How virtual private members’ club Grapevine is uniting to help key workers

By Tempus | 11 May 2020 | Culture, Philanthropy

Mike Tindall and Rachel Johnson are members of Grapevine private members’ club raising funds for NHS staff

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* Grapevine is raising funds for Brompton Bikes for NHS workers

Since its inception in 2019, Grapevine’s mission has been to be a private members’ club with a difference. Founded by Panda Christie, the fully virtual club is a trusted network of private members, linking kindred spirits from town or country. Members can promote, sell or buy goods and services within its network of 4,500 members – including famous faces like former rugby star Mike Tindall, editor Rachel Johnson, adventurer Bear Grylls and Innocent Drinks founder Jon Wright. 

“I’d known Panda for a while before she started Grapevine and when she showed me the website and I saw the amazing array of posts, I was really happy to become an Ambassador,” says Tindall, whose wife Zara is granddaughter to the Queen. “Grapevine have some top corporate partners on board, get their members invited to very cool and unique events and have some beautiful villas and chalets on their site. It’s a brilliant service for their members.”

The club is proud of its community spirit – something that has come to the fore during recent weeks as NHS workers found themselves on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to the heroism of key workers, The Grapevine members donated 10 second homes for NHS workers to use, and helped raise funds for Brompton Bikes, which are being manufactured and donated to NHS workers to help them get to work safely and for free.

“Now more than ever, people like to feel part of communities and Grapevine is just that; a trusted community linking kindred spirits,” says Christie, who says members have helped with work opportunities for university students, and meeting offline to support one another during difficult times. Here, Christie tell Tempus about how Grapevine community has come together…  

In recent months, Grapevine has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in their local areas. Could you tell us about this?
Yes, it is amazing what the community has managed to create. Operation Recuperation is collecting pledges for stays in second homes so frontline healthcare workers can recover from the fight against Covid-19 and the Grapevine membership has so far pledged 10 second homes to these NHS workers to get some respite after the crisis. Brompton Bikes has promoted its Crowd Funder through Grapevine and our members have helped raise a significant amount of money, which has meant more bikes are able to be manufactured and donated to NHS workers to help them get to work for free and healthily. Last, but by no means least, we have a member who is a very good carpenter, and she is selling personalised chopping boards to raise funds for NHS welfare charities.

As well as key workers, you have been organising ways to care for vulnerable people, including the elderly.
Grapevine has also supported a new video that was created to help the elderly get to grips with the IT that allows them to connect with their loved ones and promoted the charity Food4Heroes. On a more personal level, I have talked to some members on the phone. There is one struggling at home, whilst both parents are out saving lives in hospital each day. I also spoke with a wonderful 92-year-old who is, quite simply, lonely and scared. She had a fascinating view on life today compared to her life during the Blitz and so I have shared this interview with all our members.  >>

Related: These high-end suppliers are brightening up our homes – and pantries – during lockdown

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* Panda Christie founded virtual private members club Grapevine

Do you think these projects are helping your members feel more connected with one another and the community? 
Yes, absolutely. Now, more than ever, people like to feel part of communities and Grapevine is just that. Its members feel more connected, informed and inspired by the sharing of ideas and advice, whether it is fund raising in a crisis, promoting work opportunities or, or just being a friendly voice.

Who are your members and what are they looking for from the concept?
We have members from all over the country and abroad, including our Grapevine Ambassadors of professional sportsmen and women, entrepreneurs, travel specialists, journalists and TV presenters. They support The Grapevine because they believe in the community spirit and way the network can really help and support individuals, charities and small businesses.  Some more high-profile members include food critic William Sitwell, The Lady editor Rachel Johnson, Innocent Drinks founder Jon Wright, TV presenter Adam Henson and action man Bear Grylls.

How does Grapevine work?
Grapevine provides support to its members on many levels. At the moment, it is helping share news on Covid-19. For example, I shared my own experience of a week with this awful virus. It also has a recent report and advice from a member who is a doctor, and we share some innovative ways that members can support different fund-raising initiatives. The network is also used for promoting private sales to an audience of trusted members, whether selling puppies, a once-loved car, designer clothes or private holiday homes. It often provides access to special deals too, such as tickets to national festivals, concerts and tournaments, and private member events that are not usually open to the public.

What other projects are you working on right now? 
We are focusing on reaching out to suitable brands and businesses we think share the same target market as our membership. We are proving to be a very useful platform for members to promote their businesses and make sales online when perhaps many relied on sales through trade stands at sporting events or trade fairs to make the bulk of their revenue. Grapevine is giving them access to a targeted and very captive audience. Also, before the Covid-19 pandemic, we had several wonderful events organised just for our members but these will have to be rescheduled once we know the situation in a few months’ time.   

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* Countryfile presenter Adam Henson is a member of Grapevine