The journey to becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) began some years ago, before I started as CEO of Lifecraft. In fact, my first day included a Extraordinary General Meeting that was solely to discuss and vote on the proposal to move from an unincorporated charity to becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t quorate, with 20 people required and only 19 turning up…
Lifecraft is a user-led charity that requires the members to agree to any changes to the structure of the organisation. The trustees had thoroughly researched the options, included remaining as was, but, rightly, wanted and needed the service users to be onboard with the proposed change. From the start of the process, most members didn’t particularly care one way or another and just wanted the charity to continue delivering the services they used. However, some couldn’t see why changes were being proposed and were suspicious of the trustees’ motives. Others were fully supportive and understood the reasoning.
Over the years, Lifecraft had grown from a small community group to an organisation with contracts, employees and significant (managed) risk. The old structure was no longer fit for purpose and it was a struggle to attract new trustees. Trustees of an unincorporated charity are personally liable for what the organisation does and, whilst insurance was in place, the risk was too large for many people.
So, within a week of my first day and the not-quite-quorate meeting, the UK went into its first lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We held off rescheduling the meeting because we felt that an online meeting would exclude many of our members and surely we’d be open again soon anyway… Hmmmm.
18-months later we re-opened our face-to-face delivery and bravely scheduled an in-person AGM, to include the original resolution. After another not-quite-quorate meeting (again, 19 of 20 required), we finally gained approval from the members (many of whom were by this stage fed up of hearing about the proposal and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t just got on with it!).
And then it took us another year… despite having already (eventually) gained approval of our new constitution and getting the CIO registered. I won’t go into the palaver of getting the documents signed and finally approved (arghhh).
What was the hold up? I hear you ask. Well, setting up a new bank account (with our existing bank) took us many months of lost documentation (twice) and different advice every time we phoned them. Finding out that we needed to have legal documents in place to transfer the assets from the old charity to the new charity, as well as getting Charity Commission approval for the transfer of assets and trustee indemnity, which couldn’t then be implemented for 30 days after approval. And then there was the toing and froing with HMRC, Gift Aid, our commissioners and many many others.
However, from 1 January we are now operating as the CIO, which feels like a massive achievement. Maybe the hell of the process makes the new structure all the sweeter? Here’s hoping that the changes will give us a stronger foundation to build upon and attract new trustees when we need them!
Finally, fingers crossed that our donors continue donating as they are asked to amend their standing orders to come into the new bank account and that grant-giving bodies don’t penalise us for being a ‘new’ charity with a new charity number despite having been around for 30 years…