and developing a service that is both highly impactful in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term – we knew we could make a difference.

We set about achieving that by designing a solution from the ground up that works for all parties: the clubs we serve; our sporting body partners across the UK; the great businesses who want be part of that positive change; and the individuals who are at the beating heart of our community clubs.

NET: Can you provide a snapshot of what GiveToLocal does?

NG: We connect clubs and teams with people who are able, willing and motivated to support grassroots sport through small, regular donations. We use the term ‘micro-donation’ – individuals can donate as little as £3 per month and the starting point for SMEs is £8 per month.

We set about creating a method of delivering a flow of transformational sums of money into clubs by focusing on establishing an environment of trust, recognition and reward. If a lot of people can give a little then when those numbers are high enough – and the donations are regular – the impact can be huge.

I used the word ‘motivated’ for a reason. Our platform creates a value and feedback loop for donors in a way that differentiates us from other sport services. Donors don’t only get to see the impact of their generosity thanks to regular updates from clubs. That’s just the start. Being a donor unlocks access to local offers and discounts which, in turn, offsets the cost of the monthly contribution. There comes a point where our donors start to save money when buying local services and products. And the emphasis is very much on the word ‘local’ – we care as much about the businesses in the GiveToLocal community as we do about the clubs.

NET: How do you see GiveToLocal having a positive impact on our communities?

NG: The connection between sport and positive social outcomes is widely accepted. Our local clubs are a vital part of our communities: they’re often a hub where people make lifelong friendships, where children develop life-skills and where local people can leave a legacy for the generations that follow.

Of course, clubs aren’t just a local building or a pitch. These focal points for the community are places where people can go to belong, to be a part of something, to make a difference and to enrich their own lives as a result. We want to protect that.

Our ambition from the outset has been to identify a way that we can safeguard this unique environment long into the future by creating a solution that works for all parties. We sought to identify what we could do to make a difference and then focused on doing it well.

NET: A specific part of your ambition is around connecting the business community to grassroots sport. How does that work?

NG: We are here to challenge the perception that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spend and marketing spend need to be two separate things. From the outset we have designed a solution that adds value to the businesses that choose to support their local community by partnering with GiveToLocal.

Through our reach, our sporting partnerships, our media and press relations and our proactive corporate partnership team, we are perfectly positioned to create a community of like-minded businesses. We seek to identify the very best community-focused businesses and encourage them to support their local clubs through GiveToLocal. Then we aim to introduce those businesses to each other and grow an increasingly influential corporate network.

Facilitating business development, by building a network that is of value to our partners and developed around those partners, is fundamental to our approach. We are here to deliver that network and we are more than happy to be measured on its impact.

GiveToLocal only works long-term if it works for everyone. We are building a large team nationally and, rest assured, we will make sure that partnering with GiveToLocal is a smart move for the businesses that choose to work with us. The onus is on us to prove our worth and – from the ground up – our service has been designed to deliver on our ambition.

NET: What are the short and long-term plans for the team?

NG: In the short term, we aim to fill 6-10 roles in the North East during the next 3-4 months. After that we will be rolling out our plans to grow our team significantly across the UK and we anticipate employing more than 100 staff within the next 9-12 months.

Ambition is a big part of what drives us. The team we have right now is excellent. However, the passion and motivation that we see every day, coupled with the positive feedback we get from clubs, would mean it would feel very strange if we weren’t pushing forward quickly and with fresh purpose.

NET: What advice would you give to anyone with an ambitious idea?

Define the outcome you want to achieve. Reverse-engineer from that outcome to define the activity you need to put in place to achieve it (allowing for hiccups, hurdles and mistakes along the way). Identify the skills you need to carry out those activities to the best of your ability and then fill in the gaps by surrounding yourself with other passionate people who have the skills you lack. Treat every day and every conversation as an opportunity to learn, applying that learning whenever and wherever possible. Importantly, build a culture that allows everyone to enjoy the journey – and not just the ideal – towards the final destination.

If you would like to learn about how your team or club can benefit from GiveToLocal please feel free to register for one of our upcoming webinars at www.givetolocal.com/intro-webinars.

If you would like to find out how your business could benefit from becoming part of the GiveToLocal community please email Corporate Relationship Manager David Broom via david@givetolocal.com.

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