Trillion Fund and Buzzbnk announce merger to create UK’s biggest social crowdfunding platform

For immediate release: Monday July 21

Theresa Burton (CEO Buzzbnk) and Julia Groves (CEO Trillion Fund)

Theresa Burton (CEO Buzzbnk) and Julia Groves (CEO Trillion Fund)

Buzzbnk, the UK’s first crowdfunding platform for the social enterprise sector and Trillion Fund, Vivienne Westwood’s renewable energy crowdfunding platform, have today announced a merger of the two businesses.

With 14,000 users, the combined entity will become the biggest social crowdfunding platform in the UK, enabling social and sustainable projects to access potential funding of up to £500 million and targeting half a million crowdfunders by the end of 2017.

The expanded business will be led by Julia Groves, chief executive of Trillion Fund. Theresa Burton, chief executive and co-founder of Buzzbnk, will become chief information officer and deputy chief executive of the new entity.

The social funding platform will enable projects to raise equity and debt finance from the crowd and open-up access to alternative investments for people that want to make a profit and a difference.

Significant shareholders in the merged entity will include Vivienne Westwood, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Tudor Trust.

Julia Groves said: “By joining forces, Trillion Fund and Buzzbnk will create a crowdfunding resource of real scale. Social investing is just people deciding where they want to put their money so that they can make a good return, but not at the expense of other people or the planet. We will create investment opportunities that previously would have been the preserve of the rich, starting with this country’s clean energy infrastructure.”

Theresa Burton said: “This deal creates a platform of complementary strengths. Together, we can provide early stage capital to start-up social enterprises. We can support those worthwhile projects that may be struggling for lack of capital. Organisations that can build a crowd of supporters and advocate around them will be stronger, more resilient and more successful.”

Buzzbnk is a crowdfunding website that enables social entrepreneurs and social ventures to raise funds and build a crowd of supporters. The idea of Buzzbnk first came from Michael Norton OBE, co-founder and chairman of Buzzbnk, who had a vision about empowering “positive people to back bright ideas” by tapping into their social networks.

Since it was launched in 2011, Buzzbnk has raised funding for more than 100 projects, with a success rate of 63 per cent, well above average for the sector.

Trillion Fund is a renewable energy crowdfunding platform founded in 2011 by Dr. Michael Stein and Phillip Riches to open up opportunities for everyone to profit from clean energy and to help finance the $1 trillion a year that the UN says is necessary to stop the world warming by more than 2 degrees.

Trillion Fund launched its initial marketing platform in June 2012 and now issues peer-to-peer loans, as well as listing community energy share raises, funds, debentures and bonds, with an average raise size of £500,000.

Trillion Fund has so far helped more than 20 projects meet their funding targets, including Brighton Energy Community and Deepbridge Capital LLP, and is currently crowdfunding a peer-to-peer loan for E2Energy, a joint venture between Endurance Wind Power and Earthmill.

Buzzbnk owns and operates the technology behind Trillion Fund’s new platform, which launched in June 2014.

Theresa Burton is a former senior director at Swiss Re, the global reinsurer and Julia Groves was the co-founder of britishairways.com.

Contact:

Rebecca O’Connor, Trillion Fund, 07967 613925, rebecca.oconnor@trillionfund.com

www.trillionfund.com

www.buzzbnk.org

Photos can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125549293@N08/

Notes to editors

- The merger is the first consolidation in the investment-based crowdfunding sector.

- The merger is pending full shareholder approval and the combined entity is due to commence operation on September 1.

- Trillion Fund is a renewable energy crowdfunding platform authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, listing peer-to-peer loans, community share raises, bonds and funds.

 - Dame Vivienne Westwood is Trillion Fund’s biggest shareholder.

- Buzzbnk is a crowdfunding platform authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for loan-based crowdfunding.

 - Buzzbnk brings social ventures looking for start-up or growth capital together with like-minded people keen to participate in a new way of funding social change.

- Buzzbnk is a social enterprise more than 50 per cent owned by leading charities and foundations in the UK and has a social purpose mandate to support the social enterprise, social investment and charitable sector. Charity shareholders in Buzzbnk are The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Tudor Trust, The Wates Foundation, The Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action and The Lloyd Fund.

 - Both Trillion Fund and Buzzbnk are founding members of the UK Crowdfunding Association with Julia Groves as elected chair and Theresa Burton one of the elected directors.

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Reap what you Sow: Crowdfunding tips from School Farm CSA

School Farm Community Supported Agriculture, the UK’s only no-dig, certified-organic community farm, have successfully raised £13,675 as part of The A Team Challenge. Reaching their target of £6,800 through crowdfunding, meant that they secured matchfunding from The A Team Foundation. These funds will enable them to offer on-farm training, education and apprenticeships, as well as opportunities for new entrants into farming.

For buzzbnk 2School Farm’s co-director, Laura Creen, washed the mud off her hands to give us an account of their crowdfunding challenge;

1. Did being part of The A Team Challenge spur you on to reach your goal?

Raising £13,600 through donations is a daunting challenge, but having a supportive Foundation take on half of that through match funding inspired us to believe it was achievable.  It made our campaign exciting to run as every pound donated by the public was matched by the foundation; people could really see their money going further.

2. Do you feel that your support network has grown as a result of crowdfunding?

Our project has only been running for 1 year, and through the campaign we’ve launched ourselves into the public sphere.  We doubled our facebook likes and we started a twitter account.  Growing food can be a very hard job that you can do in complete isolation, but this campaign has really let us tell everyone about what we do and why it’s important.  We’ve found our local community is supportive of what we do, and we feel boosted by that support.

3. What would be your top tips to others embarking on a crowdfunding campaign?

Keep it short and simple, and have a plan.  Keeping your campaign short increases the sense of urgency and excitement needed to generate donations.  Finding people to donate before you even launch your campaign is a great way to launch with a bang.

stoneledge farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Local Farming Week Twenty-Four4. How can people support School Farm CSA from here on in?

People can donate their time on our volunteer days by getting their hands dirty – our no-dig principles are a labour intensive way to grow food and help is always appreciated.  They can join us on our Beginners Gardening Course, or keep in touch via facebook or twitter.  If there are people with skills and experience who could donate their time on a one off basis or on a longer term commitment, we’re still looking for help to grow our social enterprise and farm into the future.

5. Would you recommend crowdfunding to others?

I would recommend crowdfunding as a way of raising funds if you need them in a time sensitive way.  It was important to us that we raised funds before the start of the growing season – otherwise we couldn’t continue.  I would also recommend it as a way to communicate your vision to the public and gauge whether people will support it.

6. What was the best part of your experience crowdfunding with Buzzbnk? 

The team behind Buzzbnk were always ready to help, and were prompt in replying to any queries.  I couldn’t recommend Theresa Burton and her team highly enough.

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Introducing the A Team Challengers!

8480556403_a7dfbee33d_nAt the end of October 2013, applications opened for The A Team Challenge. Food and agricultural projects who adopt an ‘enlightened’ agroecology approach to their work, were invited to apply to take part in the innovative match funding scheme. Those successful would launch a crowdfunding campaign to part-fund their venture and, provided they could raise an agreed amount through this channel, would receive match funding from The A Team Foundation.

In the short space of 4 weeks, the Challenge received nearly 40 applications, the quality of which were very high. Through a difficult and rigorous selection process, we are now delighted to announce the final selection of projects to participate in the Challenge.

These six fantastic projects were selected for their agroecological credentials, the thoroughness and feasibility of their project plan and their potential for impact both more immediately and in the future.

The A Team Challengers

Towering-dill-550x733Vertical Veg - Vertical Veg inspires and supports food growing in small urban spaces. It helps people without gardens to grow food organically, affordably and sustainably in containers.

Fungi Fruits – The Fungi Fruits project is an urban mushroom farm, using coffee grounds to grow the mushrooms in Bath. Fungi Fruits want to raise awareness of the need to reduce our carbon footprint and provide the opportunity for people to do so by providing low-carbon food.

Groby Road Market Garden – This project will establish a market garden on a derelict piece of land in Leicester. The business will produce fresh fruit and vegetables and sell them locally. Production of the crops will aim to minimise all inputs, practise crop rotation, provide habitats to encourage biodiversity and will not use artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

IMG_2730_high resSarpo Potatoes, The Sárvári Research Trust – The Sárvári Research Trust breed Sárpo potatoes, resistant to late-blight disease. The Trust are looking to set up and run a limited company, Sarpo Potatoes Ltd, which will allow them to multiply, market and sell their seed.

Whippletree Farm – Whippletree Farm want to start a club for city dwellers to develop a connection with the countryside by providing the opportunity to stay and help on the farm. By encouraging city folk to directly support farming, the sustainability of small-scale agriculture becomes more feasible.

School FarmSchool Farm CSA – School Farm CSA is the UK’s only no-dig, certified-organic, community farm. Their aim is to grow food in a way that strengthens the local environment while promoting well-being, offering volunteer and training opportunities, and enriching the community.

The next stage

The selected projects will now work closely with us to put together their crowdfunding campaigns and launch them by the end of March. You can keep an eye on the progress of these wonderful initiatives and support them here.

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A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping…

happy_new_year_colorLove them or loathe them, make them or not, it is difficult to argue with the intention of reflection and self-betterment that most New Year’s Resolutions embody.

Whilst doing more exercise, reading more books and taking up new hobbies are all worthwhile pursuits, more often than not, they fall by the wayside and our usual patterns of behaviour kick in. Our resolutions usually focus upon the individual. Maybe this is the reason for their infamous unsustainability. If we knew that our promises would have an impact on others, would we be more inclined to stick to them?

With that in mind, why don’t we make 2014 the year of the Buy Social Revolution Resolution? (Catchy, isn’t it!) Buying Social is a practical, tangible and realistic objective which can have a direct and positive impact on individuals and wider society. In the wise words of Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK;

join revolution “When you spend with a social enterprise, your money goes towards supporting a social enterprise’s mission, helping to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems…The power to repair and change the economy is in everyone’s hands.”

And if that isn’t convincing enough on its own, John Bird, founder of the Big Issue says;

“Buying from social enterprise…brings work, opportunity and begins to heal the divide between rich and poor. It challenges social injustice.”

buy socialTo be inspired further, watch the Buy Social campaign animation launched in November by Social Enterprise UK and find out why others buy from social enterprises in this article by the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network.

Already convinced? Here’s a list of just some of the UK’s fantastic social enterprises to get you started. Unleash your purchasing power and make your New Year’s Resolution to Buy Social!! To find certified Social Enterprises to buy from in your area, visit the Social Enterprise Mark directory.

Our Favourites: (many of whom have previously hosted campaigns with us on Buzzbnk. We are very proud of their success and have noted them with a *)

*Pants to Poverty

*HiSbe

*The New Leaf Co-op

*Visionary Soap

Divine Chocolate

From Babies With Love

The Big Issue

Belu Water

The Eden Project

Chocolate Memories

Rubies in the Rubble

Bikeworks

*Who made your pants?

and of course, Buzzbnk itself is a recognised Social Enterprise.

Happy Shopping!

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Andrew Croft from CAN responds to the Autumn Statement on behalf of the Social Economy Alliance

Chancellor must use alternatives to the ‘pre-crash economic toolkit’ to bring genuine growth to the UK, says Social Economy Alliance

·         Socially driven businesses – co-operatives and social enterprises – outstripped ordinary businesses for growth during financial crisis

·         ‘Businesses that plough profit into people and society are best defence against phony growth in the economy’

·         Autumn Statement is a ‘make or break moment’ to turn away from debt-fuelled growth model

·         Alliance calling for bottom-up economic growth using alternative social economy policies that support community energy production, crowd-funding, co-operation and more democratic businesses

The Government must create economic policies that support Britain’s emerging social economy if it is to address the rising cost of living and growing inequality in the UK, according to The Social Economy Alliance. The campaigning group, made up of 22 respected co-operative and social enterprises, universities, think tanks, charities and housing associations, says that businesses that plough profit into people and society are the best defence against long term, phony growth in the economy.

The Alliance welcomed the Chancellor’s comments on mutually-owned business models. But the group said that the Chancellor must use alternatives to the ‘pre-crash economic toolkit’ to bring genuine growth to the UK and avoid setting the economy on the road to further trouble. The Alliance warned that growth figures released in today’s Autumn Statement represent a ‘make or break moment’, where the Government must resist the temptation to return to a debt-fuelled growth model that doesn’t improve standards of living for all.

During the financial crisis, co-operative and social enterprises have been resilient and have outstripped ordinary business for growth and innovation. Alternative banks have shown better returns. The Alliance said that the Government should now show its full support to the UK’s emerging socially-driven economy.

The Alliance is calling for bottom-up economic growth using alternative social economy policies that support, for example, community energy production, credit unions, crowd-funding and alternative banks, social enterprise housing groups and other social ownership models, and has commented on  a number of areas covered by the Chancellor’s statement:

Housing – the sell off

The public sector does need to free up land for more housing,  but one-off cash payments from the highest bidder must be avoided. The Alliance believes that the Public Services (Social Value) Act should be extended to cover management and disposal of assets to ensure that taxpayer-owned land benefits local communities long into the future.

Public services – the A&E crisis

Support for Accident and Emergency rooms is necessary, but the government can reduce the need for bailouts by investing in preventative health care strategies implemented within communities.

Business rate freeze

Freezing business rates is to be welcomed, but more support should be concentrated on SMEs, social enterprises and cooperatives, that are regenerating high streets and local areas and delivering long-term social and economic value.

Andrew Croft, CEO CAN and member of the Alliance, said:

“A thriving economy is our main weapon in the fight to improve living standards and conditions for people in Britain. But economic growth does not automatically equal a more prosperous society – smart economic policies that are based on the inextricable relationship between people, communities and the economy are essential.”

“We’re calling for support for the advanced solutions emerging from the social economy – social enterprises, cooperatives and other socially-owned businesses are improving social as well as economic conditions, by putting power in the hands of the people.

“Attempts to fix broken markets with outdated economic models will be extremely harmful. We need alternatives that work within markets to shift the very plates they’re built upon, to create economic and social advances that put people and communities first.  This is basic stuff – but our leaders are yet to fully grasp and champion the social economy solutions that already exist in the UK”.

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The A Team Challenge – an innovative funding opportunity for Enlightened Agriculture ventures.

8480556403_a7dfbee33d_nYou have probably noticed food at the forefront of the news again over the past few weeks. There has been outcry as figures published by Tesco highlight the staggering proportion of food that is wasted in the UK every year. 

Whilst the report places much emphasis on consumers and households, there is no avoiding the fact that much of the food wasted is done so before it even reaches the supermarket shelves. There is a deep-rooted problem with the way that supermarkets operate and with the global food system in general.

Buzzbnk has been taking on food and farming-related projects since its inception, with charities and social enterprises looking at alternative, environmentally sustainable ways to bring healthy food to the table. We are now delighted to be working with The A Team Foundation and Funding Enlightened Agriculture on an exciting new initiative for funding food and farming projects in the UK – The A Team Challenge!

3590574365_0833c9c449_nIt is estimated that food and farming currently receives less than 1% of the income of the charity and voluntary sector in the UK. Of this, Government currently funds 45% of civil society work on food and farming and 61% of national and regional work, making future support for food and farming hugely vulnerable to Government cuts. 

The A Team FoundationFunding Enlightened Agriculture (FEA) and Buzzbnk have come together to create a funding solution which will enable food and farming projects to get the funds and support they need. This pilot project aims to increase the reach of The A Team Foundation’s funding but also to increase the sustainability and success of enlightened agricultural ventures by providing them with financial and strategic business advice, as well as building up support for the ventures from a crowd of people via crowdfunding.

The Challenge seeks to provide 7-10 projects with matched funding of between £2,500 to £10,000 per project. Participating projects will crowdfund for half their target and The A Team Foundation will match it. Visit The A Team Challenge website to find out more or to apply to take part.

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How it’s done by How It Should Be

Ethical food heroes, hiSbe (How It Should Be), recently crowdfunded £30,820 from some 338 supporters to grow their alternative supermarket in Brighton. We spoke to co-founder, Ruth Anslow, to get her take on their crowdfunding experience and are happy to share some real pearls of crowdfunding wisdom from the hiSbe team. 

1. What worked well for your crowdfunding campaign?

hisbe 27

Ruth and Amy Anslow, hiSbe co-founders

  • Having well-established social media networks – we used Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+, and we used the #hisbe4brighton hashtag.
  • Doing a video for our Buzzbnk campaign – lots of people gave us good feedback on it.
  • We offered money-off coupons to use in the HiSbe store as rewards for our supporters.

** For example, backers of the hiSbe crowdfunding campaign putting in £10 were given £12 of money-off coupons to spend in the hiSbe store. Backers putting in £30 were given £36 of money-off coupons and so on. You can see all their rewards on their Buzzbnk project page.

The vouchers worked well because they are simple and tangible. They pay for themselves several times over as they will bring people into the shop repeatedly.

  • Engaging and motivating existing supporters online and offline.
  • The 21 day countdown (hiSbe’s crowdfunding campaign was 90 days long but they ramped up their efforts for the last 3 weeks and used the urgency to harness much of their support).
  • Local press support

2. What didn’t work so well? 

  • Some people assumed the 21 day countdown was the countdown to the shop opening -we could have made that message clearer and snappier.
  • We had an amazing 338 people back our campaign but we had thousands of views of our project video. We could have found ways to try and convert more people, who clearly had an interest in the project because they watched the video, into actual backers.

3. What would you do differently if you did it again?

  • Make it for far less time: we did 90 days and it’s impossible to keep people’s interest for that long! People need a sense of urgency in order to sign up.

Tip from Buzzbnk: If you want to run a shorter campaign (i.e. 30-45 days, you need to be very well prepared, making a thorough plan of action for every day of your campaign to ensure you are making the most of the time available. You can see a Sample Campaign Action Plan here.

  • We should have done a better job of featuring the campaign on our own website.
  • Keep our campaign page and video shorter and snappier.
  • Tie it in with more offline events – we could have done some fundraiser events during the quiet time (the second month)

4.  Do you think hiSbe have benefitted from the crowdfunding campaign in any way other than raising the funds?

Yes, it’s given us a new level of credibility, because it shows to other potential investors that there’s a demand for/interest in our project. It’s also a great marketing tool and raised local awareness and generated a lot of new hiSbe Twitter followers and Facebook likers.

hiSbe store in Brighton, undergoing refurbishments

hiSbe store in Brighton, undergoing refurbishments

5. What tips would you give to others embarking on a crowdfunding campaign?

  • Put in the work. You need to put the time in to push the campaign through the social networks and offline, especially in the last 2-3 weeks.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people directly for money. The worst they can do is say no.
  • The last day is crucial. We raised 23% of the money on the last day. Amy (hiSbe co-founder and Ruth’s sister) dedicated the entire day, reminding people who’d pledged support but not given money, shouting about it on Twitter and Facebook and approaching potential contributors directly.

6. What was the best thing about Buzzbnk?

Buzzbnk are really well connected and respected. They support social enterprises and CICs, specifically, so it’s more specialised and credible to us than other crowdfunding sites. We got a lot of advice and support from Theresa and Michael [Buzzbnk’s co-founders] when we were trying to work out our strategy and throughout the campaign.

To find out more about hiSbe, visit their website. If you are thinking about setting up your crowdfunding campaign on Buzzbnk and you would like some advice on your campaign action plan, please contact us at hello@buzzbnk.org.

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