Up until 2020 everything for The Bluetits was very generously funded personally by Sian Richardson and her husband Alan. Sian’s love for cold water swimming is infectious and as people met and swam with her, new flocks started popping up all over the place. The Bluetits grew and grew and as it started to get too big to manage alone, a few brave tits stepped up to help out with social media, events, project planning, and finances and as it kept growing we thought we should probably get some advice about a structure that would support that growth.
With the advice of Wales Coop we decided that we wanted to become a Social Enterprise, and on 1st September 2020, The Bluetits Chill Swimmers became The Bluetits Chill Swimmers Ltd – a company limited by guarantee.
What is a Social Enterprise?
Social enterprises are businesses that have a social or environmental purpose. This means that they reinvest any surpluses they make back into the business in order to deliver more of their social or environmental purpose. A social enterprise is still a business, and it needs to generate profits and be sustainable.
What is a company limited by guarantee?
It means that there are no shareholders in the company so our profits are not paid out to investors. Instead, they stay in the business and go towards supporting us in delivering our vision.
What is the vision?
The Bluetit mission is to create a confident, capable community through cold water swimming and adventures. Challenging our limits together is a phrase that came up in one of our meetings and it’s kind of stuck around.
Being sustainable means that we need to generate our own income to pay for our ongoing activities.
Our commitment is that membership is and always will be free and everyone who attends an organised ‘newbie’ swim will get a coveted Bluetit badge.
It is important to us that there is no financial barrier to cold water swimming, you don’t need any special kit, grab your swimmers and a towel and you’ll be welcome at any of our swims.
Our local ‘flocks’ are kept going by the wonderful people who put themselves forward to be Facebook group admins and we have over 100 of those making swims accessible all over the UK as well as in the US, Denmark, Cyprus, Canada, New Zealand and counting!
To make money to fund our vision we sell merchandise, create paid challenges and organise swim events.
As a small organisation we cannot buy in thousands of pounds worth of stock to get the sorts of prices that huge retailers get so our bespoke kit designs bring us in a small margin that helps to fund everything.
Our coveted Bluetit Badge is still free, and we have a whole host of other designs which again bring us in a small amount of money.
Our paid challenges are designed to be affordable and as such again bring in a small amount after the costs of sew-on patches, badges, admin and postage.
So where does the money we make go?
We are working on creating a Bluetit HQ. A place where our team can meet and work from and where we can manage everything from badge orders to challenges.
Free badges – with over 14,000 members and growing this started to become a monster but thankfully the money from badge sales is starting to offset this.
In the future we want to train our volunteers in areas such as Mental Health First Aid, swim safety and cold water safety, areas that are key to the growth of our groups, and in turn, upskill coastal communities.
As a company, we also have overheads to cover, for the office and for things like marketing, advertising, bookkeeping and accountancy, stationery, printing, WiFi, etc.
We also need to build up some funds to make sure that we have the resilience to weather any storms and keep the organisation afloat.
We can’t tell you everything we have planned because some of our ideas are fantasies right now and most of them may never see the light of day, but we can promise that everything that we do is towards building a sustainable organisation that continues to promote and support people getting in the water and finding their flocks because that is the part that is changing people’s lives!
For some who have been Bluetits since the beginning, you may not understand our move to a formal structure. From our point of view as we grow it is ever more important that we can show you that the money we make is being spent in ways to keep promoting swimming and community and being a Company Limited by Guarantee means that our accounts will be filed and publicly available from Companies House.