According to recent data we’ve obtained, there are approximately 186 charitable organizations in the UK. Now while this is impressive for a small island nation in Western Europe, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for more! If you plan on establishing a charity or a philanthropic foundation, then keep reading to find out more. Setting up a foundation is very similar to incorporating a business and all you have to do is to prove to The Charity Commission that your charity has a better way to help people in need.
However, setting up a non-profit organization in the UK is not for the faint-hearted. Charities, foundations and non-profits are heavily regulated in the UK, moreover, it’s also highly competitive. Yes, in an ideal world new charities would see their mission as increasing overall giving rather than stealing market share from existing charities. But in reality it’s actually a mixture of both scenarios, which is perfectly fine. Who needs poorly-run charities anyway, right? Their inefficiency or rather incompetency ought to be replaced by new and better-run charities.
Read through this article to find out the what, where and whys of starting a new charity.
Table of Contents
- 1. Define a Distinctive Mission
- Geographic Niche
- Demographic Niche
- 2. Understand your Audience
- 3. Choose a Name
- 4. Test the Concept
- 5. Start the Practicalities
1. Define a Distinctive Mission
Perhaps the most difficult part of starting a new charity is getting the funding you need to operate it. This is almost as difficult as pitching your new radical and disruptive idea for your startup business – it has to impress those who are willing to give you money. You have to understand that you’re not the only one applying for funding from wealthy philanthropists and other big corporations. In fact, it is highly likely that they get tons of applications on a daily basis.
You can explore these steps below in order to stand out and be noticed by potential supporters.
You can appeal to people more based on your local geographic location, so first decide where you want to setup your charity. Using this tactic can have a lot of advantages because you will have gained specific local knowledge that other charities that operate internationally won’t have access to, or may struggle to acquire. Once you have become familiar with your locality, then it’s easier to integrate and streamline your methodology and all of your communications.
Even if you’re not a psychiatrist you would at least be aware that people are unique from each other with different life pursuits, interests and goals. Since your charity is geared towards helping people in your community, it would be wise to learn about them – like a lot. By diving into the detail you will gain insights and make it easier to build a community of interested people. You could, for instance, dedicate the resources of your charity to helping people with type 2 diabetes (or preventing it from developing). Or any other cause like finding alternative sources for heating houses in areas of the planet where the temperature becomes an inconvenient.
2. Understand your Audience
If you have defined a distinctive mission, then it won’t be hard to understand your audience. A broad audience is an indication of your charity not having a defined and distinctive goal (or mission). A common mistake new charities make is attempting to appeal to a very broad audience to their cause. This is understandable, as with being a charity or foundation, you often expect to include everyone in your cause, but the reality is the opposite. You’ll end up with a lot of complications in trying to solve problems or achieve goals by casting your net to a wider catch for supporters, and you will most likely fail. A well defined mission, although will attract fewer audience, ensures an effective communications.
3. Choose a Name
One thing to remember is that choosing a name of your charity or foundation is not at all that important. Sad but true, so while you may want to choose a catchy name for your charity, keep in mind that the mission and vision is more important.
Below are a few tips on how to choose a charity name (but don’t waste time in doing it).
- Make sure that the name of your charity is easy to spell and easy to understand, especially when you say it over the phone.
- Should you decide to select a name that describes what your charity does, make sure that it conveys the generalities of your mission statement and nothing specific. This is because there’s a good chance that your mission may change over time and when that happens your charity name will become irrelevant or contradictory to your mission statement.
- Do not use lengthy names as it can have complications later on.
- Learn from successful business that have established themselves in the market with a catchy yet simplistic name.
4. Test the Concept
Too often, the first concept of your idea usually will not work like you expected it would be, so it may be best to do a test run. The reason why you need to do this is because you will want to know which parts of it will work and which ones won’t. You’re technically giving your idea room to evolve into something even better than the initial conceptualization. Feedback from your test audience can help a lot.
Here are some ways you can test your concept:
- Find other charities and non-profits who are doing the same thing and list them down.
- Talk to 10 independent people who are already working in the niche that you’re planning to work on once your charity is established and ask for their honest opinion about your idea.
- Find another 10 people who are looking to support new charities who are not your friends or members of your family and ask them if they would help you with the funding and support your non-profit organization once it’s up and running. If they’ll decline, ask them of their reasons for not wanting to support your cause. There’s a thing or two to learn from their answers.
5. Start the Practicalities
Just like with setting up a business, you should be aware enough not to jump from step one into working out the details of the practicalities. If you are impulsive and impatient, then this endeavor is not for you. These things take time and effort and most especially, a thoroughly tested concept with a high percentage of probability that your idea will work.
So what do you need to think about and what should you do first?
- Form your team: Pick out competent, smart, hardworking and dedicated people to work with you. Find folks who will offer guidance and oversight.
- Choose your charity legal structure and register with the Charities Commission when all things have been considered. There should be a board of trustees who will be responsible for governing the charity and making sure the team members adhere to its rules and bylaws. The UK’s Charities Commission will allow you to operate without being registered until you’ll have a gross income of £5,000 a year. You may also wish to consider working as a social enterprise.
- Prepare a list of philanthropists who are willing to support your cause
- Secure a domain name and build your charity’s website. Establish a presence on the top 10 social media sites to attract your audience and get more support. Do not spend too much money on marketing, just write blogs daily or every other day and newsletters to send out to potential donors and like-minded individuals.