NINE businesses have so far received more than £36,000 from a scheme offering to match the amount enterprises raise through crowdfunding.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) set up the Crowdfund Dorset Business campaign in response to the first wave of Covid-19, offering small firms and social enterprises up to £5,000.

Firms have to raise the same amount of money from 10 or more supporters.

The scheme was developed as part of the Pay It Forward campaign run by the crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder UK.

Lorna Carver, Dorset LEP director, said: “While there has been a substantial amount of government funding available to businesses in Dorset throughout the pandemic, there are inevitably businesses and organisations who fall through the cracks or that have been – and continue to be – affected more than others.

“Along with a range of other business support schemes, we created Crowdfund Dorset Business as an additional opportunity to help local businesses and organisations – from sole traders through to larger SMEs – adapt to the challenges of trading through the pandemic. We have seen how it has made difference to some businesses already, and while restrictions remain in place, we’re sure it can benefit others as well.”

The nine projects to have received match funding include Christchurch Seagulls Swimming Club, Chaplin’s Bar, Coda Music Trust and the Dorset Artists Emergency Fund.

Nothe Fort in Weymouth received £5,000 in match funding to help make the attraction Covid-secure and enable 35,000 visitors to enjoy it last summer.

James Farquharson, chairman of Nothe Fort, said: “Nothe Fort costs a lot to run, even when it is closed. When COVID-19 struck, we were faced with a choice: either shut the fort and use our reserves – enough for about a year – in the hope we could ride-out the pandemic or invest in adaptations to enable the fort to open. We applied to Dorset LEP’s crowdfund campaign and managed to secure the full match-funding of £5,000, which gave us the confidence to make the changes needed to open safely.”

Dorset LEP commits its money once businesses have hit 25 per cent of their crowdfunding target, payable when the target is reached. Details are at