Green Light Trust

Why the Great East Swim worked so well for our charity…

The Green Light Trust is a charity, which transforms lives through nature. They bring people and nature together through a series of projects that encourage people to enjoy being outdoors and protect our environment at the same time.

They focus particularly on vulnerable people, for whom being outdoors and learning about conservation can have a profound effect on wellbeing and a positive approach to life.

Like many charities, funding for core costs is a constant struggle especially since the decline of traditional funding streams and Green Light Trust are always looking for ways to fund raise.

Former CEO of The Green Light Trust, Ashleigh Seaborne, tells us why he decided to get his charity involved with the Great East Swim in 2018.

“In 2017 I decided to invite Colin over to present to the team, the idea of our charity being involved in the swim as a fundraising event. I knew it would only work if the staff and trustees were on board and I didn’t want our involvement to be from a top-down approach.
Initially, I couldn’t quite see the connection and I thought how am I going to recruit enough swimmers?

We were entering into a new way of doing things at the charity, we didn’t have a load of volunteers and if I’m honest, I didn’t
really expect that staff would get involved.

At that presentation, about two-thirds of the team said they thought it would be a good idea and they were happy to get involved, so after Christmas we agreed to give it a go.

The first thing we did was to create a steering group, made up of staff and trustees and we talked about how we would get a team of swimmers together and how they would raise money, and what else we could do to make the most of our involvement.

We obviously offered the opportunity to take part to our staff, supporters and trustees, and in the end we had a team of 13…8 staff, 1 trustee, 2 supporters and 2 participants that were in our recovery programme.

The team was set a target of £4.5k and we linked the fundraising mechanism to Virgin Giving as we already had an account.

Each swimmer raised money in their own way – some were a little experienced at it from previous roles they held with other charities and others weren’t so confident that they would raise much. So we got those people together and came up with some ideas that would help them and we found that once they got some money on the board, this motivated them to reach out to other friends and family and this had that snowball effect for them.

We also decided to make some items and sell them at the event, so we set our overall target at £5k.

We organised participants on the drug and alcohol abuse groups to make green wood items, whistles, bird boxes etc. and we took them to the event. In total these items raised £450.

In terms of fundraising by our swimmers, whilst I didn’t want to put too much pressure on their efforts, I thought a healthy level of competition between them would be beneficial, so we decided to publish an update every week about their progress.

We featured team members on our Facebook page in the 14 weeks leading up to the Swim with a link to their Virgin Giving
platform and this definitely helped them.

“I think this was the right decision because it positively contributed towards the group reaching and surpassing their target.”

We decided that we should help staff with the cost of the wetsuits, so I approached companies to make a small contribution of about £200 and even though we needed about £800 to cover the cost we managed to get £1000.

But in the end we didn’t need that money to cover the wetsuit costs as nearly all the swimmers decided they wanted to keep their wetsuits to continue outdoor swimming after the event. So we were able to put most of that in the pot.

Another bit of good fortunate came from our chair of trustees who works at Barclays. They match fund any charitable fund-raising done by staff and he managed to raise £1200, which equated to £2400 towards our target.

In March we did one event to get all the team together and held it over at Alton Water in the cafe.

 Three of the team had done the swim previously and their shared experience gave the whole thing a real boost and I think from this point people in the group realised it was very real.

Nobody had really been training at that point, but another team member set up a couple of outdoor swim practices for the team
and they then started training in the pool as well between March – June

On the day of the Great East Swim, all members of the team finished the course successfully and most of them without too many aches and pains! They had collectively raised £6500.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the Great East Swim at Alton Water, and it was a great experience for all of us.

Our swimmers were coming back in as they finished and we were able to support and cheer them. It was great for team morale actually.

Usually they work with a client to deal with their issues and they love their job, but then all of a sudden they were representing who and what the charity does and I think this made them very proud.

Although a secondary aim for us, we were extremely encouraged by how our involvement in the Great East Swim, positively raised our
profile and provided some great PR opportunities.

We took some shave horses and gave children the chance to make thinks at the event on our stand, which was a great way to engage with people so we could talk about what it is we do.

On reflection, the swim did have a good connection for us in that it was an environmental event.

Our motivation for doing it was as a necessary core funding need and it definitely achieved this, with our total amount raised at £8900 and the exposure we got was a fabulous added bonus.

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