Fuel Round – Member in Focus #46

Fuel Round – Member in Focus #46

Fuel Round MIF

Interview with James McGovern from Fuel Round

Tell us a bit about yourself and/or your organisation.

I’m a dad of two young daughters, and partner to Steph. Originally from Sligo, I now live in Newcastle, enjoying the spectacular scenery of The Mournes!
 
Fuel Round’s mission is to reduce heating oil prices, to save money, help household budgeting and reduce fuel poverty. We have consistently saved our customers 10% to 15% on the price of their top-up since we set up in 2019. For most families, that is as much as £150 per year.
We like to use local oil suppliers, to support vibrant and resilient communities and we love to reduce truck miles, making our towns and villages greener, more pleasant places.
 
We are a social enterprise, preferring to reduce heating costs than take profit – that is our mission, as nobody should have to be cold in 2021 Northern Ireland.
 

How well have you/your organisation adapted to the pandemic?

Our first reaction was to adopt Fuel Round’s software to create a light-touch ask-for-help app for the self isolating, called Help Around – remember those early days, nobody had a clue what was going to happen, nobody! After providing assistance to 148 people, and seeing others – like Community Calling members – responding so positively, we thanked our volunteers, and disbanded.

Fuel Round itself was well-placed for the pandemic as members are able to manage their elderly relative’s oil tanks and to communicate with their suppliers in a hands-off (socially distant) manner, as well as save money. Clearly, these features take on an additional importance for the self-isolating, vulnerable, and those whose income took a dip, as well as those who burned more oil whilst working from home.
On a less positive note, I’d have liked to meet more community groups in person, but maybe and hopefully, the tide has now turned in this regard.

How well have people/organisations in your area collaborated throughout the pandemic?
 
One word, amazingly!
 
Other organisations like the County Down Rural Community Network and a host of community groups have got behind our initiative, posting about us on their social media, sharing their network contacts with us and offering financial help. All invaluable, at many different levels, to launch this service.
 
What key needs are becoming apparent and/or are likely to arise this year?
 

With the support of County Down Rural Community Network, we are extending our reach to help families and people across County Down. In addition, we are preparing to extend across the country in time for autumn/winter, because it is apparent, there are tighter purse strings everywhere as a result of Covid-19. Sadly, I think we will feel the economic impact of the pandemic more the coming months/year, as furlough ends, bringing higher unemployment, possible tax hikes and probably less Covid-related grants – sorry for the doom ‘n’ gloom!

The specific challenge for us is to gain exposure in each area, quickly. The emphasis is on ‘quickly’, because we need lots of members to get the prices and create a buzz, right from the start. Anything less, anything slower, will not generate the prices, buzz or momentum needed to sustain Fuel Round in the locality.

ASK: What do you need, right now, that the members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community may be able to help you with?
 
We want you to help us to launch Fuel Round in your area. Help us spread the word with your users by posting about us, talking about us and asking us to contribute to your newsletters, etc. Also, help us connect us with other organisations in your area. We don’t need much of your time, but we do need your support and introductions, and we need them now to be ready for the upcoming winter. All help, no matter how small will help us and the communities of Northern Ireland, and hopefully we can help you too.
 
👋 If you would like to respond to this ask, please follow the link below and enter “FUEL ROUND” to the first field.
 

OFFER: What support are you currently offering and are you open to members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community making contact?

We offer the cheapest source of heating oil to everyone in Northern Ireland. We feel it is particularly relevant to those managing a household budget, especially if it is being squeezed – maybe due to a dip in income and those who care for or help out a friend or relative – such as an elderly person with declining abilities. Even if you are not in either category, we want to join – you’ll get a bargain and you’ll make our group stronger, to everyone’s benefit.

👋 If you would like to be connected with this offer of support, please follow the link below and enter “FUEL ROUND” to the first field.

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