COVID-19 is a roaming beast, its tracks have been seen across the UK, both in our cities and our green spaces.

It’s not in the spring and summer seasons that we are used to battening down our hatches. For tourism related industries this is usually the time in which to throw them open and make hay before the harsher and leaner winter months.

The countrywide lockdown (23rd March – 23rd June) left businesses in a vulnerable position, with bills and salaries to pay, often with no reserves with which to do so. The situation proved untenable for many and certainly unsustainable for the rest.

New Forest Activities is the largest provider of outdoor activities in the national park of their namesake. They were forced to close and to combat the effect of COVID-19 on their income, and launched a ‘Pay it Forward’ campaign with Crowdfunder. This enabled them to offer their services up for purchase while closed, which could be redeemed once re-opened outside of the lockdown. Through this crowdfunding campaign they sought to engage a community of people which had been developed over 15 years of operations, giving them the chance to support a well loved business in a time of need while getting something back in return.

The New Forest Activities crowdfunding campaign raised £5,500 from 76 supporters. This included £2,500 in +Extra funding from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) whose ‘Solent Pay it Forward fund’ offers up to £5,000 to micro and small businesses affected by COVID-19.

As of October 2020, this fund has supported 84 projects based in the Solent region (map above). Together these 84 have collectively raised nearly £620,000 between them, with the help of £184,000 in pledges from the fund.

In response to what difference this funding has made, Sam Sutton the Director of New Forest Activities has said it has “allowed our business to survive and given us the head space to regroup and make the most of the summer”. Sam, while collecting donations for the business also offered rewards. By offering a range of price points for people to get involved, they were able to expand the opportunities for people to give more. Including a reward as simple as a £1 donation gave those with little to spare the chance to show their support. Although the reward may not have made a huge impact on the total raised, it did make a big impact on the numbers of supporters. This is equally valuable to Sam, because it showed a community of support and demonstrated their social value. The other rewards included deposits on future activities, for example, a £500 deposit for a Team Building Event, meant that Sam could collect money upfront which would likely be fulfilled upon reopening.

During their crowdfunding campaign they used rewards to encourage people to put down money as a deposit for future activities. This was a clever way of utilising Crowdfunder’s rewards structure, for those who pledged would be back to redeem their reward later, thereby fulfilling the rest of the payment and allowing the business to secure the value of their custom.

In the spirit of giving something back themselves after gratefully accepting the support of the public, New Forest Activities aim to ‘cover the costs of running half price activities for the family of an NHS or emergency service worker’. When crowdfunding, this presents a wonderful incentive for people to contribute because they know that each pledge has a threefold benefit; supporting the business, the families of key workers and a deposit down on an activity they can enjoy in the future.

The Solent LEP recognises that ‘micro and small-businesses make up 98% of the Solent’s economy,’ it is therefore essential that they are given the support needed to continue trading and adapt where necessary to weather this COVID-19 storm.

If you are a Solent based micro or small business who needs support during this pandemic, find out if you could be eligible to unlock extra funding from the Solent Pay it Forward fund.

What are you waiting for? Start crowdfunding today!