Alternative park funding streams in the spotlight

A crowdfunding pilot launched this week is one of a number of projects looking at alternative funding streams for parks.

Popular project: West Boathouse in Glasgow Green. Image: Darrin Antrobus/Creative Commons
Popular project: West Boathouse in Glasgow Green. Image: Darrin Antrobus/Creative Commons

The partnership between Nesta, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will give up to £10,000 or 25 per cent of the total target in matched funding to arts and heritage projects launched on the Crowdfunder website.

Crowdfunding is explored in the HLF's second State of UK Public Parks report published last week. It also chimes with a number of the report recommendations: supporting innovation, finding new funding models and supporting communities in playing a more active role in parks.

Another pilot is MyParkScotland, an independent charity run by Greenspace Scotland since May 2015 following a £100,000 grant from the HLF and Nesta through the Rethinking Parks project. The site hosts information and crowdfunding for parks in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Falkirk and is negotiating with 10 further local authorities. So far it has run nine successful crowdfunds, including mini orchards, biohaven islands and outdoor gyms, 10 more are currently live and futher projects are in the pipeline.

Key to its model is leveraging Gift Aid. The West Boathouse project in Glasgow Green exceed its funding target, raising £5,378 from 184 donations. Some 70 per cent of funders agreed to access Gift Aid on their donation, to be put in a parks endowment fund. "It's about creating funds for parks that can be invested for future activity," said Greenspace Scotland chief executive Julie Procter.

She stressed that crowdfunding cannot be used for the basics but can provide extra value for parks users, as well as connecting local businesses and people with local authorities and friends groups."The State of UK Public Parks is incredibly depressing but it shows the scale of the challenge. We could just sit there and say we're doomed, but we need to find new ways of doing things."

But parks consultant Sid Sullivan said crowdfunding and similar ideas are a "sticking plaster" that "closes minds to the serious nature of the issue" and will not help the "postcode lottery" of parks funding. He said the Government needs to acknowledge the importance of parks and find a way to fund them.

Chairman of The Parks Alliance Mark Camley warned that crowdfunding could be seen as "another arrow in the quiver but not a panacea for all". He added: "A lot of teams have been reduced to the extent that they don't have the time or expertise to launch a campaign on their own. Therefore what scope is there to work with contractors, friends and volunteers on this sort of approach?" He also said fundraising needs as much as 15 per cent of "seed funding" to develop an idea, which is unlikely to be supported by many local authorities.

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