A History of a Charity in Twenty Objects – #6
Let’s hear it for listening!
Over the following year, it helped us completely transform our organisation and our work.
We listened to the children in our community, of course, who were telling us that they wanted to be involved in our work. They sent us drawings, poems and essays they’d created – to include in the Guy Fox magazine – as well as letters asking for drawing lessons.
The lightbulb went on in our heads. We needed to shift from creating educational resources FOR children, to creating educational resources WITH children. We needed to work directly with children. We could teach them about a historical topic and let them create a publication that would be distributed to their peers.
To do that, Guy Fox History Project would have to grow a bit!
So we listened to advisors and trustees. As well as funders and would-be funders.
Mostly, we listened to any organisation that was offering free training. We attended some useful sessions:
How to Organise Volunteers – yes, ma’am!
Writing A Child Protection Policy – definitely, sign us up!
Sponsorships for Arts Organisations – why not?!
Evaluating Your Projects – yes, please!
There was one training session that proved crucial. It was run by the Bridge House Trust. While we don’t recall the topic that day, we do recall the chairperson’s welcome remarks – which we’ve subsequently memorialised as the ‘Of Course You Should’ speech.
“Should your charity follow robust financial procedures? – Of course you should!”
“Should you be keeping up-to-date on relevant legislation?” – Of course you should!”
“Should you be prepared for a business interruption?” – Of course you should!”
“Should you be keeping accurate records and evaluating your impact? – Of course you should!”
“Should you have policies for data protection and privacy? – Of course you should!”
Her speech continued. It was a remarkable checklist for best practice and she was pulling no punches. Of course you should.
We were struck – sharing a wide-eyed nod with each other as we sat there – by her assertion that, regardless of size, a charity has no excuse for amateur administration.
“Of course we should” became our mantra as we developed policies and procedures that would underpin our growth. Now, you might argue that policies and procedures are dull; that’s also true of cement and mortar, but in the end, that’s what holds everything else together!
So we listened and, while we listened, we worked. We worked a lot that year! We developed policies and procedure, we applied for grants, we delivered projects and distributed our publications.
We published another ‘History Rocks’ magazine; we produced our History Rocks CD; we secured funding for computers and hardware to use in workshops; most importantly, we delivered two projects where children created the publications: a Guy Fox children’s map of Southwark and a magazine about Southwark’s history.
That year, our income increased by 643%!
Hard to believe (and yes, we have quadruple-checked the maths) but it’s right there, in black & white.
The Guy Fox organisation was starting to become something real.