The charity work has been coming thick and fast and now we're two years in wouldn't you like to hear how your practice has contributed to improving people's lives and where we want to go next?
I really believe yoga is for everyone. It relaxes your mind, makes your body more healthy and can help you deal with the stresses and strains of life by practicing the breathing and mindfulness techniques.
It has been two years since we started Yoga Quota and a year an a half since being registered as a charity by the charities commission. In year one we made 40 charity classes which means 40x50 of you came to do yoga. Year two has been even bigger we targeted 80 charity classes and actually did 104! Every charity class has at least one person from an under-privileged group who wouldn't be able to experience yoga otherwise.
We had to really rethink how to make the classes happen because I had a baby at the start of the year which took me out of teaching any classes at all for a bit. At the same time our volumes were going through the roof! So we were making quotas faster than ever (March was a freakishly high month and also August which was unexpected as it is in a holiday!) Looking ahead we have a larger studio now and a second branch so are expecting even more quotas and of course even more people benefiting from yoga thanks to that.
So we adapted to make sure the increase number of quotas are met. All the regular teachers at the studio now do a weekly class each for free- whereas in the past it was basically me doing the regular ones. These regular classes are for Autism Family Support, Oxfordshire Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, Oxfordshire Women's refuges (two of these every week in Oxford) and soon one for Silver Linings. One of our teachers with a crazy timetable does the equivalent hours of a charity classes but at random times rather than in a weekly basis. These are for groups like Yellow Submarine, Keen, SANE and Student Minds.
Then there are a few more regular classes that I pay the teachers to do for charities that have not been able to afford to get teachers to them in the past. Currently these are another Oxfordshire women's refuge, Mind Witney and Mind Abingdon. Charities catering for under-privileged groups who cant afford to find a teacher due to their crazy location or times needed now have access to good studio teachers like our lovely YQ ladies and thus we can provide cover for sickness and a professional service!
We have positive relations with more charities: DITTO (a multi needs group in Witney), Restore (Mental health), the Porch (homelessness), Big Issue (homelessness) and an a few more in the pipeline or with irregular classes with us. These charities / groups are in negotiation to have a weekly class, a one off or to do the referral scheme.
Ah yes the successful referral scheme! I love this one! We have set up a couple of key charity partners: Mind Oxfordshire and Maggies Cancer centre as referral partners Where there service users can practice at our studios for free. Big Issue, Restore and The Porch are in various stages of doing this. People in need get free class passes to practice alongside paying clients at the studio. Anonymously. It's worth £55 per 6 class pass, and other than the monetary value which is huge it also provides a community and a nice studio space for people who really need it. Not all charities or service users would suit this- very vulnerable groups still need a bespoke class, but reading downward facing (black) dog the blog from a Mind referee, for people who it is suited it is a really amazing resource. I'm keeping a keen eye on the numbers for this but currently the passes are unlimited for each recipient and my business plan allows for 10% of our volumes to be these free charity clients. For people who may be concerned about practicing alongside charity clients, please be assured that everyone who is in Yoga Quota is under our 'safety policy' for the studio and so regardless of charity client or not if you are made to feel uncomfortable we act fast and firmly to solve it using a process we have.
So that's in Oxford but also our Falmouth branch is nearly set up which is going to have its own 50 clients = 1 charity class quota too and currently we have set up a series of weekly classes for a young adults just graduating from the care system. This is an awesome cause because I think the younger you are introduced to yoga the better it can help you through life's ups and downs. We also have a referral scheme in negotiation here too.
And of course subscribers! These are yoga teachers UK wide who subscribe to wear the YQ badge and commit to a minimum quota of 4 charity classes a year. Any one who substitutes our classes at the studios has to be a subscriber. Anyone who teachers community classes (our donation based class on the schedule) also had to be a subscriber. And we have people as far and wide as Margate, London and Derbyshire signed up thanks to an ad and article in a yoga teacher magazine. People who subscribe to the badge are often already teaching lots of vulnerable groups and this gives them a way to meet more and a support network. A new subscriber who was a refugee herself is hoping to teach for a refugee charity, which we'll support by paying her to do that after her minimum of 4 free ones. And fingers crossed there are a couple of other causes that we are working at getting subscribers teaching yoga for.
It's not all plain sailing.... I was hoping to partner with the accreditation bodies to get teachers signed up as subscribers but one asked for more money than we could afford and one is going through a leadership overhaul so this is on pause. Don't ask me why there are two accreditation bodies for yoga! The partnerships with them are also on pause because the plan now is to focus on branches...
In future, the expansion looks to be best supported through branches. There will always be a place for yoga teacher subscribers in places we don't have a branch and we do have charity demand (e.g. We have a very positive relationship with Mind, they are everywhere and so are our subscribers) I love the way the Oxford branch has worked because the local charities who are focussed on grass roots results get to know us, have a venue to come to, teachers nearby who can come and teach at their events at a drop of a hat and there is a community to support the charity work. Also it acts as a hub and a magnet to get teachers to subscribe to wear the badge and do the minimum number of charity classes. In the yoga world, teachers like to teach at studios but to teach at our studio you have to do the charity work. So it inspires lots of charity teachers in the area. Branches then seem to work but only time will tell how our second branch in Falmouth goes. But that is our current expansion strategy.
So not bad for 2 years! I've been testing out and rejecting various business models for this from doing charity retreats to charging subscribers to wear the badge, Both out! From having a central hub for all yoga studios to contribute to, to only having disparate teachers...also out! We have settled on this model for now as something that has been working and should work as we grow.
Next year we are targeting 200 charity classes for Oxford, and 40 for Falmouth. Lots of quotas and lots and lots of beneficiaries gaining access to the benefits of yoga!
For regular "how ya doing" updates keep on our newsletter subscription. Harriet one of our teachers with a penchant for publishing updates you every month with 'dots' which are our vital charity stats!
If you know a particular cause or particular charity we should reach out to I'm listening please get in touch!!
And when I say "we" I mean the whole YQ team: our wonderful trustees (Tara Florrie and Al) and our wonderful branch managers (Cassie and Lucy) and our regular teaching team (Audrey, Miranda, Harriet and Venetia) and of course all the subscribers here!