It's never too late to accelerate!

Posted in: Foundation

In our last round of awards, Anna Strong nominated her local swimming pool Farnborough Fins to receive a £25,000 Community Award from the Foundation.

When voting opened, Anna’s campaign got off to a rather slow start. But instead of giving up, Anna and her local community dug deep and went on to secure over 5,000 votes – which enabled them to save their much-loved pool from closure…

“It’s safe to say that when voting opened for the last round of Community Awards, we weren’t quite prepared for the competition we were about to face. With seven weeks to get the votes in, there was plenty of time to make a leisurely start, rally the troops of our local community and sail on to victory, right? Wrong!

When voting opened, we watched in shock as other projects leapt off the starting blocks, racking up impressive numbers of votes within the first few days. By the end of the first week of voting, the front runners had not only been established, but had disappeared off into the distance, leaving Farnborough Fins still lacing up their trainers at the starting line.

But after all the hard work we had done to raise funds for our pool’s renovation so far, we weren’t giving up without a fight. A Community Award from the Foundation represented a vital opportunity to create something that was desperately needed in our community, and save our pool. So with so much at stake, the race was on!

Upon realising the stiff competition we were facing from other customers who were just as passionate about their community projects, we got straight on the phone to the Foundation to make sure we fully understood the voting process. They gave us a copy of their step-by-step voting guide, and pointed us in the direction of their support pages, which had lots of resources and tips for getting the word out there.

Armed with all the tools we needed, we were ready to get back into the race and show everyone what Farnborough Fins was made of. And we did everything in our imagination to get the word out there…

Nevertolate to accelerate2-Farnborough-Fins-398

We had interviews on the radio and newspaper articles in the local paper, hailing our desperate pleas. We stood in shopping centres, visited local companies and spoke to as many schools and other swimming clubs as possible. We got well and truly stuck into social media, recruiting a local ‘digital’ champion who produced photo blogs and videos for us and sent them flying round the internet. We took to Twitter with gusto, and connected with celebrities like Rebecca Adlington, Fern Britton, Sharon Davis and Bryn Lucas who all shared our Tweets. We even got banned by Twitter one day for sending so many messages encouraging people to vote!

Parents, grandparents, friends and colleagues all canvassed their friends by any means possible. Telephone, email, Facebook, letters, carrier pigeon… you name it!

We even managed to gain the support of local councillors who were discussing the matter at their meetings.

The voting went wild! As we ploughed on spreading the word to as many people as possible, our number of votes rose steadily, and we started to catch up with the projects in the lead. Everyone became obsessed with watching the voting and the neck and neck competition, pleading with everyone they knew or met to vote! Some people even had the voting figures set up at the bottom of their PC screen so they could watch votes coming in while working. It was more exciting and nerve racking than the Eurovision song contest!


The jubilation of the community was amazing, but being part of the process had a double whammy effect that we were not expecting at all. The time and effort we put in during the voting period meant that we collected some amazing supporters along the way who spent time helping us, encouraging us to keep going and urging others to get involved and vote. The outpouring of understanding, community and support from other organisations has been overwhelming; we have been able to access other grant streams since voting closed, and the offers of support are still coming in. There was not one person in the local area who had not heard of Farnborough Fins by the time we had finished!

Despite the slow start, all the hard work in the end was worth it. Winning the award meant that we could finish the job of rebuilding the pool. But taking part in the voting process also has helped us to make connections in our community and gain support from places we never imagined.  The dream has finally become a reality.

You can read Anna’s full story here, or get further advice and support by visiting our gaining support pages.