Phil Bennett served in the 9/12th Royal Lancers for 22 years, taking in a couple of tours of NI and the first Gulf War. Here he tells us about a website dedicated to raising funds for Veterans…

I recently read an interview with Anne-Marie Huby, the MD of JustGiving. She was asked ‘What has been your biggest challenge being an entrepreneur?’

"Nearly running out of money. We closed our first round of funding shortly before the dotcom crash, so we had to make every penny count thereafter. Charities were very sceptical at first, and it took us a long time to demonstrate how valuable online giving would be to them."

That seems to be my biggest obstacle, sceptics.

I started in around 2009, initially as just a forum for serving and ex members of the Forces. It has been like a train set. You buy a boxed set, and then think you will add a signal box. Then a tunnel. And before you know it, you’re having the loft boarded out and going for the full layout with 100 trains on it.

Initially, I went to a web design company in Durham who took me for around £12,000 and sold me the Emperor’s new clothes. The site looked brilliant, but it was worthless as they had written it in computer language akin to Hieroglyphics and that went down the pan.

‘The key is to learn from failures and then to keep going!’ Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

So I left it a few months, saved up the money, and started again. I went to a friend of a friend, and he built the website for me. It was very basic and needed a lot of work. We had very limited budgets to work with. So for the last 4 years or so, I have been adding a feature here and there as budgets allow, and have finally arrived at something that I am very proud of.

The problem with FB is, it belongs to FB. There are loads and loads of groups for the military, some with over 150,000 members. But what can they achieve? Nothing really, as they are lodgers in the house that Zuckerberg built. Imagine if we managed to get those sorts of numbers to be members of – it would give Veterans a voice, and hopefully raise money into the bargain.

I am trying an idea to divert a few crumbs off the table of FB and Google, by attracting some of their audience from FB, creating our own audience and earning revenue from advertising. We want to do the fundraising with a twist. Charities have massive overheads. Buying various stock and then relying on the generosity of the general public to buy that stock to raise money. What we are doing is different. We have no stock to sell. We don’t want people to put their hands in their pockets.

It’s very simple how we raise the money. Get Veterans to join and use it for the military side of FB. Thats it! That simple! Here’s how it works:

People join the website, and set up a group or join other groups, just as they would on FB. When we get enough people, it will attract advertising. We raise money from the advertising and donate money to Forces Charities. Unlike some of the ‘shysters’ out there, we will donate in excess of 75% of what we get to Forces Charities, who will then have to spend less time fundraising and spend more time actually helping the people that they were set up to help. As the amount of revenue increases, then the amount of money donated will increase too. That’s it! No cons! No gimmicks!

What do we intend to do with any revenue? There will be a committee to decide who gets what, made up of members from the website. I will not be involved with that. I will just run the site. As we start to bring in revenue, at least 75% of it will go to charity. As I recoup my outlay, then the amount of money that goes to charity will increase up to 90%. I will take a salary (nothing stupid like other organisations), so will my partner and there will be a small amount going to my IT man who has put in hundreds of hours at basic cost.

Basically, we are like Anne Marie Huby and justgiving. In this case, we will earn all the money, and then give as much as possible to charity. Nobody has to sit in a bath of beans, ride a unicycle from Lands End to John O Groats or put their hand in their pocket. The more we give, the more publicity we get, the more we earn to keep giving, and hopefully, we will make a serious dent in the problems with homelessness and PTSD etc amongst our Veterans. I am not a materialistic sort of bloke, needing a range of cars outside and a helicopter. What I really want is something that will have my name on it for people to remember me by long after I am worm bait.

The biggest obstacle now to us, and it’s a big one, is getting people to use instead of FB. People moan about the lack of help for Veterans with PTSD, the homeless and those who deal with other issues. But will they do anything about it? Talk about procrastinating! Let’s start another group on FB, that will help!

What we are after is a helping hand to get our foot on to that first rung of the ladder. We have seen some excellent organisations like and Forgotten Veterans that we want to help, plus many more. Please give us a chance and let us show you how much we want to help. Give us that step up to the first rung please.