Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

This case study examines how business planning and mentoring helped the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail to operate more efficiently, increase membership, and achieve a major goal.

The challenge of securing funding

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail is a community group committed to securing funds to upgrade and extend a rail trail.

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.

In 2012, the group’s President, Garry Long, completed a business plan and four mentoring sessions through Small Business Victoria. Garry says the mentoring process pushed him and the group to reflect on how it could operate better to achieve its goals.

“The mentoring service was brilliant because it gave me the opportunity to look inward at how the group was working. The group still has its vision but in getting to that end point, we were trying to be a bit smarter at the way we were operating. The mentor gave me some ideas about how to improve and have the group become more efficient.” Garry Long, President

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More efficient

Historically, the President had been responsible for many of the group’s activities, together with members of the Executive. Following mentoring, the group was restructured into action teams, each responsible for a different activity:

  • Strategic Planning Team – manages the group’s objectives and lobbies for funding
  • Communications Team – manages marketing, website and social media
  • Activities Team – organises activities such as rides and community market information stands
  • Projects Team – is responsible for physical improvements to the trail
  • History Research Team – is responsible for curating artefacts relating to the trail.

Creating focused action teams has spread the workload and enabled each team to operate more efficiently.

More popular

The new teams allow volunteers to see the outcomes of their efforts more clearly, and to feel that their contribution is valuable and valued. As a result, the group is attracting more volunteers, boosting membership.

“The restructure has improved the way we operate and increased our membership. We have over 40 members now, which is a really positive thing.” Garry Long, President

More focused on finances

The Strategic Planning team has given the group a sharper focus on fund-raising, underpinned by financial clarity and a stronger business case. The group also sought external expertise to support its case when applying for funding. Latrobe University provided expert analysis of rail trail’s benefits to regional economies, building on its previous work identifying the use and benefits of specific trails in Victoria like the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. This data was vital in building the case for the extension of the O’Keefe rail trail.

Trail extension approved by council

The group successfully argued its case for extending the rail trail between Axedale and Heathcote, attracting joint funding from the Victorian State Government and the City of Greater Bendigo. The group has also proposed an even longer trail, between Heathcote and Wallan adding to the O’Keefe trail, and together with various supporters has been successful in having the Mitchell Shire Council include this proposal in the 2014–2017 Council Plan. This is a key step towards securing funding for creating a future significant long distance rail trail in Victoria.

And group members are continuing to plan for trail improvements and additions...

“We’re also looking at what the planned extended trail needs to make it popular in the future, so one of our proposals to the City of Greater Bendigo will now see the current trail’s extension being built cross Lake Eppalock and include a ‘lake viewing’ area on that section of trail. This will provide a site for trail users to look over the expanse of the water.” Gary Long, President

About The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail is a group of enthusiasts set up to create a future for this  ‘forgotten’ rail trail, as close as possible along the route of the original Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway line (Sandhurst, former name for Bendigo). 

As part of its mission to preserve elements of the former railway line’s history, the group has built two replica railway platforms and added signage to mark where stations were once on the line.

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