Thomas Wall Trust – Digital Skills 2020 Grants Programme

Grants are available for registered charities and not-for-profit organisations to support specific projects or core activities that support literacy, numeracy, digital and additional skills in order to increase employment prospects within the UK. Grants of up to £5,000 are available.

The deadline for first stage applications is 12 June 2020.

The funding is for projects working with disadvantaged people aged 18 years or older to improve their basic digital skills. Priority will be given to:

A pile of golden coins.
  • Projects that link digital skills with employment opportunities.
  • Match funded projects.
  • Organisations that can provide compelling evidence of impact.
  • Organisations working with collaborative networks.

The online application form can be found on the Trust’s website (

There is a two-stage application process.

  • Stage one is to complete an Expression of Interest form which requires some basic information.
  • Stage two is by invitation only and involves completing a more in-depth application form.

Contact the Thomas Wall Trust by using the Trust’s online ( message form.

Charity Registration Gets Harder

Registering as a charity or charitable incorporated organization takes a lot longer and with far greater scrutiny than before. So if you are planning this then prepare.

I have helped quite a few organizations register with the Charity Commission over the years using their paper application forms and then the web based version. Invariably once the form has been submitted the CC write to ask questions about aspects of the organization to ensure that they are charitable in the eyes of UK law. I would always say to organizations ‘don’t panic, this is normal’. And within a few weeks all would be explained and a charity number would be issued

Registering with the CC is attractive to organizations. A charity number shows legitimacy, a great many funders will not consider an application unless they are from registered charities, it confers benefits such as cheaper rates on premises and, with CIOs, limited liability. Lastly if your income is above £5,000 in any one year the law states you must register with the CC if your organization is charitable.

It is now not so easy. At this moment when the application is submitted there is a 6 month wait until a case officer is assigned unless you can persuade them that the case is urgent.

Next are the queries. There are more and they are more searching. Nothing is left to interpretation and you must be very clear in your first application and any subsequent answers. It is almost as if the case worker is obtuse and is quite able to misconstrue your answers. I am assuming they are not obtuse but have been instructed to allow only the most strict interpretation over any text they may read. This can be disheartening and rightly construed as a disincentive to register as it is a barrier.

Why is this happening? It could be a reaction (over-reaction) to the recent scandals with larger organizations over sexual harassment and so on. It could be a new CC director’s view on tightening up the sector, making it more professional. New bosses always feel they have to do something to mark their arrival. It could be the CC trying to justify their own existence and avoiding budget cuts.

Whatever the reason, be prepared. Ensure that everything you write is clear and open to only one conclusion. Treat the exercise as if you are trying to explain something to a small child with plain and easy links to what your aims and objectives are and how your activities support them.

If you need help then drop me a line or call.

Disasters Do Happen 2

This time I thought I would move onto another kind of disaster – your building is no longer available! This may be temporary as opposed to permanent but not having access to your building could mean not being able to help your clients if they have to come to you.

So what, if anything, can you do? Well, preparation is key. As always thing you need to have is information. Do you know who your insurer is? Do you know a range of tradespeople (plumber, gas engineer, electricians etc) who can come to help. Do you have contact details for all members of staff? An important point is that this information should be available even if you cannot get to your building – have you got a backup somewhere for this information?

Flooded street.

At the very least you need to tell people that the building is not available and so you should have a list of upcoming appointments or renters. Will you be able to telephone, email and use social media to let people know?

It may be that your volunteers and workers can work from home. This is something that one organization was was able to do when they had a flood last year causing damage to some computers and severe problems with damp. Arrangements were in place so computer systems could be accessed remotely. Client records were available, along with case notes, contact details, materials and information that supported the charity’s work. Staff could then work from home by sending emails, telephoning using mobiles and met clients at their venue or a café rather than at the office. Some inconvenience but work was hardly interrupted.

Preferably you will have an alternative place that you can call on to use for your appointments or activities that you can tell them about. Have you explored alternatives in your area and made arrangements? You may not be able to carry on with a full service, but you may be able to take care of the urgent cases.

Lastly, a plan is necessary. Who is going to do what: contact staff, volunteers, insurers, repair people, clients and so on. With a little thought a lot can be done to make things easier on your organization and the people they help.

Nationwide Building Society Community Grants

Grants are available to charities, Community Land Trusts and housing co-operatives for projects that tackle a housing problem in local communities in eligible parts of England.

The grants programme awards up to £500,000 across 11 UK regions annually. Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 are available.

The funding is for local housing projects that will strengthen local communities to support the most vulnerable by:

  • Preventing people from losing their home
  • Helping people in to a home
  • Supporting people to thrive within the home environment

Grant awards will be determined by Nationwide members who will vote on the shortlisted projects.

The deadline for this round is 5 July 2019. Applications will only be accepted from West of England, North West, North Midlands, the North East of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Applicants should check the list of local authorities ( on the UK Community Foundations website to see if funding is available in their area.

Groups that would like to discuss their application should contact their local community foundation.

Twitter Is Mastered

A shout of accomplishment would be heard across the land were my voice loud enough. I have published my very first tweet. As this is it, it is not very exciting but a victory for me embracing one more facet of the 21st century.

Being worth of the description of mature I understand the frustration of having something new to learn when I am quite busy doing more things than I have time for.

Working within the not-for-profit sector I am aware that we do lag behind somewhat. I am not referring to those extremely large organizations that employ hundreds, have incomes of millions and have chief executives on salaries that are quite hard to justify but rather the backbone of the not-for-profit sector who do so much good in our communities. It is quite often a matter of resources I believe – whether those resources are money (can we afford that equipment?) or time (we need to do our work not spend hours in front a computer shouting about what we do).

Slowly, but surely though, I have come to believe that keeping abreast of the different ways we communicate is vital. Organizations now have dedicated communications officers, something unheard of only a few years ago. These publish tweets, posts, emails and more to the world. And with care the information we send out is invaluable: news (good and bad), advice, encouragement.

So before we start to complain that it’s just too difficult remember that these things are designed to be simple and with a little practice, they are. It can be well worth the effort so take keyboard in hand and shout out to the universe.

Disasters Do Happen

Larger organizations will have spent time and money to create plans which will ensure that their firm can withstand acts of fate or malice that harm an organization. This could be burst pipes, earthquake or hurricane – anything that can stop or hinder an organizations from operating. We all need resources to do the work we do: people, equipment, vehicles or buildings. Disaster planning is just taking the time to think about what could go wrong and then what can we do to mitigate these circumstances.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

An extremely common and vital resource that we use are computers, or more specifically the information that we hold on them. At the very least we may have a list of our clients and their contact details. More information may be held, for example what actions we have undertaken with them. What would happen if this data is lost? This is a simple thing to happen: a hard drive having worked well for 7 years (we don’t often get up to date kit in the not-for-profit sector) has come to the end of its life and dies; a flood destroys our equipment; a computer is stolen. How many of us back-up our data. Unfortunately there are some organizations, especially the smaller ones who do not think of this as a priority.

Nowadays mobile memory devices are cheap and the regular copying of our information is not an onerous process. It does not require specialist software for most small organizations and there are ways of protecting this data from prying eyes. It is a small effort that can save a great deal of pain in trying to replace lost information. At least you will have one disaster covered.

Changes To CIC Documents Need to Register Company

The Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies (quite a long title) has published their updated documents should you wish to register a CIC by post. The document is CC 36 and it provides a description of who your community is, what activities you will do and how these will benefit your customers or clients.

Old Legal Document

The latest version of CC 36 can be found by going to ORCIC’s website by clicking here. Alternatively for CC36 click here, for the continuation sheet click here.

Remember you can now register a CIC online and at less cost. The link for this is here.

Choosing the Right Funder

Funders want to change the world to make it a better place. Your organization wants to change the world to make it a better place. It should be a perfect match. However, each funder has a different idea of what they want to do with their money. So it is vital that you look at each funder so that they want to change the world in the same way that you do. This will mean that you are not wasting time and effort applying to funders who will automatically reject your application consider what you are doing.

Points to Consider

  1. Place – some funders will be interested in vary specific areas. It would be a country (Scotland), region (the North East), county (Nottinghamshire), borough (Newcastle under Lyme), town (Cannock) ward (Bloxwich East) or even smaller (Lower Super Output Areas, a subdivision of a ward). If the people who benefit do not live in their preferred area then do not apply.
  2. People – funders have a clear idea who they want to help, it may be everybody but it may be more specific, for example; women, disabled people, people with hearing loss, young people, older people, people from specific ethnic groups, people in a certain place (see 1.), people in deprived areas or circumstances.
  3. What – funders will have interests in certain themes, for example; sport as a whole, cricket, drama, the environment, community cohesion, promoting volunteering.
  4. Timing – funders have timetables and will give out their money; annually, quarterly, at any time. Pay attention to the dates. Will you have time to write the application? Will you have the money in time for the project?
  5. What can you spend the money on – some funders will pay for; building, salaries, sessional workers, equipment, organizational overheads. Some will pay for none of these. Some will consider anything.
  6. Where do I find out about all this?
    1. The funders’ websites will provide information. Some websites are better than others and some funders do not have a website.
    2. Fudging databases exist to help. They cost varying amounts and will only be as good as the information they receive or can research. Note that Funding Central is free for small groups (see f you do not want to pay then you can contact us for help in searching for funds.
    3. Trust funders will mostly be registered at the Charity Commision ( and you can look at any charity’s accounts. Funders will often publish who and what they have funded so you will be able to see if you are a good match.
    4. Talk to other organizations to see who they have had good or bad luck with. They may be able to give some hints or tips.

Remember – Check The Small Print!

Jargon, Jargon & More Jargon

Every area of life has its own jargon and the third sector (who?) is no different. Sometimes this is useful as it acts as a shorthand for everybody. But, if you don’t know then it can be confusing and this can put us off from becoming involved. So, in an attempt to bring a little light to the topic we have put together a few explanations and definitions.

Capital – used in funding it means items like goods, equipment or buildings.

Community Groups – usually smaller not-for-profit groups run by volunteers and small numbers of staff, if any.

Consortium – this is where a group of organizations come together to work in partnership on a project. It could be informal or have a written agreement.

Core Costs – used in funding it means the costs that your organization has to keep it going, for example rent, utilities, some salaries.

Evaluation – how you are going to look at what you do and see if it is working as well as it can.

Full Cost Recovery – used in funding it means including everything that goes into delivering your project. So this means including a portion of the rent, rates, utilities or manager’s time in the budget as well as a direct cost (volunteer expenses, equipment, food, sessional worker and so on. Not all funders will consider FCR.

GDPR – this stands for General Data Protection Regulations and is the latest law around how organizations collect, store and use information about people. It can appear complicated but for most organizations the rules and how to use them are simple.

Governing Documents – this is your rule book, your bible, the document which tells you how you operate. There are different words and types but they all do the same thing: constitution – usually for small groups, charities and charitable incorporated organizations, community interest companies; memorandum and articles of association – for companies limited by guarantee.

Holistic – all around, wrap around, looking at the whole person or problem rather than a particular aspect.

In-kind – used in funding it means non-money contributions, for example volunteer time, materials donated.

Inputs – this is the what you need to do what you do. The ingredients for your service or project. These could be; salaries; volunteer expenses; equipment; vehicle rental; venue rental; gas and electric for your premises; sessional workers.

Joined-up – acting together, different departments or organizations talking together and exchanging information.

Monitoring – this is the process where you keep track of what you are doing (how much – quantitative): how many sessions do you run? how many people do you help? What are the ages of the people you help? Where do they live? Monitoring also keeps track of the quality of your work: how many people were satisfied with what you did? How did it make them feel? Did it make life better for them?

Not-for-profit – an organization whose purpose is to help people and not to get money. This will includes social enterprises where the money they make in profit will go back into the community rather than to a manager or shareholder.

Outcomes – this is the change that you make when you do what you do. It means more of the good things and less of the bad things. Examples could be; an increase in physical activity; a reduction in people feeling lonely; fewer teenage pregnancies; a community is feeling more connected. Outcomes are important as funders want to know what changes your project will do, they need to have an idea of how what you do will make things better.

Outputs – this is what you do – your services, your delivery. This could be; advice sessions; lunch clubs; litter picking sessions; music lessons for people.

Revenue – used in funding it means the costs for items such as salaries, rent, insurance and so on rather than actual goods.

Service users – this is another term for your clients or customers – the people you help.

Third Sector – this is one of the many ways that we describe ourselves. It changes from time to time (who knows why?) and we have been the VS (voluntary and community sector and are nowadays VCSE (voluntary, community & social enterprise) Sector is used. It probably change again.

Voluntary Groups – usually larger not-for-profit groups that will employ staff but will usually have volunteers as well.

As you can see when these terms are explained they are quite simple and you will soon be throwing them into your everyday conversation. If you want to talk about any of the above then drop a line to me on 07910 360624 or

Community Interest Company Governing Documents

Sometimes when I talk to people who are starting a new organization and we talk about the need for a governing document they rush away and write one. I always point out that there are templates and models available that have stood the test of time and have been created by organizations such as the Charity Commission and Companies House – why reinvent the wheel? – as the saying goes.

Companies House has recently published its model constitutions for those who are thinking of forming a community interest company (CIC). There is a wide selection for every possibility along with guidance for:

Using a model template for your constitution will save a great deal of time and they cover all things necessary for a constitution to be legal and some good practice.

  • CIC model constitution: company limited by guarantee with a small membership.
  • CIC model constitution: company limited by guarantee with a large membership.
  • CIC model constitution: private schedule 2 company limited by shares with a small membership.
  • CIC model constitution: private schedule 2 company limited by shares with a large membership.
  • CIC model constitution: private schedule 3 company limited by shares with a small membership.
  • CIC model constitution: private schedule 3 company limited by shares with a large membership.
  • Not using a model constitution.

The templates and guidance can be found at

If you would like some help with forming a CIC then contact us at the numbers below.