As you get your group or project underway and start to build momentum, there are more steps you might want to think about. The decisions you take in the early stages can provide you with a really strong foundation to build on, so it’s worth taking time over the decisions you make.
As you develop, the issue of structures will become more important. You may find your existing status as an unincorporated group isn’t quite enough. Becoming incorporated means your organisation takes on its own legally recognised identity. Office bearers (committee members) are more protected against claims or losses and there are more funding opportunities available. There are many different structures you can adopt. A good source of help can be found through SCVO’s website pages on this topic.
Your funding needs will change and grow over time. There are a variety of ways you might bring in funding – by applying to trusts and fundholders, by crowdfunding or through the sale of goods and services. One way to search for funding is through the Funding Scotland website. It is also useful to sign up for alerts from Funding Scotland. If you want more information about selling goods and services, you may be moving more in the direction of setting up a social enterprise. This raises further questions about what kind of organisational and funding structure would be best. If so, contact us for a more detailed conversation.
Developing an organisation takes time and effort
A key way to raise funds is through your own fundraising efforts. It is important to understand that fundraising is regulated and you need to play by the rules. There is a Code of Practice here. Sections 8 to 15 set out some of the different ways you can go about fundraising.
In our experience those organisations open to learning from and sharing experience with others are the ones that thrive. We can put you in touch with other local organisations in Midlothian, but there are a large number of networking bodies which you should also think about joining. Increasingly, these networks are also distributing funds too. Several have weekly bulletins which you will find indispensable. One good example of a valuable networking resource is SENscot.
Many of you may be looking to lease or eventually own a building. This will present many different challenges and opportunities. One good source of guidance for groups running a building is Keystone. The Development Trusts Association for Scotland (DTAS) is another useful organisation with information on running buildings. You can find out more about DTAS here.
Volunteers will be central to your activities. Chances are you are one yourself! Even the largest third sector organisations we work with often rely on volunteers. How you recruit, develop and retain volunteers is therefore likely to be essential to your growth and sustainability. You can visit Volunteer Midlothian’s pages on this website to access helpful tools and resources around the topic of volunteering. Keep in mind that it is in your interests to be seen as a good organisation to volunteer with.
Treat your volunteers well
For most community groups, managing staff is not something they will do for several years. If you find yourself moving in the direction of becoming an employer, there are regulations you need to be aware of. SCVO are a great source of guidance on this topic. As always staff at MVA will be happy to talk through any aspect of your journey as you grow your organisation. Get in touch if you want to talk more on this topic.
It’s likely that working through all these elements when developing a project or organisation will take months, if not years. However, it is never too early to start evaluating the effectiveness of your work, or thinking about how to make it sustainable in the long term. In fact, these two things are key to building resilience in the third sector. For more info on these important topics that are all-too-often overlooked, go to Part 3 of this guide.