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.

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.

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 www.fundingcentral.org.uk) 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 (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/charity-commission) 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 colin@bluekeycic.org.uk.

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 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-interest-companies-constitutions/cic-model-constitutions-introduction.

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

Insurance For Your Organization

Insurance is something we need. We sometimes resent having to pay it, and we certainly never want to claim – it will mean something has gone wrong and the trouble it causes can be a nightmare. But VCSE organizations must ensure that they obtains adequate cover for the work it undertakes. Be aware of what could go wrong and think about how likely it is to happen and how expensive it could be.

Old Legal Document

Here are some of the kinds of insurance you many need.

Public Liability Insurance

Here, “public” means virtually everyone except the organisation’s employees. The policy may or may not include volunteers (check the small print). Public liability insurance covers personal injury or property damage caused by the organisation’s negligence or failure to comply with statutory duties. It could cover, for example, claims arising from:

  • a worker breaking client’s property while visiting the client at home
  • theft of a service user’s property from a community centre
  • someone who has booked a room in your premises being injured
  • a child injured on faulty play equipment

Employers Liability Insurance

If the organisation employs staff, it has a statutory duty (you must have this) to insure against claims by workers for illness, injury or disease caused by an employer’s negligence or breach of duty. There is a minimum statutory cover for this insurance cover. It is a legal requirement that the Employers Liability Insurance Certificate is prominently displayed in the workplace and that expired certificates are kept for 40 years.

Buildings Insurance

If the organisation leases a building it may be responsible for insuring the premises for the costs of rebuilding. If it owns the building, it does not by law have to insure the premises. However, the trustees of a registered charity, who have a statutory duty to safeguard the charity’s assets, could be considered to be in dereliction of their duty if they did not insure the buildings they own. The costs of rebuilding, including all professional fees such as the legal fees, and the cost of temporary accommodation during re-building should be covered.

Road Traffic Insurance

Any organisation that has a vehicle on the road must insure the driver(s) against third party risks (injury or death caused to other road users). Third party fire and theft or fully comprehensive insurance will give much better cover. An organisation must also ensure that vehicles owned by employees or volunteers are adequately covered if they are to be used for work purposes.

Plate Glass Windows

If the organisation leases property that has a shop front it may need special insurance to cover breakage either by vandals or accident.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

If the organisation provides advice or information to the general public this type of policy gives cover against any claims resulting from wrong advice. It can be extended to cover slander or libel which may be essential for campaigning organisations.

Contents Insurance

This gives cover against theft or damage, including fire.

  • This type of cover may require you to comply with the insurer’s requests for secure locks, safes, burglar alarms, etc. to be installed to the premises.
  • If volunteers have access to equipment and if your premises or equipment are shared with any other organisation you should inform the insurer.
  • You should keep an up-to-date list of the ‘contents’ which you consider are covered and review the amount insured annually.
  • Insuring property for less than its real value could invalidate the cover or mean that any claim will only be partially accepted.

All Risks Insurance

This insurance extends Contents Insurance to cover property which is used away from the organisation’s main base.

Accidental Damage

This insurance is usually expensive, as it covers accidental damage to property. If the organisation shares equipment with anyone else it must tell the insurer. (It may be cheaper to hire expensive equipment such as video cameras.)

Equipment Damage and Breakdown

If your organisation has highly technical equipment such as computers, and depends heavily on them, you can insure them against damage and breakdown.

Accident and Medical Insurance

An organisation can insure against staff being off sick, including the cost of paying out sick pay. Some policies will also cover for staff sustaining injuries whilst as work.

Trustee Liability Insurance

Management Committees members may wish to have insurance cover for protection against personal claims against them. No insurance policy will give cover for dishonesty or fraud, nor will it affect the legal duty of trustees to “act in good faith, with reasonable care” for the organisation. If the organisation is a registered charity it needs the approval of the Charity Commissioners before paying for Trustee Liability Insurance (this permission is included in some of the more recent governing documents). It is important to keep the risk of personal liability in proportion. Very few trustees who have acted honestly suffer financial loss as a result of their trusteeship.

As always the case with something complex it is best to talk to an expert. You will be able to talk abut your organization and what it does so that you have the right amount of protection.

Monitoring & Evaluation Just Won’t Go Away

Like many things in life there are times when things seem too complicated but the reality is that they are not. Monitoring and evaluation is one of those things that not-for-profits view with dread. Perhaps there are too many syllables for something that is simple and useful.


This is counting what you do.

You count the amounts: how many people do your see? where do they live? how many sessions with lots of people do you put on? how old were the people you saw? This is quantitative information.

Next you gather the qualitative information about your services: what did people think about what you did (good, satisfied, ok, dissatisfied, terrible)? how do they feel after you have worked with them?


This is taking this information and using it to find out if you are doing what you said you were going to do, how well you are doing it.

Monitoring and evaluation is not about finding fault with people or making them feel bad. It is about keeping track of what you have done for yourselves as a management tool and for possibly for your funders to show that you are delivering what you said you would. It is also provides information for funding applications and annual reports as you can show how good you are and finally to keep your staff informed – ‘hey look at all the great things we have done!’.

Plan Your Monitoring

Think about what it is you need to count and how you can count it.

Quantitative examples could be; we are delivering across Walsall – if we collect postcodes then we will know we are reaching all the areas we should; we are offering support to those adults with mental health problems – we will collect ages, genders, ethnicity to see that we are reaching as wide a range of people as we should; we need to reach 350 people in a year – we will count numbers and look at them once a fortnight to see that we are on target (7 per week).

Qualitative examples could be; we must have 80% of people who have seen us as being satisfied or better with our help – we ask people if they feel good, satisfied, ok, dissatisfied, terrible about us; we must have 60% of people say they are feeling less stressed – we ask if they compare how stressed they were before do they feel worse, the same or better.

You can get the information from questionnaires, talking to people, putting dots onto a chart. The simpler the better as people appreciate this. If you can make it fun then all the better. Some feedback we can get by observation and we do not have to ask as we can see they feel more confident and interact more with others. Remember, it does not have to be complicated.

When designing your monitoring remember to talk to everyone, your staff, volunteers and clients. They will have good ideas about what and how information needs collecting. And they are the ones who are going to be involved.

There are tools out there to help you with this that do not cost a fortune. A spreadsheet will help you keep track of your data and quickent the counting – there are even free spreadsheet programmes such as LibreOffice Calc so you do not have to buy Microsoft Office let alone an expensive customer relationship manager system.


Once you have collected your information then ask questions of it. Look at what you had planned with your outputs (services) and outcomes (the difference you wanted to make).

Don’t forget to talk to your staff and volunteers – what did they think about the last six months (for example), what could be done better? what are the problems they found the most difficult?

Once this process is complete you will have information that; will help you plan; can be used for publicity; can impress future funders; motivate staff and volunteers.

Monitoring and evaluation will take time but is definitely not a waste of time.


If you want to discuss help with this then contact me learn more.