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Case Study Custom House Bookshop

June 4, 2024

Custom House Bookshop feeds back on Compost Newham.

About the organisation

Founded in November 2022, Custom House Bookshop was set up to sell books that reflect the diverse local community of Custom House, offering titles not always found in more conventional bookshops. 

Their community activities include play sessions for child minders and parents, ‘Cuppa and a Chat’ sessions to overcome loneliness, isolation, and the resultant depression. Crafting and Storytelling sessions are held at the weekends and working with ‘The Felix Project’ to make a food offering available, between Christmas and New Year over a thousand people are fed. 

About the people

Custom House Bookshop is run by the dynamic duo - Dean Armond and Denise Evans-Barr. Dean is the Operations Director. With Denise as the Managing Director and Superbook Woman.

The ask

When Custom House Bookshop contacted Compost Newham they were very clear that their initial needs were connected to developing a funding strategy and developing the skills to write effective bids to access funding and resources. 

Our response

“Compost delivered a very effective Funding workshop, held at St. John’s Church, Stratford. The Slides sent as part of the follow-up were particularly useful giving us information on how to write effective grant applications. This enabled us to expand our network by introducing us to other participants on the course we attended, creating several engagements that look likely to lead to us working in partnership. 

Concrete outputs include:

  • Several successful grants were made to the bookshop after the Workshop. 
  • Other organisations have encouraged us to apply for grants, for example Keolis Amey / TfL  
  • We have been able to encourage other groups and individuals to make grant applications to fund their projects, several have reported success with People Powered Places and other funding sources, for example Newham Cricket Club Colts (boys' and girls' teams).”

Their feedback

“We were both really impressed. The person who gave the Bid Writing Workshop was experienced, knowledgeable and had great expertise. She was also able to deliver the Workshop contents in a clear, understandable manner, timed the delivery well, so that everyone could follow what was being said and not feel overwhelmed. The Bid Writing Workshop was very useful and provided practical advice. It was followed up by the slide deck which served to reinforce the notes made at the workshop.

Due to the training, conversation and support from Compost, our organisation now has a much more robust Business Plan and is currently putting together a Fundraising Strategy to make sure that the lessons learned on the Bid Writing Workshop are put into practice in a structured fashion. What made the most difference was that attending this workshop has created a ‘multiplier effect’, as we have used what we learned at the Workshop to support other organisations and individuals when they applied for funding from a variety of sources.  

We truly believe that the contact with Compost has made a significant and positive difference to the Custom House Bookshop.  We have expanded our network, and now have a much greater understanding about what makes a grant application more likely to succeed and a better understanding of who to target in our fundraising efforts. 

Undoubtedly support from Compost has improved my confidence and expanded my knowledge and certainly improved my skills. We both feel better informed and certainly better connected. 

What the sector needs.

It is important that Newham Council invest in and commits to improve its support for the Voluntary, Community and Faith sectors because many individuals and groups / organisations are really struggling.  

However, going forward some important considerations include  

  • Lead in time - Having a longer lead in time provides the council with the time to ensure the groups receive their funds in good time and so can start their delivery with the relevant equipment, resources and staff in place, and with vital tie to share their activities and attract service users.  
  • Flexibility – if the above is difficult to deliver then the grant officers can build in more flexibility into their time scales to assist with more successful outcomes for the individual projects.  

Hopefully these ideas can be applied in future funding rounds.  

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