Collingwood Children's Farm

This case study looks at how business planning and mentoring inspired Collingwood Children’s Farm to review its constitution and improve its financial management, creating a sustainable organisation for the future.

The challenge of long-term survival

Established in 1979, Collingwood Children’s Farm is a much loved community farm that lets city children experience animals, nature and the outdoors.

From the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, the farm struggled against the threat of closure due to lack of funding. Around 2009, Farm Manager Alex Walker and his team developed a strategic plan for the farm’s sustainable development.

In 2012, Alex attended a professional development day, which led to business mentoring sessions that focused on assessing the effectiveness of the strategic plan.

Support through business planning and mentoring

Between November 2011 and June 2013, the former Office for the Community Sector, in partnership with Small Business Victoria and the Small Business Mentoring Service, delivered the Business Planning for Not for Profit Program.

The Program featured ten business planning seminars and individual business mentoring sessions across Victoria to support not for profit community organisations improve business practices. This case study was one of the participants in the program.

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Improving the constitution

As part of the business planning process, the farm’s committee re-wrote its constitution to give the organisation charitable status.

The main goal of this process was to expand the range of grants for which the farm could apply. But rewriting the constitution also prompted the committee to have valuable discussions about the farm’s objectives – and how these should influence their budget.

"During that reflection it was important to look at the whole picture and decide what our objectives were. They then became part of the constitution and an overriding factor of how we planned the budget." Alex Walker, Farm Manager.

Improving financial processes

The farm also improved financial processes by developing a more detailed yearly budget, which includes breakdowns of spending and earnings projections.

"After doing a year or two of that, we will come up with right controls and systems to measure our progress, which will support the farm’s long-term plans." Alex Walker, Farm Manager

Improving revenue

Increasing revenue was another key issue considered during mentoring. Aspects considered included:

  • Marketing and membership
  • revenue from events such as markets, birthday parties and holiday programs
  • infrastructure improvements to aid more efficient collection of entry fees.

The committee now has a clearer idea of its revenue for the next five years. While the farm receives some grant funding (and will continue to try to increase that), generating its own income is also a key part of ensuring a sustainable future.

"The committee has now implemented governance that will give the farm real sustainability and a future. The future used to be what was happening next month. It’s not anymore; it’s what’s happening over the next three years." Alex Walker, Farm Manager

About Collingwood Children’s Farm

Collingwood Children's Farm is a not for profit community resource providing rural farm experiences for city dwellers, with a focus on sustainable environmental practices.

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