23 Mar We have applied to become an education charity…
It’s taken months of hard work and heart work with expert lawyers to be able to get to the point where I can tell you that I’m excited to say that we have just submitted our application to the UK Charity Commission. It might take a week or months to receive their answer (prayers and positives vibes welcome please lovelies!). The decision to transform the Craftivist Collective from a social enterprise to a charity wasn’t an easy one. Here’s why I made the decision I did.
I’ve spent more than a year speaking to various people, going back and forth on the pros and cons of setting up the Craftivist Collective as a charity before making the decision to go ahead and do it.
There are many reasons why being a social enterprise is great. We can be free to decide what we create, say and do – unlike charities who cannot be seen to have a political agenda or ideology. We can be bold and say when we disagree with actions by particular political parties and we don’t have a board of trustees to hold us to account.
However, as I’ve said in our current Yearbook, the Craftivist Collective is growing in number and demand and I need funding to build our capacity to fulfil and grow our positive impact.
Funding options as a social enterprise
As a social enterprise we are extremely limited on what funding we can apply for as most grant-giving organisations still only donate to registered charities. Individual philanthropists are often the same because they have the added incentive of a tax break that they do not gain for donating to company or individual.
We could ask for investment but that would mean having shareholders who would be looking for profit benefits rather pure social benefits. That means we might feel pressured to cut corners, slimming down the beautiful elements of our tools and services to be more profit focused. This would then take away the power the details of our events have – see page xx for my essay on the power of the detail.
It might make business sense to say no to flowers and grapes at our events to keep costs down but that limits the beauty of our events. Although we obviously need to be responsible with our finances – whatever form we take – I am keen our focus is always on positive social impact and people not profit.
I certainly don’t want us taking out loans and being in debt while paying off interest.
The advantages of being a charity
So much of our work now is educating individuals, groups and organisations about how to implement our ‘gentle protest’ approach to craftivism to use in their own work. The benefits of becoming a charity is that we can then apply for sums of funding for capacity building and sustainability.
But that’s not all. If we open a shop – as I hope we will someday – we won’t have to pay business rates. All the profits from our products and services would go straight back into strengthening the Craftivist Collective, rather than into the pockets of our shareholders.
Just having a charity number on all of our products will clearly show future customers that we are impact driven rather than profit driven, which might also make our products and services more attractive. And we can still deliver all of our projects because they are all there to positively help people directly affected by pain and suffering that need relief and systemic change.
We’ll be able to claim UK Gift Aid on the support we get from you as an adopter, as long as you’re a registered UK Citizen paying tax on your income. And we’ll be held to account by trustees, the charity commission and others, something I see as a good thing for our organisation.
Completing the legal process
Just as making the decision to become a charity took a lot of thought, so did the process.
First I shopped around for the right lawyers, asking a number of firms tough questions. Some didn’t understand our work and wanted us to set up as two separate entities – one charity and one business. Thankfully I met Stone King LLP who have worked with similar organisations before and asked me just as tough questions as I asked them.
Then there was the cost – £15,000 – which was higher than normal because we have the word ‘activism’ in our title, which may (understandably) make the Charity Commission nervous. I am very grateful for the family I met through my Ashoka Fellowship who have paid for the legal fees and allowed us to go ahead with our plans.
After that came the paperwork – wow, it was a steep learning curve, and took many months!
And now comes the wait. Stone King LLP are more than confident that we’ll be successful in our application (we already have answers if we need to go to appeal!) but we may have to wait up to seven months for our application to go through.
I truly believe that it will be worth the wait though, that we can achieve more as an educational charity than a social enterprise. As soon as we become a charity you will be the first to know.
In the meantime please do consider ‘Adopting A Craftivist’ to help me (Sarah) continue the important educational, encouraging and supportive work I do for free to help individuals, groups and organisations around the world learn how to be kind, careful and effective Gentle Craftivists www.craftivist-collective.com/adopt-a-craftivist.