I Set Up My Own Charity: Case Study
Starting a charity is a major decision. Many thousands of people across the country regularly take part in fundraising activities, often for large organisations. While this is an invaluable contribution to charitable causes, taking the decision to run a charity for yourself is a huge step.
Sarah decided to take that step last year. Having already been involved in fundraising, and with a personal connection to the cause, she decided that the time was right to set up her own charity.
Prior experience“There is a history of mental health problems in my family,” Sarah said. “I have been doing fundraising work for large mental health charities for quite a few years, but I found a few problems with the big organisations.
“I started to feel like the bureaucracy of the big charities meant that the money I raised wasn’t necessarily going as far as it could. Plus, my family have lived in the same area for many years, so I wanted to do something local.”
Sarah decided to set up her own charitable organisation dedicated to helping people with mental health problems in her area. She started by investigating what sort of grants were on offer.
Raising the cash“I realised that we would need cash if we wanted to make any difference at all. So my first step was to see what sort of financial support we might be able to get. The problem was that we were setting up in the middle of a recession, and lots of the grant-making bodies were either cutting back or simply not awarding at all.
“Luckily, my work with other charities had given me some pretty good fundraising experience. So I started contacting people who I knew might be willing to donate to help us get off the ground. We basically got started with private donations.”
But Sarah had bigger ambitions for her organisation, and realised that she needed to be registered with the Charity Commission in order to achieve them.
“Eventually, I want to be able to set up a community support centre for people with mental health problems. I know that I can’t do that as an individual. I need people to trust the organisation, and for that we need to be a registered charity.”
So was the registration process difficult?
“Registering wasn’t difficult. But it’s the bit after registration that makes the difference. As an individual you really have very few obligations when it comes to paperwork. But as a registered charity you have to submit your returns on time, and comply with the Charity Commission rules. It can be a big overwhelming to begin with.”
Next stepsOverwhelming or not, Sarah’s charity is now going from strength to strength. Having secured funding from her Local Authority, and in the midst of signing up a corporate sponsor, the community centre looks like it might well be built.
“Running a charity is a stressful job,” she says. “But it is hugely rewarding – you just have to make absolutely sure that you keep on top of the paperwork.”