My RDA group has the chance to get its name on a double decker bus: can you help?


An artist's impression of our branded bus, taken from our video (link below)...

Vote for us here: scroll to the bottom of the page and vote for Abingdon RDA, entry number 4!

Some might dream of their name in lights, but my RDA group is currently chasing the possibility of their name on the side of a double decker bus. We have entered the Oxford Bus Company's "Brand the Bus" competition, the winner of which receives (among other forms of support and publicity) the excitement of a bus in Oxford decorated in its honour for a year. At the moment, the competition entries are are facing a public vote: the public vote decides a final top ten, which are then judged to find the overall winner. This week's blog post is shorter than most of my regular musings because I am here for one very good reason: I am looking for people to vote for us! (The link to do so can be found at the top and bottom of this post...) The competition is open until 20th December, but we are in no place to be complacent if we would like to see ourselves in that top ten...

As part of the entry requirements, we've also produced a three minute video to support our application. (This was shot by Darren Woodlow, who has also taken many of the beautiful RDA photos I use on this blog). It's very difficult to distil the essence of any organisation into three minutes, especially one which does so much for so many, but I think it does an excellent job. Natalie and Conall, two of my riders, do a wonderful job of featuring as interviewees. (If we are lucky enough to win, I suspect Natalie will negotiate her way into appearing personally on the branded bus. She was very taken with the idea.) 

If the video isn't enough to convince you to give Team Abingdon your vote (or indeed the blurb I wrote to go with the video in the competition gallery), here are five reasons in the spirit of my regular list-orientated blog posts:

1. We're a genuinely local charity

The bus we are vying to brand with ponies and purposes would be carrying people around a county our group has served for 45 years. The number of people from across Oxfordshire who have benefited from Abingdon RDA's services in some way during that time must be close, if not well into, their thousands by now. RDA groups all represent the very best of working with and for communities (sometimes more than one at once), and especially members of those communities who need a  bit of extra support. Plus, in the interest of fairness, we are the only RDA group who have entered.

2. We're still on the rebound (or even re-rebound) from Covid... and we could do with a leg up

As a group, we have done better at weathering the storm of this year than we could have imagined (and that feels amazing!), but we aren't out of the woods yet. We will be competing for fewer grants with greater numbers of other charities; our horses will eat more and our yard utility bills will grow during the winter months; traditional fundraising opportunities remain difficult; we still aren't in a position to welcome back 100% of our riders and volunteers, and we're not sure when that will happen. I have written often this year of the fact that RDA isn't the sort of front line organisation which has been pushed into the spotlight this year, but our "non-essential" service being able to rebound is more than essential for the people who access it.

3. We do good things, and mean a lot to many people

Wouldn't it be nice to tell more people about that? This isn't just pony rides for disabled kids: this is including and empowering children and adults (with no upper age limit) with a huge spectrum of needs; offering a safe and encouraging place for achievement; challenging beliefs, preconceptions, and proving that the bounds of human capability are almost always greater than we expect. Also, our horses are adorable (even my mum likes RDA ponies, and she is typically scared of all things equine). For many of our participants and volunteers, being able to show up and ride or see a horse is the tip of the iceberg: not being able to access RDA sessions has left a huge hole in many routines and hearts. I think of the best "good causes" as organisations which are selflessly, unambiguously dedicated to the good that they do. I am obviously completely biased, but I think an RDA group (especially my own) fits that bill perfectly.

4. We would love to attract more volunteers and local supporters

Getting our name out there in the local area could have a great, pragmatic effect for us: who knows who might be inspired by a passing bus to sign up to volunteer, or donate to our latest fundraising initiative? (Our yard is actually reachable by public transport; I get the bus to the stables every week, so the idea of branding a bus holds particular appeal...) It can be hard to tap into new pools of potential supporters, and no matter what sort of support they give, they are always something we need.

5. Bus news is good news 

We are an RDA group: we'd probably describe ourselves as a "family" over a "brand". The fact that the competition itself refers to "branding" a bus, however, does give a bit of a suggestion as to the power of making our group more visible to thousands of people. Although we would love to win (who doesn't like winning? I've seen my riders' eyes light up when I mention rosettes...), even being in the final top ten could potentially open up new opportunities for funding, support, and publicity. We are constantly doing what we can to create opportunity for others: taking advantage of opportunities for the organisation itself could allow us to take that to the next level.

So - can you help the wheels on this bus go round and round?

Oxford Bus ComPONY: pun credit to Coach Amanda!

Vote for us here to Brand the Bus: scroll to the bottom of the page and vote for Abingdon RDA (entry number 4!) Don't forget to watch our video!