What it REALLY takes to be successful in getting funding

Have you ever felt lost in the world of funding options, uncertain about where to even begin when it comes to securing financial support for your group exercise classes? If so, you’re not alone. In our next guest blog post, Fiona Paterson, one of our amazing This Girl Can Classes Instructors, shares valuable tips based on her personal experiences.

This is just my experience but I am extraordinarily grateful for the funding that I have received and most importantly grateful for the people I have met and connected with along the way. I left Surrey in 2019 having worked for 10 years in a Borough Council as Health Development Officer. My role involved coordinating volunteers for our Walking for Health Scheme and coordinating and teaching within our GP/Exercise Referral scheme. It involved lots of talking, connecting, encouraging, coaxing, and networking.

Another part of my role was applying The Big Lottery Fund, which will need a whole new blog post to cover!

If you are like me, an amazing exercise instructor looking for funds to set up a new class to help the people on the ground, I suggest helping these people by spending the funding is the best course of action.

How to get funding?

  • Look local
  • Be adaptable and flexible. Make your product fit the funding terms. I found funding for a fall prevention class to get people active, but it had to take place outdoors. I love being outdoors but teaching a fall prevention class outdoors in midwinter would be a risk assessment nightmare, so I adapted. I moved my age bracket and health profile to a bit younger and lower risk; I targeted recent retirees able to exercise safely outdoors, and this still helped to reduce fall risk. These classes have continued successfully because the funding got them off the ground.
  • There are often deadlines in which to spend the funding. Use these deadlines to your advantage
  • Keep the funder up to date with every part of your journey. Even if you think you are boring them. It’s best they don’t forget you. And most funders need evidence that it happened. More is best. And they’ll remember you the next time they have some funding that needs spending.
  • Remember to charge for your time; research locations; promote the classes and put up flyers and post them on social media; travel. Don’t sell yourself short.
  • Funding often only covers the course, not your travel, accommodation or revision time. Include this! If you don’t ask, you won’t get it.

How to make connections:

  • Talk to everyone! Emailing. Writing letters. I visited any organisation that would let me in. I rang every organisation that delivers exercise classes, every organisation that purports to work with people who need help to move more, prevent people falling over, every NHS department I could get through to regarding hearts, cancer and fall prevention, all my specialist areas. When funding came up for This Girl Can Classes, one of my contacts called me to offer me the opportunity!
  • Keep in touch. Face to face; online; by phone. Attend meetings with the funders and other recipients (online is better to cut down on your travel time). Try to make connections – social media may not be for you, and I find I get a much better response through email and phone calls.
  • Follow up. I follow up at least twice, sometimes three times. If they’ve not responded by then, I’ll try six months later!

Overall – can it be done? Yes.

Is it hard work? Yes.

Is it quick? No.

Is it a magic bullet? No.

Are there quicker ways to get money to launch a new class? Yes.

Despite its challenges, getting a fund for your class is possible and can make a huge difference. I hope sharing my experience and tips will help you along the way.

Hi, I am Fiona Paterson. I had moved to a new area of the country without a job and not knowing anyone. Trying to find a job in your 50’s and without that ‘magical’ university degree was the most dispiriting experience of my life. So I set up on my own. I have now worked for 20 years in the fitness industry for local government, the private sector and on a self-employed basis. Becoming a Level 4 Personal Trainer was the first of many steps.

Some of my training includes: Cardia Rehab Phase 4; Cancer Rehab; Otago and FAME/PSI trained and qualified. I call these my falling-over classes: we teach people how not to fall over. Probably the most important classes anyone can train to do.

You can get in touch with me via email:fastfiona@hotmail.com