Financing your wood

Any new community woodland group is likely to need money. Whether it’s a large sum to buy land or a couple of hundred pounds to get started. To keep you going, it’s essential to plan ahead, have a grip on your finances and be able to grab new funding opportunities as they arise.

There are two types of spend: capital and revenue. Capital is payment for a physical asset, such as land, a building or tools. Revenue is day-to-day spending on maintenance and use of contractors, for example. Appoint a treasurer to assess the likely cost of your goals and build a simple business plan. Cover the purchase price (if any) and the cost of looking after the site for the period of your ownership. This needn’t be as scary as it sounds. It simply needs to list your regular income and likely annual outgoings, plus the costs for specific projects in the coming year. A forester or arboriculturalist can assist.

A business plan is the basic need for your group’s accounts or treasurer’s report, and will be expected by most grant providers. It can also be a handy piece of publicity. Make sure you have copies to hand out at meetings and when you engage with potential supporters.

If you hope to acquire a wood of your own, decide first whether it’s workable to buy it. Your initial fundraising assessment should start with the seller. How long are they prepared to give you to raise the cash? It can take months to secure money from grant-making bodies, whereas you could launch a neighbourhood appeal within days. If you need to gather large sums up front, it may help to guesstimate your likely level of fundraising income based on similar local appeals. Don’t forget to factor in potential cash from individual gifts from wealthy benefactors, grant-giving organisations or businesses.

There are four traditional approaches to finding funds; donations, fundraising activities, grants and loans. However you hope to raise money, you’ll need to plan a clear fundraising ‘ask’. If there is a deadline for raising the money you need, say so – often a sense of urgency can help unlock more funds.

Finally, remember that you can tap into other, non-financial ways of securing resources. Perhaps there’s a skilled coppice worker willing to help in your wood in exchange for a share of the produce. Or a sympathetic local solicitor who’ll offer advice for nothing. The environmental charity sector also offers free support. Community groups can apply for saplings under the Woodland Trust’s ‘Community Tree Packs’ scheme. For example; and if your wood lies in an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), you may be able to get help creating a management plan.

If your community wood is based in the north of England, you could be eligible for a Woodland Trust grant. Visit the Woodland Trust website to find out more.

Download our advice sheets below for more information.

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