With the launch of Community Shares Scotland's crowdfunding programme making it easier for charities and community groups to raise money Paul Cardwell spoke to to one venture that has proved it works
Harlaw Hydro was established as a cooperative last year to take over the running of the former hydropower installation in Harlaw Reservoir near Edinburgh.
It aims to turn it into a community resource, selling electricity back to the national grid.
The most important thing is to form a strong local team with a strong business model and seek the right help - Lynn Molleson
Once building work is complete the plan is to use income raised to invest in other projects and initiatives to the benefit of the local area through the Balerno Village Trust.
The trust has already demonstrated its ability to improve the community as it currently runs a local farmers’ market, which offers small businesses the chance to grow and develop.
Harlaw Hydro had intended to borrow money from the bank to fund the project but was astonished at the level of interest charged from those who wanted to invest privately.
Instead, in April 2013 it issued a community share offer.
The offer was publicised by Harlaw Hydro’s team of four volunteer directors in the months up to the launch through local press, school bag leaflet drops, a series of community meetings and an open day.
Initially the objective was to raise £313,000 but outstanding uptake by residents saw £330,000 raised over a three month period from 241 investors.
Director Lynn Molleson urged other communities to consider a community share issue when looking to finance community benefit projects.
“The most important thing is to form a strong local team with a strong business model and seek the right help,” she said.
“The first place to go is the new Community Shares Scotland website where you can find a range of information and advice.”