Yesterday, Sara Giro and I attended a grantfinder session with a lovely lady called Thoria who works for the Cardiff 3rd Sector Council. The purpose of this session was to source potential funding pots for future CFN events. Alongside this, we were given some very useful advice about how CFN might become a charity, limited company, or Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). The reason why we have been talking about this is that, as a non-affiliated community group, CFN has very limited access to funding opportunities. Since we want to increase our potential as a community activist group, it makes sense to look at this restructuring as a solution to that everlasting question in the grassroots movement: where’s the money going to come from? After listening to Thoria’s summary of the pros and cons of each legal structure, Sara and I have concluded that becoming a CIO is the most obvious way forward for our group. It seems to us the least risky option. On paper, it would mean that CFN labours under the CIO name but, really, on a day-to-day basis for members, it won’t change anything (except that we will have more events and campaigns to look forward to). For more information about what becoming a CIO entails, please look here.
So what does this mean for us, right now?
Well, firstly, we need to become a fully-fledged member of the Cardiff 3rd Sector Council. In order to do this, we need to have a constitution. This is a document that summarises the purpose(s) of our network, our legal structure, how decisions are made, how members are admitted, and so on. It is about two pages long. I have written one up today and have sent it to Sara and Hannah Austin (the founding member of CFN) for commentary. When we are all satisfied that it is a working document, we will call our first AGM as a network. Expect this to happen in the next two weeks. Yes, it’s hasty, but if we are going to organise more events, we need to have money, so we need to register as a legally recognised charitable organisation, so we need to have the advice of C3SC. Some other reasons why we’d like to become a fully-fledged member of C3SC is that they can offer us some great benefits such as regular grantfinder sessions, training sessions for up to 2 representatives of CFN on various subjects and issues (such as community fundraising, charity law, etc) and regular access to advice from third sector experts. All this for free.
I really hope that no-one is reading this and thinking, but you’ve done all of this without our consent. That would be a fair judgement. I have mentioned these happenings on the CFN FB group several times. Our actions at the time really only warranted limited reference – all we were doing at time was wondering whether or not CFN could get funding for a film club/festival (curated by me) and for a women’s art exhibition (curated by Sara Giro and Arron Kuiper). However, since it looks like we will have to change the legal structure of our group in order to get any money, we (obviously) then have to tell you.
What does this mean in the long run?
Well, day-to-day, for our everyday members, it doesn’t change anything. Not at first, anyway. With a lot of work and a little bit of luck, we might just be able to start running some events and programmes that do impact on our members’ everyday lives, whether through educational programmes or through socialising and networking. Maybe we’re being optimistic.
Day-to-day for committee members, it would mean keeping an extra eye on opportunities for CFN. What can we feasibly hope to achieve as a network and how do we go about making some of these things happen?
Overall, though, what we’d like to avoid is getting bogged down in administration, guidelines and rules. We’ve worked well so far as an informal group and we’d like to keep it that way (for the most part). It’s just the way of it that when money becomes an issue, legal structures have to be put in place (or one of us has to have a rich, philanthropically-inclined aunt).
To end this post, I would like to propose another change: behavioural policy. We’ve had issues in the past with some members dominating debates and conversations and it has alienated some members (potential and actual). On one or two occasions, these people have been removed from the group (as a last resort) as it was deemed to be in the best interests of everyone involved. To date, no-one has ever complained that the actions taken were the wrong ones.
Now, to prevent these situations from occurring again, I propose that we write a short, definitive policy that lays out the network members’ expectations of each other. I don’t want this to spell the end of informalism within the network and, for the most part, we’ve done very well without having to refer to policies, rules, or expectations. But sometimes it does need to be said that everyone has the right to be listened to and to be respected without fear of being insulted.
If you have any comments, ideas, or even criticisms, please do let me know. This is something that I’d like to add to the website and FB group relatively soon.
Thank you all.
** EDIT: Sara has kindly reminded me that there is a social on Sunday (for which you can find details here). If you have any questions at all about these proposed changes then please do come along.