The Northumberland entrepreneurs who set up a not-for-profit networking group hope that its socially responsible ethos will become more prevalent in the region and across the country.
NorthEastBiz is run by spreading the administration across half a dozen volunteers, so no one person gets overloaded, and they are all driven by the knowledge that they are contributing to the common good.
As well as meeting business people from similar and different sectors and exchanging ideas, members who come along to a monthly breakfast event at the Riverside Lodge in Morpeth and mingle event at the Willow Farm pub and restaurant near Cramlington pay to attend in order to support good causes.
Members gave more than £600 to St Oswald’s Hospice in the group’s first half year.
In conjunction with Barclays, £2,500 was raised for The Toby Henderson Trust in 2014 and nearly £10,000 worth of free networker services were provided to the charity.
Similar support has been offered to Carers Northumberland this year and NorthEastBiz attendees have so far brought in more than £2,000 for it – again with help from Barclays.
With more meetings and a further event to come, the total amount is set to be more than last year.
One of the founder members, Dan Bond of Morpeth-based Dan Bond Presentation, said: “There may be one or two individual business groups that occasionally give to charity, but just imagine what could be done if all North East or even national networking events were structured to support local charities.
“In two-and-a-half years, NorthEastBiz has raised well over £5,500 for good causes, while also providing services in-kind and actively promoting the work of these local charities.
“This in its self is not that remarkable, but what is notable is that it is all the result of a simple not-for-profit business networking model which adds a new layer of value and depth to networking.
“NorthEastBiz collects £5 per head at the mingle event (Willow Wednesday) and pays the venue £4 as well as charging £10 per head at the Morpeth breakfast event and pays the venue £8.
“All the funds left after the venue is paid goes into the charity pot.
“With only one mingle and one breakfast event every month, plus other fund-raising activities, members have achieved a lot with very little extra effort.
“Businesses have broadened their networks and generated business opportunities while local charities have had support in cash and kind, while also having a platform to increase public awareness of their charity at networking events and on social media – @NorthEastBiz has more than 10,000 Twitter followers. It’s simple stuff and everyone is winning. The only out-going costs from the funds collected are small amounts for sundries such as badge holders and a one-off cost for an event banner.
“The feedback from the entrepreneurs that have come along to the events has been very positive. At the last breakfast there were 23 attendees and at the November Willow Wednesday, there were still eight of the 40 attendees in deep conversation over half an hour after the event was due to finish.
“The support of the owners and their staff at the two venues we use has allowed us to make all this happen.”
When it was announced that NorthEastBiz would be raising funds and providing networker services for Carers Northumberland, the charity’s chief executive, Sharon Spurling, said that this backing will boost its work to support people across the county who look after their loved ones, friends and family and give its staff and volunteers useful opportunities to talk to and work with some well-regarded professionals.
For more information about the business networking group, visit www.northeastbiz.co.uk/events