The Labour Party today announced that they would double the amount of paid paternity leave from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.

This is on top of the new flexible arrangements for couples to share paternity leave which comes into effect in April.

Some businesses have spoken out against these new measures as an extra tax, and “anti-business”.

British Chambers of Commerce
Director general John Longworth said: “Although well-meaning, proposals such as this create very real costs for businesses, which can in turn lead to reduced productivity, reduced growth and fewer jobs.”

He continued: “Businesses have already had to absorb over half a dozen changes to parental leave in the last decade – with one, shared parental leave, not even fully in place yet. This constant instability raises costs for business and generates uncertainty when it comes to taking on new staff.”

The national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Allan, said: “The reality is that for small businesses in particular, extending paternity leave from two to four weeks makes it much more likely that they will have to buy in replacement staff as they will struggle with absences.”

We disagree and are committed go offering our employees a better level of support than even the proposals from the Labour Party.

As a company started by new parents, ostensibly because we wanted to spend more time with our new born child than we would working for someone else, we are strongly in favour of better and longer leave for both parents. And if a new father takes four weeks off rather than a fortnight the difference is quite manageable. And, if we have to hire parental leave cover then so be it.

Our view is that this is investing in, and respecting, our current staff and an opportunity to give important experience to someone else while testing them out as a potential new employee if we are in a position to expand.

We are also dismayed that many companies also fail to offer, or properly support, employees to take flexible working arrangements because spending time nurturing and caring for your baby is considered still as “not taking your career seriously”. We feel this also needs to change.

Giving new parents the time to properly adjust to the demands of parenthood, perhaps grab the occasional cat-nap or share domestic chores or give the future generation the best start in life is good for everyone; babies, families and business.

Taking the guilt out of wanting to spend time at home allows employees to return when they are ready, and supporting flexible working, creating a happy and committed workforce. Takes the sexism out of parental expectations, that men are the breadwinners etc, and help to combat post natal depression and so on.

Of course parents should be free to return to work sooner if they wish but we will never support any system which overtly or covertly encourages parents to return to work before they are ready.

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Here at Green Shoots Support we offer a tender writing consultancy service for small and medium sized businesses. But you may be confused about what tendering is, and how to get started looking and applying for tendered contracts. And you wouldn’t be alone. According to the Federation of Small Businesses in 2012, 40% of small businesses believe that tendering for public sector services is too complex and only one in seven companies applied for a tender in the previous year (with sadly almost half winning no contracts as a result). Green Shoots is here to help, this guide will explain the tendering process, help you find contracts and offer practical advice in writing your tender bid.

Green Shoots is here to help

What is a tender?

Organisations which have a particular need that they cannot fulfil themselves will put that contract out to tender.  This is the process by which invitations are invited from other organisations who then compete in terms of price and quality to win the contract.

Requests For Tenders (RTF), Request For Proposal (RFP), or Invitation to Tender (ITT) all refer to the documents issued by the awarding organisation containing the details of the service they would like to receive, their budget and any other relevant criteria.

You may be asking “why bother tendering?” Simply put because these can often be lucrative and long term contracts that can offer your business stability through quiet periods. Whatever your business there is a market for it in the public sector somewhere whether it is local authority, universities, the NHS or Ministry of Defence.  And public sector organisation are good customers, and contrary to what you might have heard tend to pay on time.

Tender websites

There are several large websites you can search for requests for tenders. The most common in the UK would be Contracts Finder , or if you are looking for contracts specifically in Scotland , Wales or Northern Ireland each of these have their own public procurement websites.  You can also search for high value tenders at the EU level or in International Development . If you are in the construction industry or digital platform services then there are specialist tender sites for you.

Approved supplier list

You can also find out about opportunities through your own network of contacts, local papers and trade magazines especially if the contract is under £99,000 (although below this amount tenders are not required to be advertised at all) . In this instance it is worth asking around to identify the appropriate individual within the organisation responsible for procurement in your field and introducing them to your business.

If you are successful in identifying the correct individual you can apply to be an approved supplier in the event that they have a low value contract in the future.

Tender process

The tender process  varies from organisation to organisation and depends on the value of the contract. Ideally however it will take the following form:

Initial advertisement

PQQ

Invitation to Tender (ITT)

Evaluation and Award

Pre-qualification Questionnaire

Once you have found an invitation or request to tender that you are interested in you normally have to fill in a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, or PQQ. This will evaluate your capacity to the deliver the service, experience and financial information. This is often not a long document, taking the best part of a day to complete. However often, especially with tender notices which don’t even specify a budget, you will not know how strong your competition is or how their offer will differ. In this instance the insight of an experienced Bid Manager, who has worked on similar tenders, can be valuable. if you find yourself in such as position Contact Us and our tender management team.

Invitation to tender

Assuming you pass the pre-qualification process, or that the contract notice is of sufficiently low value that the process has been streamlined, you will then be invited to tender for the contract. This can be an involved process, depending on the nature of the contract being awarded.

Your bid

Only bid for work you are sure you can deliver: be patient and wait for the right opportunity. Tendering for a contract you can’t win is a waste of time and money: tender bids can take a lot of time to write.

Before deciding to write a bid read the accompanying documents carefully and make sure you fulfil all the mandatory criteria. Do you have relevant experience or do you need a partner? How does the value of the tender compare to your overall turnover? Buyers [the awarding body] will be wary if the seller [ie. you] is bidding on a contract worth more than a quarter of their annual turnover.

Always make enquiries if you are unsure about sometime in the application process; assume nothing. Plan a timetable for delivery, and ensure you are capable of sticking to it. Make sure the price you quote is as low as you can reasonably afford to go: public sector bodies have to ensure they get good value for the tax payer, tendering ensures that the competition will similarly be ‘aiming low’ but remember whatever price you quote will be binding. Does this mean the contract is not profitable? If so, is it still worth winning for the experience or to cement your position in the sector?

You may also be judged on criteria beyond value and experience. For example you could be judged on certain sustainability criteria: in which case you will have to ensure you make it clear that you have policies in place for effective protection of the environment and natural resources, social progress and recognising and meeting the needs of everyone and growing your organisation sustainably. You may also have to show that your organisation takes seriously racial equality, diversity and health and safety as public authorities have a legal oblation to take this into account when carrying out procurement.

Finally you must be honest about your resources: not only will you have to show you have the resources and capacity within the organisation to fulfil the contract you need to have sufficient reserves (either in cash to outsource or in-house staff time) to complete the tender application itself. Tender writing can be time consuming and often deadlines are often tight. If in doubt, employ a professional bid writing and management team who can work faster and more accurately.

Once you, or your bid writing team have completed the writing process: make sure you submit the application in the format requested.

Tender offer

Prior to being awarded the tender you may be invited to interview, or asked to supply additional information such as staff CVs or references. If you are awarded the contract you will then begin the process of negotiating terms of delivery and payment. Model document forms of these are often provided at the initial tender stage but the contract cannot go ahead until these terms are agreed upon by both parties.

Good Luck!

Now that you have a better idea of how to go about tendering we hope you will join the 1 in 7 who do so already. If you require any help with your tender writing or with the process in general please do not hesitate to get in touch with us .

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Best charity bank accounts

If you are thinking of setting up a charity you will  need to open up an account with a bank. You have probably asked yourself “where should I open a bank account for my charity?” The choice can be a bit overwhelming. So, to help you out we have done the hard work for  you.

Below are our top pics for a charity bank account. We have striven as best we could to include the companies which are the most ethical options.  Many of the terms, conditions and offers from the high street banks were much the same as those offered below and so we left them out to avoid unnecessary repetition.  However, if you have a relationship with a bank already and have good experiences with customer service and the like then it might be worth staying with them.  However don’t make that decision until you have seen the fantastic perks being offered by the banks below.

Remember applying for a bank account for your charity can also be a long process taking weeks, or even months! So when filling out forms be careful to do so correctly. You may be asked for proof of status such as registration number (but if you don’t have an account you won’t be registered so don’t be flummoxed by this) or for your charity. Check the details of what is required before applying as this will save time in the long run.

Who should my charity bank with?

Charity Aid Foundation

The CAF is a charity in their own right so they make a natural home for charities to bank with confidence and trust: being regulated by Financial Services and a member of the Financial Services compensation scheme ensures that your money is as safe as in any other bank at least. They offer a wide range of accounts with features which include free online banking for current account,  which requires an initial deposit £1,000, which is perhaps a bit too steep for many newly started charities. However if money is no object then you can enjoy free day-to-day banking and lower CHAPS fee and a yearly audit certificate for only £14 per account.

Metro Bank

Newcomer to the banking world, Metro Bank, took the industry by surprise by opening in 2010. They opened their branches later than their competitors (8pm), not only allowing but welcoming pets (they even refund their customers the fee for rehoming dogs and cats) and children, to supporting their local community through organising networking events and financial education in schools. All of which made it the friendly face of banking.

Community Accounts have terms which are similar to most high street banks but worded rather differently. For example the first £10,000 paid in or out each month at counters is free and you get 200 free transactions a month; which for almost everyone will amount to “no fees for day to day banking” which is how other banks tend to word it but at least they don’t have to include the dreaded asterix over the word “free”. There is no monthly account fee which is good. You can also get a debit card which is free to use in Single European Payment Area countries (see ) which if you do work or travel in Europe a lot is a fantastic perk. Overdrafts subject to status, no interest on deposits. Auditors report is £25 which is more expensive than the CAF for example (see above). Branches mainly located in the London area for now.

Reliance Bank

Formed in 1890, as the Salvation Army Bank, Reliance Bank Ltd is jointly owned by the Salvation Army Trustee Company and Salvation Army International Trustee Company.  They offer free banking when the account is operated in credit for charities with a turnover of less than £500,000. Current account facilities such as cheque books and electronic payments. You can pay in through a number of High Street chains such as Lloyd’s, Natwest, HSBC and RBS. VISA card, Overdraft and Lending facilities are available on application. You also get a personal relationship manager which might come in handy ironing out the any teething problems that might arise..

Triodos Bank

Derived from the Greek for ‘three way approach’ (people, planet and profit) Triodos Bank is a pioneer in ethical banking. While based in The Netherlands (Zeist) it has branches in Belgium (Brussels), the United Kingdom (Bristol), Spain (Madrid) and Germany (Frankfurt). Triodos only lends to banks it judges to be of a social or ethical nature lending deposits to fair trade initiatives, organic farms, renewable energy projects and other social enterprises.

Unlike most other charity accounts Triodos actually offers a modest interest on balances over £5,000. Bank by phone, post and online. There are small charges for each transaction see here .

Our recommendations:

When it comes to choosing a bank to recommend to our partners and clients setting up a new charity we are torn between the Unity Trust Bank and the Co-Op because of the fantastic perks they have on offer their customers.

Unity Trust Bank

Specialise in charities and social organisations.  No account charges on standard transactions in the account for charities and social enterprises with less than £50,000 turnover. Standard set of perks including cheque book, online and paper statements and free internet and telephone banking. For a fee of £5 a month you can access the Select Account which gives the same standard benefits for any charity or other organisation with turnover less than £500,000 including with GrantNet and Sage, discounts on insurance and lifestyle and travel savings for yourself and your colleagues. You also get two ALTO pre-paid MasterCards. Free access to GrantNet and a discount on Sage make this a serious contender for the charity which can afford the sixty pounds a year fee.

Co-Operative Bank

Community Direct Plus provides free banking for community groups and charities. Interest is paid on credit balances over £2,000. Manage your account online, by telephone or at Post Office branches. And the opportunity to apply for project funding through the Customer Donation Fund which has donated over £600,000 since 2003 to over 700 charities. Co-operative Bank donates 20p per £100 deposited in its accounts for redistribution. Donations range between £500-£1000. So because it also gives you access to another source of grant funding we have chosen it as the best option.

Everyone is different…

Which sounds like we are trying to not give a recommendation. We started out saying we would pick our favourite and stick with it but seriously, it was so hard to choose between the Co-Op and Unity Trust because of their additional perks. Access to GrantNet we can assure you is a great addition. Whereas being able to pick up a little extra money, especially in those tough early days when you’ll struggle to attract funds from larger trusts, makes the Customer Donation Fund is a great perk. We wish more banks would follow suit!

However the right bank for you will be a very individual choice. For us here at Green Shoots an Ethical Mode of Business was very important to us, but it might not be to you. We have shown above however that the market leading accounts are actually offered by the more by and large ‘ethical’ banks anyway.  Your choice will also depend on the type of work you do, where you do it and how much cash you expect to turnover! We hope this guide has proved useful in reducing the plethora of choices down to a handful of the best options.

We hope you find someone you can use and trust. Banking is all about relationships and we hope that whomever you chose you will have a long and fruitful partnership with them.

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This post was not sponsored or suggested by any banking services provider. All information is correct at time of posting. Any discrepancies or changes can be notified to [email protected] and we will do our best to update them.

And don’t forget to r egister yourself with HMRC for tax purposes

Do you bank already? If so, who with and have you enjoyed your time with them? Let us know on , or .

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A well respected charity working with people who are homeless has been rocked by a fraud scandal. Following the Cyrenians Cymru board’s independent financial investigation the Head of Finance was sacked and the matter referred to the police who was later arrested.

It is a matter for the police, and potentially the courts, to establish if the individual in question is guilty or not but the story raises an important issue that all charities and supporters need to be aware of: how fragile public trust is to what charities do.

Funds and funding

Most charities rely to a large extent on a small number of income streams such as voluntary donations (payroll, legacy giving etc) and grant funding. In each of these cases donated sums by individuals and organisations can range from hundreds of pounds to hundreds of thousands of pounds but in a competitive marketplace choosing which charity to support loss of public trust and faith can be a deadly.

In this case the charity appears to have acted absolutely above board in organising an independent review into, presumably, suspected irregularities and firing the individual they thought responsible right away and referring the matter to the police. They are now believed to be seeking to get back some of the money lost, and we hope they are successful. And as someone who was himself foreignly homeless (though not a beneficiary of the charity personally) this story was quite choking because not only is it stealing money from your employer, but also straight out of the hands of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

This is not an isolated case either earlier this year the former chief executive of a race relations charity in Swansea was on trial ( though subsequently exonerated ) for allegations of fraud. A similar story emerged from Oxfam where, earlier this year, a man charged by the charity with preventing fraud was jailed for stealing almost £65,000 .  And just a few days ago women appeared at  Teeside Crown Court charged with £160,000 charity fraud .

Sadly charity fraud happens as fraudsters and criminals exploit the good nature and generosity of individuals and occasionally weaknesses in charity’s internal policing. It is absolutely vital that charities stay vigilant about fraud carried out by their staff, or by fraudsters supposedly on their behalf (such as fake door step collections) not only to protect public trust and their future incomes but also, crucially, the people for whom the charity was set up to help.

It is not established yet what impact the fraud will have on Cyrenians Cymru but we hope that they can continue to provide much needed services in the future and if you are minded to you can help by donating here .

Fighting fraud

There are many organisations committed to fighting and preventing fraud, and like data protection and protection of vulnerable adults and children it is absolutely something which should be at the heart of every organisation’s business practice. For any charity which needs help in this regards, or if you have suspicions that fraudulent practices are taking place somewhere then there are some people who can help.

If you believe you have been the victim of charity fraud and think there is any way your financial details could have been compromised, then the first thing to do is inform your bank or card provider.  You can also report the fraud to the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 and to the police via Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can call Crimestopper’s Charity Fraud Line (08000 232 101)  or check out their website for information and assistance in preventing and reporting crime in your charity.  The Charity Commission has also produced a publication to help charities combat fraud which you can read .

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The lack of clean water and sanitation is hindering the efforts of other, larger, public health endeavours according to a report published in PlosOne by the charity WaterAid , WHO and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine among others.

They say that while hand-washing and the importance of hand hygiene is becoming recognised in some areas some other easily remedied factors are ignored; such as toilets as toilets and waste disposal facilities.

The report indicates that the efforts to improve newborn safety and health outcomes are being held back because they have failed to account for these basic needs In Malawi only 2.9% of births took place in a “WHATSAN” safe environment, and in Tanzania that figure is lower still at 1.5%. This is not an issue specific to Africa or maternal heath though as Wateraid report that 2.5 billion worldwide, 1 in 3 of the world’s population, don’t have access to clean water. 500,000 children die every year of diarrhoea caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation, that is over 1,400 children a day dying from a completely preventable and treatable illness. Given the impact of water quality and sanitation on infant mortality it seems unlikely that any efforts to tackle the one problem will succeed without addressing the other.

Jacinta Zelinto’s baby son Salvadore drinks from a cup of dirty water at home in the village of Namissimbe, Niassa, Mozambique, July 2014.

Recommendations of the report

The report called on the governments with high infant mortality rates in their countries to invest in better facilities and work towards the goal of universal access by 2030. And to create an enabling environment by setting standards in legislation.

They also called on the donor community to ensure that WASH standards are embedded in global maternal health frameworks, to work towards changing the aid policy and focus more on medium to long term improvements rather than short term outputs to evaluate a programs success. It called on research institutions to build stronger evidence base for assessing the effectiveness of interventions including the cost-benefit, economic sustainability and impact on user experience.

Finally the report asks civil society and service users to hold government to account and other agencies in delivering universal access to acceptable and dignified health services and sustainable water and sanitation solutions.

How can I help?

WaterAid’s website provides a number of ways to get involved and help out. From donating money to provide clean drinking water or waste disposal facilities to and sharing with them WaterAid’s recent report which aims to put toilets at the heart of sustainable development. They might not be glamorous, toilets, but they are important and WaterAid loves them: they even have a World Toilet Day .

You can also donate to the Lawrence’s Roundabout  Well Appeal and help build truly innovative water pumps that are also roundabouts! As children play, they pump up fresh drinking water: harnessing the natural energy of children…and as parent’s we know how much energy kids have!

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Hailed by the Spectator as a chance to end the ‘toxic political standoff’ over foodbanks the ‘Feeding Britain’ report by All-Party Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Hunger in the UK has been published today. You can read it in full here . Far from ending the political standoff the report further widened the conflict between the Conservative Party and the Church of England who say that church funded foodbanks have been fighting ‘a social Dunkirk’ without the assistance of government.

Initially the response to the leaked report among Conservatives was hostile with one minister claiming that the rise in the number of people using foodbanks was due to their increased publicity. The report however outlined that the biggest reason for individuals and families relying on foodbanks was rather due to benefits sanctions. Nick Clegg called for a re-think on benefits sanctions but currently it seems unlikely that No. 10 or the DWP will take up this suggestion:

“The prime minister’s view is, just as it is right that we have welfare provision, it is also right that there are responsibilities on those who receive benefits. We do expect people to attend appointments at job centres, complete CVs and accept employment offers that are made to them … The prime minister’s view is that we have the right approach to this with regard to sanctions.”

The report was also heavily critical of the amount of food waste created in the UK:

‘Thirdly, our anger knows no bounds that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible food which is euphemistically termed ‘surplus’, is destroyed at a substantial cost, when it, alone, could eliminate hunger in our society.’

It calls for targets for retailers to redistribute surplus food to organisations helping individuals and families in crisis; something which most will find shocking does not routinely happen . In light of the report many of the leading supermarkets have made new commitments to reduce food waste and help end the scandal of people going hungry in 21st Century Britain: Asda has waived the suppliers’ delivery fee for surplus food given to FareShare, and along with Waitrose have committed to the the target of sending none of their edible plus food to Anaerobic Digestion.

The report called for the establishment of a national organisation ‘Feeding Britian’ to coordinate  a campaign to end hunger and urged the government to fund 12 pilot projects across the UK, but some Conservative MPs have said this ‘smacked of nationalisation’

Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould said action would now depend on the political will to accept there really was a problem, both with business and welfare. In a blog for the Huffington Post, he said. “A wide group of stakeholders have to decide “do we accept the narrative?’ And the narrative is a challenging one. The Inquiry confirms that Hunger in Britain really is a problem: people calling for action on hunger have not been scaremongering.”

“The public sector has to co-operate with equal commitment, or the aspiration in Feeding Britain will not work. Public services are integral to resolving the underlying issues that food bank clients face. The public sector cannot stand on the sidelines to see how the rest of us do and critique us when we find it difficult to achieve the goals.”

Who are the major foodbanks in the UK?

There are over three hundred foodbanks across the UK and perhaps the most well known charity working in this area is the Trussell Trust, a Christian organisation, with over 700 volunteers and which aims to develop, run and enable communities to set up sustainable projects to combat poverty. Their impact is clear to see when their own users make clear that without their help they would have no choice but to steal or go hungry. The trust runs a network of more local foodbanks such as the Swansea Foodbank or the Cardiff Foodbank .

FareShare which aims to tackle the twin issues of food waste and food poverty and like the Trussel Trust have regional centres throughout the UK such as in North Wales and Glasgow

Who funds the Foodbanks?

The majority of the funding for foodbanks comes through voluntary donations from either individuals or corporations. However there has been significant investment on behalf of the UKs grant making trusts to help support the growing number of foodbanks cope with the ever increasing demand. Trusts like Esmee Fairbairn which in 2012 gave FareShare £500,000, and the following year sponsored another grant to employ an operations manager in the South West of England, as well as funding other foodbanks across the UK. The Garfield Weston Foundation and even a number of local authorities also support foodbanks by helping to pay for staff to organise the collection and distribution of donations.

How can I help?

There are a number of ways you can help either individually or collectively. You can make a donation to the Trussell Trust here for example, or if you work in the food service industry you can arrange to donate food via FareShare here . Local foodbanks require volunteers to help out or if you have some non-perishables you would like to donate they can direct you to a donation point.  A list of Fareshare offices is here and Trussell Trust here . You can also write to your local MP to encourage them to read the Feeding Britain report and ensure they act on its recommendations using the following site .

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On Friday while the news was full of stories about the lack of decorum among shoppers amid the ‘Black Friday’ sales but a far more disturbing story slipped past almost unnoticed. Figures released by the Home Office show that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of the slavery in the UK today.

Despite being outlawed on British soil in 1772 (much later in the rest of the Empire, sadly) it remains a very real problem in the UK today. and Friday’s figures mark the first time the government has made an official attempt at quantifying the scale of slavery today. Last year the National Crime Agency’s Human Trafficking Centre estimated the number of ‘known’ slaves in the UK to be just under 3,000′; what Friday’s figures did was estimate the ‘dark figure’ of crime which goes unrecorded or unnoticed by the authorities. Worldwide there are, according to the International Labour Organisation over 12.3 million people still in slavery, with trafficking of slaves one of the fastest growing and lucrative criminal enterprises with some experts saying it generates revenue equal to that of drugs and arms trafficking.

The government response to the problem

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The time has come for concerted, co-ordinated action. Working with a wide-range of partners, we must step up the fight against modern slavery in this country, and internationally, to put an end to the misery suffered by innocent people around the world.” The UK government launched the Modern Slavery Bill which will give new powers to investigate slavery and protect victims.

The UK Border Force will also establish a task force to tackle modern slavery which will see stronger working partnerships with other countries to prevent cross border trafficking, and awareness raising efforts for Police, Child Services and people working with the homeless to warn them of the signs of slavery.

However clearly enforcement and legislation is only the beginning. The charitable sector plays a key role in raising awareness of the signs of slavery and human trafficking and supporting victims.

Charities tackling slavery

There are some brilliant UK charities working to understand and tackle the problem of slavery, help the victims of slavery overcome the trauma they have endured and settle into their new life.

The UK Charity Unseen concentrates on survivor support and preventative measures and has to date opened a safe house for victims fleeing slavery in the UK. Funded through Comic Relief, Sir Halley Steward Trust, Allen Lane Foundation, Tudor Trust, Chrysalis Foundation, The Charles Hayward Foundation and the Salvation Army they have been able to provide victims of slavery with:

  • Medical care
  • Legal advice
  • Counselling
  • Financial Assistance
  • Education
  • Advice on settling in the UK or returning home

Like all charities they need your support and if you would like to donate you can do so here . Providing the support they do costs about £100 per woman per day, with counselling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other specialist treatments costing around £90 per session. Or if you want to do some fundraising or awareness raising for them you can find more information here .

Anti-Slavery works internationally with businesses, runs  public outreach programs and researches slavery in the UK and internationally. They have had some big successes uncovering forced labour of migrant workers in the Middle East, convinced H&M to take concrete steps to limit slave cotton entering their supply chain, and lobbied the UK government to sign up to a new EU anti-trafficking law which will give victims greater protection. You can join the organisation following this link

Hope for Justice is a Christian charity which identifies and rescues victims, advocates on their behalf and helps them rebuild their lives.  Their youngest rescued victim of slavery? Just one year old. To make either a one off or regular donation click here .

A particularly moving example of the impact of small charities comes from Freedom Charity . The charity who specialise in school awareness projects about forced marriage and dishonour violence. They were featured in a UK documentary. As a result they received a phone call to their volunteer staffed 24 hour helpline from three women held captive in a London house for over thirty years. It took time for the helpline workers to build a rapport with the women, who called back over a period of days but eventually they walked free into the arms of waiting police officers in October 2013. There was, according to the charity founder Aneeta Prem ‘lots of tears and hugging’ upon their release. The three women will undoubtedly never forget the impact on their life made by a small charity whose income has never exceeded £50,000. You can donate or by texting “FREE02″ followed by the amount you can give ( £2/ £5 /£10 ) to 70070.

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Photograph: AFP

Just over a week ago police in Blantyre fired tear gas on hundreds of Malawian school children protesting in Blantyre about the delay of their teachers pay, in some cases up to six months late. They chanted ‘We are not learning! We are not learning!’ and closed the streets off with rocks and trees. The protests followed strike action by teachers in Malawi, one of the poorest nations in Africa in terms of GDP, as the government struggles to meet its financial obligations following the ‘cashgate’ scandal. The scandal, which has already seen over 70 people arrested, came to light after an assassination attempt on the country’s Budget Director in 2013 and resulted in the then President firing the entire cabinet as an estimated $30 million had been siphoned from government funds through the creation of false goods and services purchases.

Following the scandal the UK government, along with the EU and Norway, froze international aid to the country, amounting to some 40% of the annual government budget with some analysts worrying that unless the corruption trials progress quickly aid could be suspended indefinitely. Billy Banda, director of the rights group Malawi Watch, said: “Malawi needs to establish a special tribunal that should speedily try the cases, otherwise it will take years to conclude the cases and donors will justify their withholding of aid.”

Corruption and International Aid

Most charities working in international development are familiar with the problems associated with corruption and the ‘cashgate’ scandal coincided with a greater feeling of frustration among UK grant making bodies and the UK government about international aid fuelling corruption. A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the independent body responsible for scrutinising UK aid criticised the Department for International Development for not doing more to tackle petty corruption and criticised DfID’s Monitoring and Evaluation of aid stating it not capturing and applying lessons learned in combating corruption. In Nepal, the Local Governance and Community Development Programme ran from 2008 to 2013 and involved Dfid and 12 other partners.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chairman of the Commons International Development Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that the report made “specific and potentially serious allegations”.  He said that “the trouble is you have to use agencies in countries where corruption is endemic.” The report said: “We heard about citizens needing to pay bribes to government officials or to forge documentation in order to receive funding for projects.” The report also said that it had concerns that “the general principle that aid should first ‘do no harm’ had been breached”

Is withdrawing aid the best way to combat corruption?

With the UK and other donors withdrawing aid to Malawi the impact on the lives of children in education is apparent already. With the publication of the ICAI report, and recent promises by UKIP to cut international aid by up to 85% in the news, fierce debate has raged about the impact of foreign aid and corruption. Malawi is not alone in its budget being supported by large amount of foreign aid, but the spread of Ebola surely highlights why these funds are so important.

However the aid freeze has not stopped the work of UK charities trying to improve the lives of people in the Ukraine. Chris Samuel, who works with the charity to promote education and enterprise in Malawi launched a recently to raise funds to pay for the education of children in the Nkhata Bay region of Malawi.  Hope Malawi, like all UK charities, have a responsibility to spend donor money responsibly and transparently and is acutely aware of the pressure and problems caused by corruption and tries to support individuals who show the greatest community spirit or exceptional need.

However there are other charities which because of the corruption scandals, or the difficulties in accessing funds for projects caused by ‘cashgate’ and donor perception, have either stopped working in Malawi altogether or are concentrating work elsewhere. Tackling the corruption problem head on and creating a more accountable and transparent society has to be a priority for President Peter Mutharika’s government, and finding the money, somehow, to pay the teachers:  as one student 11 year old student Vera said: “We want to be leaders in future. They should not kill our future”

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Blood Bike Wales - Guest Charity Post

Blood Bikes Wales was started in 2011 by an enthusiastic group of motorcyclists who wanted to use their passion for motorcycles to do some good.  Following the successful model adopted by other Blood Bikes groups in the UK, these motorcyclists set about raising cash to buy motorcycles in order to provide an out-of-hours courier service for the NHS.  At weekends, hospitals which need to send blood, pathology samples, documents and the like between locations are forced to use expensive private courier services or taxis.  This costs the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.  Our volunteer riders offer this service for free.

By 2013, not only had enough money been raised by these hard-working unpaid enthusiasts to buy a fleet of specially adapted motorcycles, but they had also managed to pass the stringent tests and controls imposed by the NHS.  Delivery services began in earnest in April 2013.  Since that time, coverage has spread from one area, Swansea, to as far afield as Newport in the East and Aberystwyth in the West.  More than a thousand deliveries of vital supplies have been shipped around the clock at weekends.

But this band of dedicated bikers do not only ride at weekends.  They are prepared even to give up their free time during the week delivering frozen breast milk from a central screening facility to premature baby units where it is most needed to keep fragile young bodies alive.

BBW members include not only riders but also coordinators who take the telephone calls from the hospitals who need deliveries, administrators who help with the backroom paperwork and of course fundraisers without whose efforts, the valiant venture would never have been started.

How to donate:

Just Text Giving – txt ‘RIDE07 £10’ to 70070 in order to give £10 or vary the amount to whatever you can afford

My Donate – give online by going to the following website and specifying the amount.

Or arrange for a donation to be deducted from your gross salary or wage – the taxman bears part of the cost – by going to the website of Charitable Giving, https://www.charitablegiving.co.uk/payroll/employer-search.aspx ? And completing the payroll deduction form specifying the amount you would like to be taken out of your regular paypacket.

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We published  a guide to writing a good fundraising bid a few months ago which was very popular so we thought we would outline some easy fundraising strategies for you and your charity to try and get money with as little effort as possible.

Fundraising events

Some of the easiest, most successful and frankly fun ways that small charities can raise money is through fundraising events. These don’t have to be large scale events anything from a coffee morning to a bake sale will achieve the two key outcomes of raising money and awareness. The key is to try and involve your volunteers and supporters and get them to go into their workplaces. And this is such an easy and low cost method of fundraising, that it is employed by almost all charities regardless of size: has raised more than £113 million!

Large annual events are also a great idea. These can range from fundraising dinners to silent auctions. These large scale events take a bit more planning but can be a great way of generating publicity and getting press attention. Whatever event you are organising think about how you can involve the wider community: if it is a silent auction are there any local art schools that that might have students willing to donate items to be auctioned?

Other ideas to consider are sports or arts and crafts competitions: Charge an entry fee and have prizes to give away!  Or perhaps you can challenge your volunteers and their friends to a sponsored walk, cycle or run. Remember the more outlandish the better: think of Stuart Kettell who pushed a Brussel Sprout up mount Snowden ! Remember that there are talents and skills and enthusiasm in your supporters and volunteers that probably remains untapped. Some of the most impressive fundraising we have seen to date has come not from the charity themselves but from their supporters. Stuart Rose has been running marathons in spite of his MS and doing a fantastic job raising money and awareness through Social Media!

Whatever type of event you hold remember to be clear about who you are targeting, who you want to get involved and don’t just think of the money it is an opportunity to get new volunteers and network! And whatever you do avoid bachelor auctions or anything else which is likely to cause offence. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity – we disagree.

Logo merchandise

This is an opportunity often overlooked by smaller charities because to really make money on logo and branded merchandise you have to buy in bulk! Fortunately we have negotiated a deal with a local manufacturer based in the Valleys of South Wales for charities which allows you to print each Tshirt, hoodies, mugs etc at a reasonable price on demand. No buying in bulk means no up front investment and no unsold stock! Contact us for more details! Getting volunteers and supporters to buy branded merchandise is a great way of raising the profile of your charity and ensuring that your volunteers look smart while working for you!

You can also put the items on your website and sell them direct to supporters, our manufacturer will post them out direct to the purchaser meaning all you have to do is pass on the details and collect the money.

Public donations, legacy and direct debits (planned giving)

This is perhaps the most obvious form of fundraising. From shaking a tin in the street to mailing people direct and asking for donations. Payroll giving and legacy giving (leaving money or property to the charity in ones will) pound for pound offers the best return on investment for charities.  In 2009 every one pound invested by charities returned on average £24! In 2000 that figure was as high as £43! So it is something charities overlook at their peril!

Major and corporate donors

Getting a patron or well connected business individuals on your board of trustees is an excellent way to network and find major corporate donors! A fundraising campaign to get major donors is also a good investment raising on average 400% what is invested. But you must plan it carefully.  The hardest part is finding corporate donors, but the most important part is keeping them engaged and helping them understand where their money has been spent and what it is achieving. The Guardian revealed that every year an extra £665 million in potential donations could be raised if donors knew where their money was going!

Before you start try working out how much money you are likely to receive from major donors. If your annual turnover is £300 asking for £2 million is unlikely to be met with anything other than the short shrift. Once you have identified an appropriate amount to request, for a worked out project idea, start trying to narrow down potential donors who because of your work, the type of project or beneficiary might be interested in donating. In this research is important not only in finding out who is likely to want to support your charity but opportunities to get an introduction from a trustee or supporter who might know the individual personally. You can try a mail shot but you run the risk of being referred to an established charitable trust, or sadly, the bin. The rewards for finding high value donors far outweigh the embarrassment of asking for help from supporters or volunteers, or your trustees because high value donors come with their own connections and establishing good links can bring a number of people into the fold and support your charity work for years to come in cash or kind.

When you receive unexpected donations ensure there is someone on your board of trustees whose role it is to record the event and respond personally to the donor, preferably this should be the Chief Executive. Follow up the donation with information about how the money has been (well) spent and what impact it has made. And don’t be afraid to ask again for another donation the following year, or invite the donors to celebration events or large fundraising events like dinners and silent auctions. They might bring friends, and they might become your next donors!

Grants

There are literally thousands of grant giving trusts in the UK and elsewhere ranging from average grants of £10 to £10 million! Most libraries will carry a directory of grant making trusts which are indexed, roughly, and you can establish a list of potential donor bodies (or we can do that for you, contact us for more information).

Once you have a list of grant making trusts you need to make an application. Competition is fierce and at the risk of putting ourselves out of business you don’t need to hire specialists. Often eh best fundraisers are inside your organisation, the people who understand your work closest. That is why we make a point of working with you to understand your work better but if you are applying for £500 it doesn’t make sense to hire someone whose fees might eat up a lot of that. However if you are applying for a substantial grant you want to get professional advice. Someone to proofread and problematise your application at least if not conduct thorough research and impact analysis. This is particularly true if the grant application is central to your organisations continued success or growth or expansion. Often professionals can work much not just better but faster than your volunteers or existing staff allowing you to apply to more trusts in a shorter space of time. Ultimately there is a balance to be struck, now, how many other consultancies would say that? But we would rather you thrived than make money unethically.

Services and fees

Does your charity charge membership fees? Or do you or could you provide services to the government or local authority? Examples of these could be refuges for victims of domestic violence, sheltered housing for older people, sporting facilities for disadvantaged children, start-up advice for new businesses or helping people find work. You can also work in partnership with other charities to provide services and cut administrative costs.

According to the guidance from the Charity Commission if you’re considering delivering a service on behalf of a public body, you must make sure that you:

  • only carry out activities that fall within your charity’s purposes, as stated in your governing document
  • can remain independent of government
  • make decisions in line with your duties as trustees
  • can afford to deliver the service

You can get more information and guidance here and search Locality or Sell2Wales for services required.

We hope that helps, if you have any questions or need other suggestions contact us and we will do our best to help you find easy fundraising ideas for your charity.

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