Many groups start as funded projects – but what happens when the project (and, crucially, its funding) comes to an end? There is often motivation amongst participants to keep the group going.

We speak to Liesbeth Tip of Edinburgh’s HarmonyChoir to see how they made that transition – and see below for Voluntary Arts Scotland resources to help you on your way . . .

How did the HarmonyChoir start?

“I set up the choir as a research project at the University of Edinburgh, to study the benefits of singing in a choir on mental health. HarmonyChoir was and is an inclusive choir, open to individuals from different mental health backgrounds, to specifically bring people with lived experience of mental health difficulties, and those without, in contact with each other to change stigma and build connections. All people involved in running the choir did so on a voluntary basis, and choir members could take part for free.” 

How was the choir funded originally? 

“By the Edinburgh Fund’s Innovation Initiative Grants.” 

What prompted you to branch out on your own once the funding ran out? 

“The choir members didn’t want to stop! So we asked the volunteer musical director if he would like to carry on, and some of the other volunteers wanted to stay involved. Our committee is now run by volunteers from within the choir.”

What did you learn along the way?

“That it works really well to involve people taking part in your group in running the activities. This way you make sure it is what the group wants, and everybody can bring their own skills to the table to make things work. It’s a good thing to be able to rely on each other and work as a team to make things happen.”

How are you funded now?

“As in any community choir, choir members pay a monthly subscription (which in our case is £10 and £5 concessions). The generated income is mostly used to pay for renting the rehearsal space, printing costs and venue hire for performances.”

What words of advice would you give to anyone thinking of turning a project linked to an organisation into a stand-alone group?

“Make sure you have a committee in place. Our committee only makes agreements unanimously, and involves people with different skills, so we get input from different angles.”

If you're thinking of starting your own group, or extending a project, visit the 'Guidance' section on this website for lots of helpful info, including:

Finding a Venue: Some new ideas

Getting charitable status

How to write a successful funding application

Cash for Culture: A guide to fundraising for voluntary-led groups

Insurance for voluntary arts groups

Making committees work for you