Over the past two years, businesses in the Bega Valley have experienced substantial growth and development, thanks to generous funding from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR). The Bega Valley Business Forum, a key recipient of FRRR support, secured funding through two distinct rounds, with the first grant of $60,000 coming from the Investing in Not-for-profit Capacity Building program.
This funding empowered the forum to engage two local consultants over eight months, fostering capacity-building activities for the Forum and local chambers. Significant outcomes emerged from this initiative, including collaborative efforts with Chamber Committees to enhance governance, develop a comprehensive governance guide, optimize online presence for attracting new members and volunteers, navigate grant applications, and identify and address skills shortages through targeted training programs.
An integral achievement resulting from this initiative was the creation of the Bega Valley Business website. This platform not only elevated the online profile of the Forum, which previously lacked a website or social media presence, but also serves as a comprehensive resource showcasing the main commercial centers, offering insights into demographics and businesses within the shire, and providing information on membership and local business news.
In the subsequent funding round, the Strengthening Rural Communities program awarded $50,000 to facilitate the growth of volunteer participation in local business chambers. This allowed the forum to engage a part-time project officer who played a pivotal role in creating a robust library of resources and documents, streamlining committee processes. Practical assistance included setting up email accounts linked to chamber domains, establishing mailing lists, and developing promotional materials to attract new members and volunteers, with door-to-door and business-to-business outreach efforts proving particularly impactful.
A highlight of this funding phase was the one-day Strategic Planning Workshop facilitated by Nicole Webber from QM Consulting. This workshop resulted in the creation of a strategic plan, providing a clear roadmap for the forum’s direction over the next three years.
The final outcome of this initiative was the launch of new membership classes at a major event at Kittys in Merimbula. For the first time in two decades, the forum opened its doors to new members, featuring guest speakers such as Jemma Tribe, President of the Shoalhaven Business Chamber, who shared valuable insights on chamber growth.
The tangible impact of FRRR’s funding and support on the Forum, its committees, and individual Chambers is evident. The President of the Bega Valley Business Forum expressed deep gratitude, formalising the appreciation by designating FRRR as an Honorary Member for the year. “The funding not only enhanced internal capacity but also accelerated progress in a manner that would have taken years to achieve through volunteer efforts alone. This strategic investment ensures the forum’s resilience and strength for the next two decades and beyond.”