June 1, 2020
According to Fabulous (Fab) Flournoy, the former coach of Newcastle Eagles who is now embedded with NBA champions Toronto Raptors in Canada, the galvanising power of grassroots sport cannot be overestimated.
“It’s the one thing that’s common to everyone who’s played sport,” explains the most successful coach in the history of British basketball. “From children playing together in the park to groups of friends catching up every week and all the way through to elite athletes – everyone has experienced grassroots sport in some way, shape or form.
“Everyone has to start somewhere. And that starting place will be at grassroots level – with a school or community club – where inspirational volunteer coaches go out of their way to ensure it’s an engaging experience for everyone.”
Fab didn’t hesitate when asked to support Tyneside-based grassroots sport service GiveToLocal and its innovative #InspiredToGive campaign. He joined former Newcastle United and England forward Les Ferdinand, Durham and England cricketers Steve Harmison and Mark Wood, Newcastle Thunder director of rugby Denis Betts and many more in backing an initiative aimed at bringing together local communities by supporting grassroots sport and small businesses.
With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to curtail the key contribution of community sport for weeks to come, Fab and his peers understand the pressing need to safeguard a staple of society that continues to impact positively on the physical and mental health of a nation.
And GiveToLocal’s mission to put £10 million into grassroots sport annually could hardly be better timed for teams facing an increasingly uncertain future.
“What we do isn’t just about supporting our sports teams,” says Neil Gardiner, co-founder and CEO of the North Shields- based organisation.
“It’s about supporting our local communities by bringing clubs, people and businesses together.
“That’s at the heart of the #InspiredToGive campaign.
“As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have invested in our incentivised giving platform and made it even more inclusive.
“It is now possible for supporters of the clubs we work with to invite businesses to join the GiveToLocal community.
“Those businesses can use the platform to sell vouchers for future products and services and secure valuable cash during a period of enforced closure.”
GiveToLocal’s #InspiredToGive campaign quickly caught the attention of recurring payments partner GoCardless.
“This is a difficult time for everyone,” adds Pat Phelan, chief customer officer at GoCardless.
“However, we have been watching GiveToLocal’s response to the coronavirus crisis with interest.
“The #InspiredToGive campaign can make a real difference at a time when community sport is facing a unique challenge.
“GiveToLocal has pivoted so positively in the circumstances that we decided to let our own staff know about the great work they’re doing across the UK.
“We spoke to Neil about featuring the organisation in an internal GoCardless campaign designed to remind our staff of the key contribution that they continue to make.
“GiveToLocal was the first organisation to feature in our #CustomerSpotlight campaign and we’re extremely proud to call them partners.”
If Neil’s vision is to secure sustainable funding for grassroots sports clubs across the country – more than 40,000 teams across ten different sports have already signed up with GiveToLocal – then he also sees an opportunity for corporate partners to join a growing community of like-minded businesses promoting positive change.
The ambitious service provider has appointed David Broom as its new corporate relationship manager with a view to growing a network of national influencers perfectly positioned to make a lasting impact.
“The intention has always been to bring about positive change in terms of how community sports clubs are supported,” adds Neil.
“We can achieve that by working alongside governing bodies, local individuals, SMEs, regional businesses and national or international organisations, with the focus on bringing value to the proposition for all parties involved.
“Our service is already rolling out to hundreds of thousands of individuals – players, parents, coaches and volunteers – and tens of thousands of SMEs.
“The plan is for more than 1000 corporate partners to come on board during the next 12 months and that is why we have chosen to appoint David to head up a key role within the organisation.
“The opportunities presented by such a wide user-base mean that GiveToLocal can be a great way for people – individuals or businesses – to support their local community and feel the benefit themselves. Their focus could be B2B, B2C or a mix of both. We have a flexible approach to facilitating partners.”
Neil plans to add ten employees to GiveToLocal’s North East-headquartered operation and expand its network of regional representatives across the UK with a further 70 new appointments.
Roles will be split between club engagement, partner engagement and corporate engagement.
And David, who joins GiveToLocal from Moy Materials, where he managed a team of 16 as director of UK sales for the Irish building materials firm, says: “I’m so excited to get started with Neil and the team.
“I coach a grassroots football team and I have four kids who would be sat around the house playing on their iPads all day if it wasn’t for the opportunity to play sport within the community.
“I’ve always played grassroots sport and when I first became aware of GiveToLocal and their sustainable funding model I was immediately struck by what a positive difference it can make.
“I’m here to encourage corporate partners across the UK to align themselves with something that’s capable of making a real difference to those communities hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.”
Communities like Ashington. Home to both Steve Harmison and Mark Wood, the Northumberland town has a reputation for nurturing grassroots talent and developing future international athletes. However, the spring of 2020 will be remembered as a time when Ashington’s thriving community of local sports clubs and small businesses faced its toughest challenge in living memory.
“If there is one positive to come out of the coronavirus crisis it is seeing communities come together to support each other,” says GiveToLocal supporter and former England Test bowler Steve.
“I grew up playing grassroots sport in a town where local clubs and businesses are at the heart of the community.
“Now is the time to support sport, business and the people who make a difference to our everyday lives.”
Les Ferdinand echoes that sentiment. During a celebrated spell at St James’s Park, the popular Londoner played a starring role as a member of Kevin Keegan’s so-called Entertainers. However, long before he was tormenting Premier League defences, ‘Sir Les’ learnt his trade in the grassroots game and witnessed first-hand the synergy between community sport and local business.
“It’s very difficult to put a price on what that relationship means,” adds Queens Park Rangers’ director of football.
“When you think about the various organisations and enterprises that support football clubs at a local level, it’s mind-boggling.
“It would be very, very difficult for those clubs to survive without the support of the business community. It’s a little bit of give-and-take.
“The clubs benefit from much-needed revenue and the businesses can build on a positive relationship with sport. It’s a fantastic example of the community working for the common good.
“That’s why I loved my time in grassroots and non-league football. It brings together so many people from different backgrounds and they’re working towards a common goal. That sense of community underpins everything. GiveToLocal gets that.”
If Neil and his ambitious team are determined to extend their reach across the UK – partnership agreements with county Football Associations as far afield as Kent, Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire and Somerset underpin an organisation fast
gaining a national reputation – then they will never lose sight of their North East roots.
“It’s our home and it always will be,” he adds. “We have a special bond with the people of the North East and that sense of communities coming together during the coronavirus pandemic is particularly strong across our region.
“We’ve already been blown away by the response of the business community on our doorstep. From what we have seen so far I’m convinced we can count on the support of corporate partners across the North East – and we will reciprocate that support in any way we can.”
Medintu is one of many local businesses keen to explore the mutual benefit of partnering with GiveToLocal. The Sunderland-based health
and wellbeing platform agreed to support the #InspiredToGive campaign last month and CEO Reddy Sanikommu says: “It has never been more important to work with like-minded organisations looking to improve mental and physical health.
“That’s why I was keen to talk to Neil.
“GiveToLocal is aligned to our own approach to the coronavirus crisis insofar as we see this as a time to support local communities and do what we can to help people negotiate a challenging period.
“Lets’ face it – the business world is not talking business now. It is focusing on what it can give back and how it can help.
“Both Medintu and GiveToLocal understand that. We share the same principles and we’re excited about how we can work together to promote the work we do and make a difference to communities across the UK.”