B Sharp

B Sharp is an ambitious music charity that has been serving the communities of West Dorset and East Devon for over ten years. But like many of the young people it nurtures and supports through its projects, the organisation itself needed some assistance and guidance from people with the right expertise in order to help it reach its full potential – and that’s exactly what the Challenge Fund did!

B Sharp is an ambitious music charity that has been serving the communities of West Dorset and East Devon for over ten years. But like many of the young people it nurtures and supports through its projects, the organisation itself needed some assistance and guidance from people with the right expertise in order to help it reach its full potential – and that’s exactly what the Challenge Fund did!

The small team of core staff were keen to become less reliant on Youth Music funding and wanted to move away from the competitive grant-bidding process and secure more money from less traditional investors. The Challenge Fund investment of £75,000 was the catalyst to achieve that. Over three years it has been used to professionalise the services B Sharp offers to schools and to trade with a proper fee structure. It also helped pay for new staff to join the small B Sharp team, more training and mentoring for young people working with the charity and funded a new and effective marketing and communications strategy.

Some of the ways in which B Sharp secured the match-funding required as part of the Challenge Fund agreement was through grants from local councils, small trusts and foundations as well as increasing fees for weekly clubs and packaging up services for schools and early years’ settings. But the biggest increase was from ticket sales to their growing programme of events and new fundraisers such as the now-annual Lyme Splash sponsored swim which has become a staple income generator. Once in place, their new Events Producer will run a further series of self-sustaining profit-making events with the Challenge Fund used as seed money. The charity is adamant it would not have achieved as much as it has without the Challenge Fund investment; not only in financial terms but in the time and expertise RIO staff brought to the table. Staff were given professional guidance and support from RIO in order to prioritise new ways of working, pursue unmet potential and approach new supporters – things which a small charity of one full time and two part time staff members had neither the time nor capacity to do. The investment in marketing and communications has paid off resulting in improved communication with stakeholders, parents, carers and young people through the charity’s revised website. Their message and offer is now much clearer and they have been able to raise awareness of the value of their work. B Sharp credits the Challenge Fund investment and RIO support with its re-emergence as a much more confident organisation with a clear strategy and strong brand.

Of course the real beneficiaries are the children and young people B Sharp works with; both now and in the future. The opportunity the Challenge Fund brought them meant they could re-examine the work the charity was doing and allowed them to provide more performance opportunities for young musicians and develop joined-up services with other community organisations and schools and future-proof their community work for years to come. The project has allowed them to recruit and train more young producers, music leaders and support workers in order to provide increased and more diverse music making experiences for young people. Children in schools and early-years settings have also benefitted from an increased and regular offer of inclusive music making tailored around their needs.

Social enterprise was always a key component of B Sharp’s DNA and the Challenge Fund has enabled them to embed this yet further into the charity’s work. One example is their house band; Launchpad, which is run as a social enterprise for older B Sharpers providing them with more authentic industry experience, regular performance work and income through paid bookings at events across the community.

In a largely rural area there isn’t a lot of opportunity for young people to train and perform with musicians and the new and improved B Sharp is providing that service. Teachers at the schools in which they work have been impressed with the confidence in which children have performed in front of their peers. As Dan Joyce, a B Sharp participant sums it up: “The best thing about B Sharp is the excitement of preparing for a performance and being able to play as group. I live in a very small rural village so there’s not many opportunities for me like this nearby”.