When Deer Park Archers—an award winning archery club in Cheltenham—were offered the chance to buy the land their club resided on, they enlisted the help of the crowd to make it happen.

Since it was founded over 20 years ago, the Deer Park Archers Sport and Recreation Club has grown steadily, becoming one of the most influential and successful clubs in the UK. In 2011, they became the Sport and Recreation Alliance National Sports Club of the Year and, along with receiving many Special Commendations, Archery GB has awarded them ‘Club of the Year’ twice!

When their club became homeless in 2013, they located and bought an affordable plot of land, turning the derelict reclaimed inert material landfill into a home. They spent years fundraising tirelessly to improve their environment, planting thousands of trees and creating a beautiful space for the community to be proud of.

Bordered by a stream, their original land purchase was mirrored by a very similar plot of land and the local farmer generously allowed them to treat it as their own. They cleared paths, created steps and built bridges, ensuring a well maintained setting for their members which was sensitive to the flora and fauna of the area. 

Over the years, their role in the community grew and so did their membership and soon they became one of the biggest archery clubs in the UK! Despite their popularity, they remained committed to their values of being affordable, inclusive, and developing the whole person and not just the archer.

So when the farmer wanted to sell the land he loaned to the Deer Park Archers, he offered them a chance to buy it. Knowing they had to take this opportunity, they began the process of fundraising for the money. It was going well until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting their plans in jeopardy. To secure their immediate future they needed to ensure they could offer their members somewhere to shoot which didn’t rely on indoor facilities. They decided to prioritise the creation of an all-weather, floodlit shooting area, using the money they had set aside for the purchase of the land. 

The new area was a success and, as the world slowly began to return to the ‘new normal’, they started the process of fundraising for the land purchase again. With roughly £7,000 of their savings left, they needed a further £10,000 which they hoped to raise through crowdfunding

On their decision to crowdfund, Roger Crang, Director and Club Development Officer, told us, “Our constitution does not allow formal loans and, until the pandemic, everything had been meticulously planned. An unforeseen set of circumstances meant that we needed to divert all our funds to installing an all weather floodlit shooting area to replace the loss of access to indoor shooting facilities. In the new environment we all found ourselves in, obtaining grants for this situation was unlikely with funds being targeted to support organisations with more pressing needs. We attended a number of funding workshops organised by our borough council and at one of those we identified crowdfunding as a possibility, so we enrolled on one of the workshops. This was superbly presented and the follow up advice more than matched the good introduction!”

Their Crowdfunder was a big success and within weeks they had exceeded their target by raising £17,669 from 69 supporters with an estimated £3,002.75 in Gift Aid. Over 80% of their donations came from outside of their direct membership, showing just how much this project meant to the whole community. They also received £2,000 from the Sovereign Thriving Communities Fund which supports projects which benefit Sovereign Housing communities! 

On the +Extra funding, Roger said, “The bonus of unlocking the Sovereign Thriving Communities Fund allowed us to fulfil our ambitions to improve the accessibility around our much larger woodland area by building bridges, installing more pathways, identifying and removing dangerous/invasive species of plants, hiring a tree surgeon to maintain the woodland and planting some new saplings. All of this has allowed us to continue the momentum of developing our facilities, despite being in difficult times!”

He continued, “Though there wasn’t just an amazing financial benefit to crowdfunding! Our profile in both our local geographic community and in the wider archery community was greatly improved too. We even got a visit from our Borough Council Community Team to see the work we do!” 

Since their crowdfunding adventure, the Deer Park Archers team have gone from strength to strength, with an increase in membership and a wider public interest in their club. 

“Our membership is now at a record level and our men-in-sheds team has grown in strength and now meets four times a week. Before this project we were meeting once a week. This rapid development and resultant publicity has also attracted additional commercial sponsorship. The acquisition of the new land, coupled with our ability to respond to installing the floodlit area, has visibly improved our environment and the opportunity to practice. The success of this project has made a significant contribution to Deer Park Archers being made Club of the Year by Archery GB, our Governing Body!”

In the months since crowdfunding, they have begun to formulate bigger plans for the future, including becoming carbon neutral!

To help inspire crowdfunding projects of the future, we asked Roger why he thought the Deer Park Archers Crowdfunder was such a success. He said, “We engaged with local residents and, in particular, local commercial businesses. Our video made a massive difference as we modelled the need to ‘gain momentum’ rather than go for broke from day one. We did not target club members as they had already done a lot of fundraising, however we did produce briefs for them to highlight the project to employers.”

If you have an idea to benefit Sovereign communities then you could be eligible to receive up to £10,000 from the Sovereign Housing Thriving Communities Fund