Somerset Community Foundation will only award your group a grant if you meet our minimum standards
Our minimum standards cover 3 things:
We don’t want to turn down your application because your group doesn’t meet our standards. So, under each of these 3 headings we tell you what we expect of your group.
You might be reading this as someone just setting up a new group, or you may be part of an established group and you’re not sure if you’ll meet our standards. In either case, then please call us and talk about it. There are also several local groups that can help you:
- If you’re a village hall or community building, you can speak to the CCS Community Buildings Team.
- If you’re a sports club, you can speak to Somerset Sports & Activity Partnership or your national governing body.
- If you’re another type of group, you can speak to Spark Somerset.
Another good source of support is NCVO.
Finally, if you are just starting a group now, then we would strongly recommend that you speak to one of the organisations above to get some advice. This will save you a lot of time in the future, especially if you plan to register with the Charity Commission or Companies House.
Who runs your group and how they run it are important. There are many ways to run your group well, but whatever your approach it must be appropriate for the work you do. The governance section of the NCVO website provides more information.
When you make an application, we ask you to send us your governing document. You might call this your rules, constitution, or your memorandum and articles of association. This document needs to show us how your group is run.
If we don’t think you are governed in an appropriate way, then we won’t give you any money. Instead, we’ll give you some suggestions to improve your governance arrangements.
Governance that’s right for you
How you are run will depend on what you do. We are happy to look at applications from different types of groups, and it doesn’t matter if you have just been set up or if you have been around for many years.
This means you can usually apply if you work or volunteer for a:
- community group
- registered charity
- community amateur sports club
- social enterprise
- faith-based organisation
- community benefit society
- local statutory organisation, like a parish council or school.
Whatever type of group you are, your governance document must:
- outline appropriate charitable aims that cover the work you are asking us to fund, and make it clear that what you do is inclusive of everyone in your community.
- include a clear not-for-profit statement that explains that all income is used to achieve your own charitable aims and not distributed to other groups.
- state that your group is run by a governing body of at least 3 unrelated people, and that most of them will be unpaid.
- include a dissolution clause that explains what happens to any money that’s left if your group has to close.
Notes for community groups
Community groups are unincorporated associations that have charitable aims that benefit their wider community. Your community group must:
- register with the Charity Commission if its income is regularly over £5,000 per year (you can find more guidance about that here)
- not enter into contracts or own property in its own right, as it’s not recognised as a legal entity. This means it must be done in the names of the individual trustees, which makes them personally liable.
Notes for social enterprises
Many social enterprises are registered with Companies House as a community interest company (CIC), or sometimes a company limited by guarantee.
If your group is set up in this way, then we apply some additional standards. These standards are to ensure that you meet the ‘community interest test’. This test requires CICs to act in a way that a reasonable person might consider that their activities are being carried on for the benefit of the community.
Your social enterprise must:
- be limited by guarantee, and not shares.
- not have any persons of significant control.
- primarily be trading, and not relying entirely on grants.
- include an asset lock that benefits a similar local cause.
- pay its directors a reasonable salary for the work they do.
Notes for faith-based groups
We’re happy to consider applications from faith-based groups, but we cannot fund the practice or promotion of religion.
This is because these activities could exclude people from taking part in what you want us to pay for. In other words, you can’t use our money for worship or try to convert people to your religion.
Applications from faith-based groups must benefit your whole community. For this to happen, they must be open to people of all faiths and to those of no faith. We expect you to make this clear on your website and promotional materials that relate to the project you are asking us to fund. For some groups, this may include making a statement about diversity and inclusion. You can read about our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion here.
If it isn’t clear to us that the project you are seeking funding for is open to everyone in your community, then we won’t be able to award you any money. This includes repairs to places of worship where there is no clear evidence that they are used regularly by the wider community.
Notes for statutory organisations
We’re happy to consider applications from statutory organisations, like parish councils and schools, but we cannot fund statutory duties. This means we will not fund things like:
- educational activities for pupils that take place during the school day.
- school facilities, classroom equipment or teacher training.
We would prefer Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) to ask us for money, rather than schools, but we know some schools don’t have a PTA. Also, we would only expect a parish council to apply if there are no suitable community groups in your area.
Because you’re asking us for a grant, we want to understand how your group manages its money. The finance section of the NCVO website provides more information.
When you apply, we ask you to send us a bank statement for your group, and your most recent accounts or financial record. We use your bank statement to check your payment details and to do anti-fraud checks, and you can redact individual transactions if you prefer. We use your accounts to understand how much money your group runs on, how much it spends, and how much money you have in reserve.
If your group has more than 12-months running costs in free reserves then we will not give you a grant, unless you have a reserve policy in your accounts that provides a good reason for doing so. When we talk about free reserves, we mean the unrestricted and undesignated funds available to your group. This does not include funds that are not available for spending such as assets tied up in property.
Likewise, if we think your group will need to close down during the period you want to spend a grant then we may not be able to support you.
Finance that’s right for you
How you prepare your accounts will depend on what type of group you are and how much money you run on.
As a minimum, your accounts must:
- be no more than 18 months old.
- show your total income and expenditure for the year.
- show how much money you held at the end of the year, and whether that money is restricted or not.
And your bank statement must:
- be in the name of your group.
- show the account name, number and sort code.
- in addition, your bank account should require two unrelated signatories to process payments.
Some groups will need extra things as well. But the above list is the minimum we would expect to see from every group that applies to us.
Keeping people safe is important. But it’s nothing to worry about as long as you’ve given it some thought and taken some simple steps. The safeguarding section of the NCVO website provides more information.
When you ask us for money, we ask you to provide us with your safeguarding policy and procedure. These may be separate documents, or you may have combined them. Whatever format you use, we need to see how you recognise, address, record and refer safeguarding concerns. We read through this information to understand whether safeguarding is important to your group or not.
If we don’t think that you’ve thought about your safeguarding responsibilities, then we won’t give you any money. Instead, we’ll give you some suggestions to improve your safeguarding arrangements.
Safeguarding that’s right for you
What you include in your safeguarding documents will depend on what your group does.
As a minimum, your safeguarding documents must:
- be in the name of your group, and not that of a partner or parent organisation. If you use documents provided by a parent body, like a national association you belong to, then we need to understand how you use it in within your group. For example, we still need to see who your safeguarding lead is.
- outline the definitions you use for terms like ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’.
- include clear steps to take in the event of an incident or concern.
- name a designated safeguarding lead who understands how to handle and report a concern, and how to get hold of them.
- describe what training staff, volunteers and trustees receive and how often.
- explain what background checks you do on people who work with children or vulnerable adults.
- give the date of when you adopted it and when you will next review it.
Some groups will need extra things as well. But the above list is the minimum we would expect to see from every group that applies to us. Please remember, if you use a model policy, then we need to see that your group has adopted it for local use.