Starting A Charity

Voluntary organisations and community groups are set up every day in Berkshire for many different reasons, however the amount of effort required to set up and establish a new voluntary organisation should not be underestimated, and it is important that ample time is built into your development plan.

Getting Started…

Considering starting a charity or community group? Amazing! The VCS is a diverse and thriving sector, which is constantly growing and changing every day; We’d love to have more people on board!
However, starting a VCS organisation from scratch is a major project to uptake which will need a long-term commitment. The amount of time, effort and resources required to set up and establish a new voluntary organisation should never be underestimated.

Not only are there a huge number of charities for you to compete with, but you may be unaware of similar organisations doing the work you are interested in which have already been established in your local area. Rather than putting in such a large amount of effort to be a competitor to this existing group, why not try joining them instead? By helping another organisation to develop and expand their work, you will be directly benefiting the cause you care about and also assisting with the overall growth of the voluntary and community sector!

Lightbulb & Page of Ideas
Before you get started with creating a new charity from scratch, consider the following points:
1) Identify the Need – Do your research; What is already being offered locally? Will I be duplicating work or services? What will others think of my plan for this charity? Is my idea going to be a desirable service to the public? Will my idea be appropriate and popular enough to apply for and get suitable funding? Could I do a local survey asking what other think of my proposal?
2) Find & Build a Team – Working alone will be hard work: Who is my target audience? Can I find people relating to this audience who will support my cause? Could these supporters help me with the setting up and running this organisation? Will I need to find and recruit  trustees, volunteers, or members?

3) Make a Plan – What are the purpose and aims of the organisation? How will we meet these objectives? What steps do we need to take? Will we have enough supporters to have an organised and functional trustee board? What will our legal structure be? What policies and procedures need to be put in place? Do we need to find and hire a base location? How and when do we get officially constituted? How will we measure the success of our organisation’s work?

At involve, we can provide advice and support on starting your ideal charity. If you would like some help on how to follow the steps outlined above, and assistance with answering these difficult questions, please contact us to arrange a meeting to further discuss your ideas.

Good Practice

Running an organisation, whether it be a voluntary group, charity, social enterprise or trust takes time and dedication.
It is important to understand the benefits of adopting good practices within your organisation from the offset. Good practice is a safeguard within your organisation, its volunteers, staff and stakeholders. When things go wrong it is easier to find solutions when best practice models are in place to help and guide you.

Stack of Documents
Here is a list of things to consider to ensure that your organisation has adopted good practices.

  • Governing Documents
  • Good Governance – Constitution Questions
  • Strategic Planning
  • Financial Management
  • Insurance
  • Effective Employer (including volunteers)

Legal Structures

A legal structure provides a framework which opens up new opportunities and establishes credibility, identity and continuity within a voluntary organisation.

You do not have to adopt a legal structure unless you aim to be a registered charity. It is possible for a voluntary group to operate without being formally organised and constituted if it is carrying out a small-scale operation (eg. a small self-help or special interest group).

We advise that all our clients adopt some formal structure to help to ensure that problems or misunderstandings do not occur.

The most common charitable structures are:
➤   Voluntary or Community Groups
➤   Charitable Trusts
➤   Companies Limited by Guarantee
➤   Charitable Incorporated Organisations
➤   Community Interest Companies

It is the responsibility of your committee to decide which legal structure is right for your organisation. The Government website provides various bits of advice from the Charity Commission and you can also find a full breakdown of charitable structures by clicking here.

Financial Management

Pile of Money

No matter how big or small your organisation may be, it is imperative that you keep accurate financial records. Money matters are the number one issue for sustainability within the voluntary sector. A good treasurer will understand the importance of their role in ensuring that records are kept up to date and are a true and honest account of the organisations financial position.
Finances should be part of every agenda to ensure transparency and accounts should be independently examined or audited on an annual basis and made available for scrutiny.

For more information about bookkeeping, budgeting and risk, click here to see the government’s advice on who can run your charity’s finances. At involve we can offer guidance, training and further support with finances.

Governing Documents

It is advised that all charities adopt governing documents, such as a constitution, which are the rules that govern your organisation.

The constitution should make clear:
➜      The name of the organisation
➜      The geographic area in which the organisation operates
➜      The aims and objectives of the organisation
➜      The powers that the organisation has to raise funds, employ staff, etc
➜      The membership/committee structure & associated procedures
➜      Voting rights
➜      Rules and procedures for meeting including annual general meeting
➜      How the organisation will be dissolved including assets
Writing Important Documents
This may seem like basic and obvious information but it is amazing how this type of information can be misunderstood if it is not formalised.
You are not legally obliged to hold a constitution however this is advisable as it ensures that the organisation is run fairly and transparently, for the benefit of its community.

Business Planning

For larger scale projects we advise that you develop a long term business plan for your organisation between 3-5 years.

A business plan is a written document that describes a business, its objectives, its strategies, the market it is in and its financial forecasts. It has many functions, from securing external funding to measuring success within your business.

involve can support our members to develop a detailed and strategic business plan. You can also discover more from the government website.