Friday, 21 December 2012

Make a Flake

A little seasonal Voluntary Sector Humour.

I'm taking a couple of weeks off blogging, I assume everyone will be taking a couple of weeks off reading.

See you all in the New Year! 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

CIO - Charitable Incorporated Organisation

(Image courtesy of GenBug)

[UPDATE 2016 - see why I don't think CIOs are a good idea.]

CIO stands for Charitable Incorporated Organisations.

At the moment, there are two key types of charitable organisation:

  • Un-incorporated: Each trustee is personally financially liable for the organisation
  • Incorporated: Each trustee and member is liable to a fixed tune, usually £1

In order to become incorporated, you need to register your organisation with Companies House. However, the Charity Commission is looking to take over the paperwork and accounts on that one, incorporating charities as, well, Charitable Incorporated Organisations.

Makes sense. Apparently:

They've been chewing this over since 2006 and have delayed it several times already, but this time it looks serious.

More info on registering a CIO on the CC Website. They have also issued a timeline of registration for 2013.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Open Public Services

(Image courtesy of DonMarcoCaballero)
In brief:

In July 2011 the Coalition Government published its Open Public Services White Paper, in which the Cabinet Office sets out its policy framework for how it wants public services to be owned, delivered and funded in the future, and the roles of the individual citizen and the state in this. 

You can find the white paper briefing online.

You can also find an overview in this publication: Open Public Services 2012

It seems to be a push to increase the involvement of the Voluntary Sector in delivering public services. Increased outsourcing rather than straight-out privatisation.

Sort of questionable when many of the care homes, disability and educational activities run by the Voluntary Sector have had to close due to recent funding cuts.

Find out how the Voluntary Sector are getting on with the Open Public Services experience in this report:

It involved the following organisations: Age UK, Baca Project, British Red Cross, CAF, CFG, Changemakers, Clinks, LVSC, NCVO, NCVYS, Turning Point, West Mercia Probation Trust, Westminster City Council, YSS.

Each have contributed case studies and recommendations.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Future of International Development

The speech was delivered at the British Council in New Dehli, India on October 16th this year, explaining:

Trade flows, remittances, and foreign direct investment have all over the last decade grown much faster than aid. So have domestic tax revenues in virtually every country. The role of donors now is not so much to fill financing gaps across the developing world:
  • We need to focus on the toughest problems (like the continuing challenge of child nutrition).
  • We need to concentrate on promoting science, technology, innovation and ideas and building the evidence on whether they work.
  • We need to help build the skills, capabilities, and institutions which help countries succeed.

Although delivered in Dehli, there was no mention of the forthcoming decision to cut aid to India.

He outlines the 'new architecture of development' in six steps:

  1. Clarify the business we are in
  2. Change our offer
  3. Improve our offer to meet big development challanges
  4. Sustain and increase aid volumes
  5. Focus more rigorously on the results delivery
  6. Become more transparent and accountable

Each of those sections are addressed in the speech.

One fact of particular interest:

Official aid globally has increased from $60 billion a year a decade ago to $120 billion now. Which is part of the reason, incidentally, why development progress has accelerated over the last 10 years. 

Fairly useful outline of DFID's future thinking.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Contracts Finder

If you're a charity, social enterprise or organisation in the UK looking for government contracts and tenders, check out Contracts Finder.

Contracts Finder lets you search for information about contracts worth over £10,000 with the government and its agencies.
You can use Contracts Finder to:
  • Search for current contract opportunities
  • Find out what’s coming up in the future
  • Look up details of previous tenders and contracts

When you hit the 'Start Now' button and scroll down, you can search for opportunities and see what is already being bought by the government as part of their transparency policy.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


This could turn out to be a useful development:

iZettle is a small card-reader that plugs into iPhones, iPads and a number of Android smartphones or tablets. It is designed for use by any small trader who can't afford the infrastructure needed to take credit card payments. You hand over your card to the stallholder - or plumber or window-cleaner - it is swiped through the device, and then you sign for your purchase. The merchant pays a commission of 2.75% a transaction, and the consumer gets to use their plastic rather than cash in new places...

iZettle was launched in Sweden a year ago, and according to the co-founder Jacob de Geer, it is now used by more than 75,000 small businesses and individuals in six countries. In Sweden, he told journalists at the launch, 700 blacksmiths are using the device. "It's bringing new merchants to the table. My ambition is to democratise card payments."

It could prove to be of significant benefit to smaller organisations and social enterprises who can't afford the set-up fees for card readers, allowing them to sell goods locally to help generate unrestricted income.

Worth keeping an eye on its progress via the iZettle website.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

UN Gender Trust

Last year saw 15 years of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women:

The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund)... kicked off its 16th year announcing more than  US$8 million in grants to 12 local initiatives in 18 countries...

To date, the UN Trust Fund has delivered more than USD 78 million to 339 initiatives in 127 countries and territories.

You can check out their digital library online.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Writing a Governing Document

(Image court of storebukkebruse)

If you're thinking of starting a community organisation, you're going to need to start by writing your Constitution.

The above article gives a helpful introduction, as well as some links to other useful resources.

I highly recommend you start with Voluntary Action Leicestershire's Constitution Template. It's only four pages long and contains helpful step-by-step guidance notes throughout.

If you need more assistance, you can pop down to your local Voluntary Action Council for advice, or check out my Charity Start-up package.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Benefits & Grants for Individuals

Stumbled upon this site the other day.

We are a charitable service which helps people access the money available to them – through welfare benefits, grants and other help.

Turn2us have a website full of free resources. It seems to cover a couple of bases:

  • Benefits: Help for those having trouble getting information about benefit entitlement.
  • Grants: Accessing grants for families and individuals.

Certainly worth knowing about. It's usually a lot harder finding information on grants for individuals than it is finding information on grants for organisations.

Do drop a comment below if you find them useful.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Social Entrepreneurship in China

This is a fascinating video:

Apparently, in China it is very difficult to start an NGO, but easy to start a business. There is a wave of young Chinese setting up socially responsible businesses tackling everything from care for the elderly through to heating water in rural villages.

There has certainly been an increased push towards Community Interest Companies and Social Enterprises in the UK, but there is still confusion and friction between our traditionally strong Voluntary Sector and the for-profit Private Sector.

Perhaps we can learn some valuable lessons from China's success?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Facebook Fundraising

(Image courtesy of birgerking)

There's a few tips and tricks in there, but one section that I thought I'd highlight:

Funky Apps

In the research for this HowTo, a commenter mentioned a Facebook page called the Soi Dog Foundation. If you log into Facebook and follow that link you'll see three apps along the top: Adopt a Dog, Sponsor a Dog and Donate.
This is a new development in Facebook's use as a fundraising tool.

When asked how they did it, Soi Dog responded:

"These are apps we have written. It is not too hard to do so, but someone who knows HTML and has some technical experience is needed. If you have such a person around, get them to visit Canvas Tutorial and they can take it from there."
It's worth getting your organisation an IT savvy volunteer, as this area of Facebook fundraising is likely to continue to grow. Apps are the way of the (immediate) future.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Oh Dearism

Continuing the theme of Voluntary Sector Humour, a chance for us all to unwind at the end of the week. Here's an informative introduction to Oh Dearism.

Oh Dearism is the state attained when you look around at the world and all you can think is 'oh dear.'

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Red Bow White Box

Thought this was worth a mention. It's called Red Bow White Box.

It appears to be an even better alternative to JustGiving than the other JustGiving Alternatives.

The problem with most charity event giving pages is that they only allow you to donate to charities that have already paid to register with them. If I want to run an event for Cancer Research UK - no problem, they've probably singed up with JustGiving, Virgin Giving, or another website that allows their supporters to advertise their sponsored events.

If I want to run a marathon in aid of Bartholomew’s Donkey Sanctuary in Barbados (I made that up by the way) - no such luck.

Red Bow White Box is not specifically a charity giving site:
Red Bow White Box has templates for Birthdays, Weddings, Indie Films, Theatre Projects, and Bands.  There are even templates for support or help with Medical bills.

This makes it less secure than charity giving sites that send the donations directly to the charity's own bank account. But it still allows for Mary to do her school swimathon to raise money for absolutely any good cause she wants to, whenever she wants to. I think there's definitely a place for this type of crowd sourcing tool in the charity sector.

Plus, it appears to be free for both the charity and the fundraiser.

If you decide to give it a go, please drop a comment and let us know how you get on.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Open Source Accounting Software

(Image courtesy of o5com)

Interesting question from Michael on LinkedIn: "I am looking for recommendations on the best open source, free or inexpensive accounting packages available for small charities."

Keeping accurate accounts is so important for any organisation, and I'm a big fan of alternatives to market ransom prices.

To abbreviate the discussion:

Emma: Sage Instant Accounts £125 + VAT.

Holly: I work at an open source software consultancy, we would be more than happy to point you in the right direction for this. We offer configuration, support and training for open source software solutions so if you've got any questions or are looking for a helping hand feel free to call us on:  (UK) 01923 220121 .

Sarah: Our Community Accountants always recommend QuickBooks (but not Simple Start) to small groups/charities as it does restricted funding, which is often a necessity. Think Amazon is the cheapest place to buy - about £150? 

Shirley: Yes I would also recommend Quickbooks. Sage is ok if you are a trained accountant but Quickbooks is much easier to use. You can use a "class" for each fund and it makes reporting to fund providers easy. You can have a free trial for 30 days to see if you like it. 

John: VTCashbook is free and has inexpensive upgrades for paypal. Accounts Portal is another option.

Damian: I'm not from a financial background but I'm hearing a lot about how good Xero is so it's definitely worth having on your shortlist.

Ali: We use Xero and have found it to be easy to use and is cost-effective. It's early days for us but so far so good.

Michael: Thank you for all your comments, I have been looking through all the suggestions and liked the look of Quickbooks and Kashflow.


If you have any others to add, or if you know of any comparison review sites, please drop a comment below.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Closing the Gender Gap

(Image courtesy of Waterdotorg)

I'm a big fan of a women's news group: Women's Views on News. You can also find them on Twitter:@newsaboutwomen

The other week they posted the following article:

This year’s Global Gender Gap Report claims that only 20 per cent of the world’s women hold some form of political power... Commissioned by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the report utilises a ‘framework’ that tracks differences in the resources available to women and  men, in economics, politics, education, and health, and countries accordingly.

You can download the full report from the World Economic Forum (4th bullet-point down): 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Back Britain’s Charities

(Image courtesy of Images_of_Money)

Interesting e-mail went out the other week from Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO:

Today NCVO releases the results of our annual joint report with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) - UK Giving 2012.

The findings are stark. They show a real terms 20% fall in donations to charities during the past year. Fewer people are giving and those who do are giving less. And this is against a backdrop of spending cuts and rising demand for services. Whilst the picture for individual charities varies this overall view of the sector is concerning.

Britain, however, remains a generous nation with donors supporting all manner of good causes, both at home and overseas. Preserving and making best use of that generosity is more important now than ever so that's why, together with CAF, we have launched a brand new campaign:

It has five key aims. We're asking...

  1. The public to support charities through regular giving, regardless of how much time or money they can give.
  2. The Government to modernise and promote Gift Aid and payroll giving so donations go further.
  3. The Government to ensure that public bodies do not cut funding for charities disproportionately when making spending reductions.
  4. Business to support charities, either through donations or through practical means.
  5. Charities to work with the Government to modernise and improve fundraising and to enhance their impact so that every pound given goes further to helping beneficiaries.
The letter goes on, asking you to show your support by signing up on the campaign website.

You can also show your support on Twitter using #backingcharity

Help spread the word.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Beware the Volunteer

Well, this concludes the theme week on 'volunteering'. We've covered Volunteering and Jobseeker's Allowance, Youth Volunteering, Volunteering in the UK & Ireland and Volunteering Overseas.

You can get more on volunteering by clicking the volunteering tab.

I recently decided to give Fridays over to Voluntary Sector Humour.

Erm... just exactly what is this woman volunteering to do at Volunteer Essex?!

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Volunteering Overseas

I'm going to devote a separate week focusing solely on overseas volunteering at some point in the future. 

For now, I can't complete this week's theme of 'volunteering' without a brief mention of overseas opportunities.

I'll pick VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) simply because it's the best know, has a fantastic reputation, and - well, because I had a very pleasurable two years with them in Africa. 

If you are a graduate, a professional, a crafts person, a retiree with time on your hands, or a young person aged 18-25 - check them out. There are so many different opportunities that I can't list them all, but you don't have to apply for a specific job. Go through their online application process and they will contact you if there is a match that you might be interested in.

By volunteering with VSO, you get to put your skills, energy and personal qualities to work helping people break out of poverty.

We’re currently looking for people from all sorts of backgrounds, from health and education through to engineering, IT and management.

We have placements in over 30 countries all over the world. 

VSO cover your travel, accommodation, a local allowance and medical cover. They really are the best of the best when it comes to volunteering in international development. Their intake includes the UK, Netherlands, Kenya, Ireland, India and the Philippines. I believe they also have recruitment partners for Canada and Australia.

Other countries also have long-established, reputable schemes such as Peace Corps in America. Please do share your country's equivalent in a comment below.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Volunteering UK

Continuing this week's theme of volunteering, and following on from yesterday's post on youth volunteering opportunities, here's where to look if you're an adult who wants to volunteer, or an organisation looking to recruit volunteers.

[UPDATE JUNE 2016 - Volunteering England has now become part of NCVO.]

Volunteering England is a great one-stop shop for information and resources:

Volunteering England is an independent charity and membership organisation, committed to supporting, enabling and celebrating volunteering in all its diversity. Our work links policy, research, innovation, good practice and programme management in the involvement of volunteers.

Volunteer Scotland, if you're in Scotland. Volunteering Wales, if you're in Wales. And... actually, Volunteer Now in Northern Ireland. If you're looking for opportunities in The Republic of Ireland, try Volunteer Ireland.

If you're reading this blog from outside the UK and Ireland, please feel free to share your country's volunteering centre link in a comment below.

For potential volunteers, these centres should be able to help match your skills and interests with opportunities in your local area. For organisations, they can help to provide tools and resources to help you manage your volunteers effectively.

You can also try a Google search for your location or county + 'volunteer centre' as there are local, regional centres for volunteering in most of the UK.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Youth Volunteering

vInspired, or just V for short, is a fantastic UK initiative to encourage young people aged 14-25 to volunteer in their communities, start projects, and even log the number of hours they've spent volunteering:

vInspired is an independent charity dedicated to helping young people volunteer in ways that matter to them...Since its launch in May 2006, vInspired has worked with over 500 charities and community organisations to create over 1 million youth volunteering opportunities.

You can search for opportunities in your area by typing in your postcode.

Fantastic idea.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Volunteering and Jobseeker's Allowance

Going to take a look at Volunteering this week.

First topic that comes up a lot: 'Will volunteering affect my Jobseeker's benefits if I'm unemployed?'

I'm not a benefits expert, so I suggest asking your benefits officer directly. However, there's an uplifting piece of advice from Westminster Volunteer Centre:

There is a common misconception that volunteering and being on benefits are not compatible. Actually the opposite is true: If you’re getting benefits, you can be a volunteer and, in nearly all cases, your benefits will not be affected.

Full article: Volunteering for Work.

To find out more about those 'nearly all cases' not included, you can find a helpful and detailed PDF here:

Volunteering While Getting Benefits
(scroll down from withdrawn notice)

Volunteering can be a fantastic way to get extra experience on your CV. If your organisation is a member of their local Voluntary Action Council (membership is usually gratis for smaller organisations) they may also be able to send you on some free accounting, administration or fundraising courses. 

Try to pick a charity:
  1. Devoted to a cause you are interested in
  2. That already has a healthy volunteering scheme (talk to your local Volunteer Centre)
  3. That you feel comfortable and valued within

Many volunteers go on to paid positions later down the line, and the networking opportunities gained from volunteering can be a real confidence boost.

If you do experience difficulties volunteering because you are unemployed, please share in a comment below.