In many cases, especially in smaller communities, the initiating group will recruit via word of mouth. This needs backing up with some public promotion e.g. through the local newspaper to ensure people are not being excluded just because they don’t have the right connections. Calling a public meeting is a great idea but it might require a lot of money if adverts are to be placed and obviously this is before the group is funded. Seek local sponsorship for this. Newspaper articles, posters and mini-flyers (like business cards) are effective but need to be aware that some men will presume that it is for people with ‘problems’. The audience for BBC regional redio stations is predominently over 45's and male.
If a public meeting is called at the outset and a working group formed then the larger body will need to be kept engaged though subsequent activities/meetings for what will be several months at least. Nicky Wheddon of Nottingham MiS says ‘we record all of our enquiries and find that the two best sources are posters and referrals – could suggest that local CVS could help with networking’.
There are two groups of organisations, unincorporated and incorporated. In unincorporated organisations (associations, trusts) the committee are operating as individuals and can be personally sued if someone gets hurt. The incorporated forms ( e.g. a cooperative, a community benefit society, a private company) limit the liability.In deciding which to choose other issues will be considered such as how much the membership is to be in control, who can become a member, whether the service/facilities will be available to non-members, whether it will employ (now or in the future) staff on permanent contracts, and whether it will (now or in the future) trade regularly where risk, significant borrowings or long –term liabilities are involved. To read an online guide to different structures and how to choose one link to http://www.getlegal.org.uk/legal structures. In getting advice it is best to go to a specialist. See also www.cooperatives-uk.coop ( advises on all types of organisation) and www.communitymatters.org.uk
The main benefits of being a charity are that it confers status (helps with your credibility in fundraising), gets tax relief on donated income and reduces premises rates by 80%. If you decide not to register with the Charity Commission these benefits would need negotiating with each authority. Becoming a charity places some requirements on an organisation to provide accounts and a report but it does not mean that you cannot sell goods at a profit providing that such activities are in pursuit of the charity’s Objects. The Objects clause needs careful consideration.
Within a few months we had received more funds than £5000 and so we had to register with the Charity Commission. That required completing an application, answering some rigorous questions and making a trustee declaration. The key issues are to identify that the proposed activities have a public benefit and that this benefit extends to a wide enough group or groups of people. The key part of our response on the question of public benefit was the following:-
“The aim of this organisation is to relieve distress derived from unemployment or enforced retirement at the end of our working lives. This distress can include loss of purpose and direction, loss of social interaction, loss of opportunity to exercise skills, loss of identity and status, and loss of control over your life.These and other factors eg. the effects of reduced income and ageing can lead to further health problems, including depression, reduced confidence, decline in abilities etc. Research indicates that this distress tends to be worse in men because men are less likely to have developed social relationships to the degree women usually do, and men are less likely to be able to have a validating domestic role which they can continue after retirement.”
The key part of our response in reply to the question whether the benefit was unreasonably restricted included the following:-
“The intended beneficiaries are people who have come to the end of their working lives either through retirement or redundancy and to whom this presents challenges. The beneficiaries qualify if they are no longer working and do not expect to work and have need of social interaction and practical and creative activity of their own choosing, which they are not able to obtain in other ways.” We did not make this gender-specific as we could not say that women would not be included in some way. We also had to show that people experiencing poverty would still be able to attend.
The Charity Commission website offers registering organisations support in the form of model Objects clauses which as they are already approved speed up the process. We thought of using one that fell under the Recreational Charities Act which focuses on leisure activities and is normally used for sports clubs. The Commission said this was not appropriate and so we did not use that category but adopted a clause which states our purpose as:
"To promote social inclusion for the public benefit by preventing people from becoming socially excluded, relieving the needs of those people who are socially excluded and assisting them to integrate into society.
For the purpose of this clause ‘socially excluded’ means being excluded from society, or parts of society, as a result of one of more of the following factors: unemployment; financial hardship; youth or old age; ill health (physical or mental); substance abuse or dependency including alcohol and drugs; discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, ethnic origin, religion, belief, creed, sexual orientation or gender re-assignment; poor educational or skills attainment; relationship and family breakdown; poor housing (that is housing that does not meet basic habitable standards; crime (either as a victim of crime or as an offender rehabilitating into society).”
This was accepted by the Charity Commission and so may be a helpful precedent to other groups who want to register a shed as a charity.
NB. The above is simply the experience of the Camden Town Shed and is not intended to offer any legal advice to other groups.
The Westhill Men's Shed in Aberdeen has also registered with the Charity Commissioners in Scotland. Their charitable puposes are:
The advancement of health.
The provision of recreational facilities and activities with the object of improving the quality of life of the participants.
The relief of those in need by reason of age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage.
Malcolm Bird is the Senior Coordinator, Men in Sheds for Age UK Cheshire and has set up four Sheds with Lottery funding. He advises that for a 1000ft staffed Shed the costs will be approximately £6500 rent, £20,000 for coordination, £7500 running costs, plus £12-15,000 of capital for tooling up. A volunteer-led Shed will obviously cost less. The Holywood Shed currently operates without a premises cost too. Actual figures are hard to come by but the Camden Town Shed has a £3600 rent bill and in its first year has spent £2000 on running costs and £3300 on set-up costs. A lot was saved through public donations of all hand tools and some of the power tools. At Sept. 2012 the no-frills budget for the next year is £6400 of which around £1500 should come from member contributions and £1800 from sales.
A major question is whether a coordinator is to be employed. The alternative is getting someone or a small group of 2-3 to coordinate as volunteers. How would you go about finding them? Would a paid person be more reliable/ more accountable/more professional etc than a small group of volunteers? If you have a paid coordinator will you be able to continue to fund this post and if not, does getting the users to take over responsibility afterwards work? If you want your Shed to be there in years to come is it better to start as you expect to continue or does the project need input, and of what kind, to begin with? Where is the balance between providing and enabling?
The more a Shed generates its own income the stronger its appeal will be to grant-giving sources.
In Kind. There is something about the Shed idea that seems to generate goodwill. Examples include surplus goods such as a container load (almost) of kitchen units; a civil engineering firm offering ‘any timber in our yard - indefinitely’ plus a new router following a surprisingly short informal chat with the MD; rent-free periods; a prestige motor company that brings round off-cuts of exotic timbers and takes away any power tools that need sharpening; an arrangement with a furniture-selling charity shop for unwanted wood and another with a shopfitters.
Developing sales income – Whilst this is necessary Sheds have to bear in mind that their members attend voluntarily and most have had enough of working to deadlines and targets. It’s also worth reflecting that when some members of Canterbury Shed (Australia) got fed up with being pushed to make things for sale they took the toys down to the local children’s home and gave them away. The goodwill this generated resulted in more income than the sales would have produced!
Some sales examples: The Eltham Shed makes and sells at Open Days a wide range of garden goods from bird tables through to wall pots to benches because almost all local properties have gardens. Nottingham markets similar products through a garden shed retailer who puts the products on display because it improves his sales. The Athy Shed is renovating and selling old bicycles donated by the Police. Camden Town were commissioned by an author working with autistic children to make educational tools he has devised. Nottingham MiS is averaging £400 pm with garden-related products. Crewe sold £18,000 of goods in the last year. If you are selling at a local fair/market take a float and remember that you are also there to make contacts, get donations, and find new members. These may be the husbands/neighbours of those passing by so take some 'business cards' and a pen and paper and ensure people can see who your project is for without them having to stop.
Members contributions: The general pattern across Australian Sheds is that members pay both membership dues and weekly attendance subs. Amounts in each case vary but there is always a means devised to support those for whom that would be difficult. Fixing a figure on weekly subs that suits everyone (a lowest common denominator) will dissuadie those who can to pay more. Offering a standing order form (where the member instructs his bank to pay a regular amount to the Shed) could produce more income and if gift-aided might enable you to recover tax paid adding 28% to the total for not much paperwork. In one Shed daily contributions were set by a member's meeting at £1 per person per day but when offered a standing order form the amount donated was over three times the total of daily cash contributions.
If you are a start-up one problem your group will have is credibility. Who are you? With no track record even the biggest distributors of small grants like Awards for All will wait until you can show what you can do. Some ways to overcome this are by starting small and raising money from those with whom you do have credibility, borrowing another organisation’s credibility if they will guarantee your group, or looking for funds that back start-ups or social entrepreneurs. It always helps if you can demonstrate that your group are doing as much as they can to meet their needs themselves.
The key to raising funds is to show that you are going to fulfil the funders objectives – that you have a well-thought out plan that will address one of their aims and you have the capacity to deliver. Other criteria will also apply. Public bodies usually set out clearly what their objectives and criteria are but trusts each have their own ‘personality’ and ways of working. Fortunately there are some very good guides around.
For a no-nonsense introduction to fundraising from trusts and foundations link to http://www.knowhownonprofit.org/funding/fundraising/grants-funds-and-corporate-fundraising/trusts-and-foundations . This site also has links to all the main sources of information including online databases.
Sheds could appeal to funds specialising in health, social welfare, elderly people, unemployed people, or possibly the environment. A check should be made on how the Government’s ‘wellbeing’ agenda is to be implemented locally. Contact your local authority’s officer with responsibility for the voluntary sector to get a picture of local grants. To date grants have come from a wide range of sources including: the Lottery, a Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the Tudor Trust, the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust (an exception), the Wakeham Trust (a tiny family trust), the Cooperative Bank Community Fund, the Lions and Rotary Clubs, individual donors, a local company and UnLtd. some sources of info are
- lwww.fundingcentral.org.uk free funding website developed by NCVO with the support of Office of the Third Sector
- lwww.j4bcommunity.co.uk You can register and carry out FREE grant searches
- lwww.greengrantsmachine.co.uk free site focuses on green grants!
- lwww.grantsonline.org.uk free trial
- lwww.fit4funding.org.uk/sample-newsletter subscribe to this highly recommended funding newsletter
- lwww.trustfunding.org.uk Online equivalent of the directory of grant making trusts from DSC with high subscription fees.
Steve Iliffe, Professor of Primary Care for Older People offers the following summary: ‘Participation in meaningful activity is one of the five determinants of health and well-being in later life, according to the Age Concern & Mental Health Foundation Report, “Promoting mental health and well-being in later life”, published in 2006. The other four are: discrimination, relationships, physical health and poverty. Participation in meaningful activity has three components: staying active, having a sense of purpose and avoiding social isolation. The evidence that the first two components have a positive effect on health and well-being in later life can be found in two literature reviews at www.mhill.org.uk.
Having a social role and social activities was the second most common attribute of a good quality of life reported in the National Statistics Office Omnibus Survey (2001) of people aged 65 and over, higher than having good health (4th ) and having no financial worries (7th ). (Adding quality to quantity: older people’s views on quality of life and its enhancement Age Concern 2003). However, the same survey showed that 93% of respondents had plenty to do.
Social isolation is particularly important because it is associated with present and future physical ill health, increased mortality and worse mental health. Social isolation means objectively measurable lack of social contacts, and is different from loneliness, the subjective experience of social isolation. This is an under-researched topic. There are few well-designed studies of interventions to reduce social isolation, but those that have been carried out suggest that group activity is more effective than individual alternatives, like ‘befriending’. The evidence for this is summarised in the report Promoting Health & Wellbeing in Later Life, by the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy in 2010 (www.SCPHRP.ac.uk)’
Steve Iliffe,FRCGP FRCP Professor of Primary Care for Older People, UCL Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill St., London NW3 2PF (October 2011)Detailed sources include Age Concern England’s ‘Working with Older Men’ 2006 – Sandy Ruxton.The ‘Grouchy Old Men’ report (Mental Health Foundation 2010). The Men’s Health Forum www.menshealthforum.org.uk has data on the health inequalites faced by older men. Local health statistics will also be helpful. Age UK will be releasing a report on the Men-in–Sheds Programme by Lancaster University on July 26th2012. More detail on available information is needed.
When searching and negotiating look for common interests. City farms, furniture reuse projects, allotment societies, wildlife trusts and eco projects might see mutual benefit in having a MensShed around and may not charge as much as they would another group. The Camden Town Shed negotiated a rent-free period on the basis that it was bringing to the centre 14hrs pw bookings and a group of new users the local authority was targetting. If you are prepared to take a short tenancy then some Council property may be free of rent because the Council would rather it was used than the area its in look deserted.
Rent-free premises The charity Healthy Planet (http://healthyplanet.org/projects/healthy-spaces/empty-spaces.aspx) has unused commercial properties to offer because the companies will save on the business rates if the premises are occupied by a charity. Although occupancy is on a day-licence they can last a year or more. A new system has been established called Zero Rent for Charity Tenancies at www.zerc.co.uk. It is a National Council of Voluntary Organisations partnership with a commercial organisation. Approaching companies directly has worked in Eire.
Size: In two other instances in Eire the men built a shed on spare ground with used wood. The Manx Shed in the Isle of Man started in a double garage. The successful MiS project in Eltham operates from a room in a community centre which is only 5 x 4m - and it includes a sink! Six people can work at a time but there is also a shared outside area. It opens five days a week and has a membership of 43. Armagh City Shed is even smaller and has a membership of 46. If you are going to work in wood you will very quickly need a separate wood-store. If planning your room the coordinator of MiS Hartford once said ‘it’s a mistake to make your sitting area separate from your kitchen as people are reluctant to leave the conversation to make the tea’!