‘Sponsor a sapling’ scheme hopes to lead the way in crowdfunding for community projects

Pupils at the local primary school already use the area for learning.
Pupils at the local primary school already use the area for learning.

Money might not grow on trees – but a community forest is hoping to prove that it certainly grows on crowdfunding platforms.

Kilfinan Community Forest in Tighnabruaich is inviting members of the public to donate £20 each to ‘Sponsor a Sapling’ as part of a crowdfunding campaign launched today.

The team hope to raise £5,500, enough to plant 500 saplings and reforest an area of woodland destroyed by winter storms in 2013.

Donations will go towards buying the saplings, deer-fencing the area and recruiting a social media intern to promote the campaign.

Rob Borruso, director of the community forest, said: “With the pressures from deer and invasive species such as rhododendron and knotweed, a ‘natural’ forest will not regenerate if it is left alone.

“By giving the native trees a head start in our new nursery we should avoid the need for more aggressive interventions in the future such as deer culling or rhododendron burning, as the majority of the saplings will grow strong to take care of themselves when they are transplanted out into the forest.”

Tighnabruaich Primary School already use the area for outdoor learning, and the group hope that the reforestation of the damaged area will encourage the community to make more use of the forest for recreation.

Headteacher Fiona Hamilton said the project created a unique opportunity for the children: “Having the pupils involved in establishing the tree nursery will give them a real sense of owner-ship and an opportunity to understand woodland management and the lifecycle of trees through first-hand experience.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is running a pilot project which provides selected community groups with access to digital expertise from Hot Tap Media to harness cowdfunding to fund their community projects.

The Sponsor a Sapling campaign is the first of these to be launched.

Claire Munro, development manager in HIE’s strengthening communities team, said: “Whilst crowdfunding is now recognised as an effective route to raise finance for business and third sector projects, it has not yet been fully explored in the community asset sector in the Highlands and Islands.

“We are delighted to be working with Hot Tap Media on this pilot project, which we hope will inspire other community groups and projects to use similar techniques to secure match funding or to fund individual projects entirely.

“It will also raise the profile of community asset ownership and community development more widely and inspire and encourage other organisations to adopt innovative fundraising campaigns.”

Members of the public who donate to the campaign can choose from a range of perks including a picnic and wild camping in the forest, cards featuring a hand-drawn picture of their tree by a child in the local primary, and places on a woodcraft course.

To sponsor a sapling go to the website here.