If you have a cause you are really passionate about and want to make a difference, you may be considering starting your own charity. Charities play a valuable part in the lives and well-being of countless people and towards the progression of social causes. However, forming a charity isn’t a simple process and there are many stages to go through, regulations to fulfill and continuing governing responsibilities.
Before setting up a charity, here are some points to consider and steps to take.
Develop Your Vision
Firstly, you will need to solidify your goals for the charity. Think in depth about the issue you are trying to solve and how and who you will help. You will want to be able to establish a concise purpose. SMART goals can be a helpful way to think – objectives which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related.
Research and Differentiate
Once you have a strong idea of what you want to support, you should research whether there are already charities filling this need. If there are, it may be worthwhile helping and advocating this existing charity to try and increase impact, rather than just create fundraising competition. Try and contact this body to discuss support or, alternatively, a partnership of some form.
If you feel there is no one already committed to your vision, this is a sign there is a need to be filled and you should progress, clarify and differentiate your idea.
Creating an actionable plan of activity takes your charity from an idea to a well thought out set of attainable steps. Creating a 5-year plan, much as you would do with a business startup is a must. Include aspects such as fundraising strategies, financial forecasts, operating strategies and costs. Remember to stay realistic.
Get Professional Advice
The regulatory and financial complexities of setting up a charity can be overwhelming without the help of a professional accountant and business advisor. Becoming a registered charity requires a lot of administrative work and you will have to compile, maintain and publish information regarding finances, activities and trustees. A professional accountant or business advisor will be able to provide valuable knowledge and guide you through regulatory procedures, registration and running a charity.
Decide Upon Structure and Roles
The structure of your charity will affect the way it is run, who is involved in the running and what the charity is able to do. You will need to decide which structure will allow you to carry out the work you want to do and subsequently ensure you follow the requirements the chosen structure demands – for example, some structures mean you can’t own premises.
At this stage, you will also want to establish the trustees of your charity and any useful advisory individuals you wish to get on board.
Work on Branding
Your charity’s brand is very important for creating awareness and should be clear, powerful and attention-grabbing. Your brand is what will be persuading future donors, partners or volunteers to support your cause. A catchy or informative name and tagline will be key for first impressions. Making sure you have a visible presence online through a professional website and social media accounts is also a good idea to get information about your charity out there.
Once you have settled all the details and key aspects of your charity, you will likely need to officially register it. This requires a lot of documentation, and can be a stage where having a professional advisor is particularly useful to help get things in order.
Fundraising and Finances
To make your charity progress and last, you will need to be effective in your fundraising efforts. There are many different possible sources of donations, such as individuals, organizations, businesses and charitable trusts. Do research into potential benefactors, perfect a professional presentation and ensure your passion comes through in every phone call, meeting and pitch you do.
When the funds do start to come in, make sure you effectively control and report all finances, according to the regulations set out by the Charity Commission.
Be frugal and ensure you funnel as much of your money into the charity, rather than operations, as possible.