So you’re making a decent living through your day-to-day job, but you’re looking for a meaningful way to make a difference in the world. Of course, your job is not bad. But somehow you wish you could do more than sitting at a desk all day long. If you want to be a positive force in the world, setting up a charity to support your local community or to raise awareness about a rare illness, you are about to join an active market buzzing with new ideas and charity organisations. In fact, the collective annual income of charities in England and Wales only passed £75 billion for the first time. Needless to say, people are keen to give and help, and many enthusiasts are willing to make it work.
However, whether you’re looking to start a charity as a full-time business or as a side activity, you need to remember that charities don’t work like your typical company. For someone who’s spent most of your professional life in an office, there is a lot to learn to avoid mistakes!
Charities are businesses
The first and most important mistake that office individuals tend to make is to forget that a charity is a business – albeit a business that isn’t set on making a profit for itself. If you want to make the world a better place, you need to give your charity a chance to survive in a crowded sector. Indeed, just like any business, your charity needs a direction – this will be provided by your board of trustees. You also require a brand that is recognisable – you can’t attract donors if you can’t differentiate your activities and messages from other charity. In other words, your enthusiasm alone won’t keep the charity afloat!
Not accounting for everything
Ultimately, charities don’t pay taxes. But there are exceptions you may not be aware of. Tax fraud is a criminal offence you can be found guilty of – but there is support available; you can find out more at Duffy Law, for instance – if you’ve forgotten to complete a tax return for income that didn’t qualify for tax relief. You need to pay business rates on non-domestic buildings, for example, and profits from money you don’t use for charitable purposes. But if you’re unsure of how to qualify your trading activities, you might want to look for professional guidance from a financial advisor.
You need to get your hands dirty
Are you ready to get your charity running and organise fundraising events? Indeed, getting your website up and running is far from being enough if you want to encourage donations. A culinary competition that invites participants to cook or judge provides a fun experience that appeals to donors. You can appeal to local businesses to organise a breakfast in bed morning where you bring donors a free item to match their donations. In short, you need to be part of the event and to carry the activities if you want to kickstart a movement.
Coming from an office environment where most things can be managed remotely, the world of charities can be confusing at first. You need to surround yourself with advisors, enthusiasts and trustees who know what it means to keep a charity running.