Becoming an Organisation
A Shed group wanting to organise often first thinks of a name. The advantage in calling yourselves a Men’s Shed is that it identifies you with a nationally/internationally promoted movement. Men-in Sheds is also frequently used as its the ‘brand name’ for Age UK/Age Concern projects but has also been adopted by some non-affiliated groups. Other groups have taken different options such as ‘the Silvers Workshop’, ‘the Repair Shed’, RespectAbility and ‘cree’ )(pit slang). Few people object to the idea that men may need a space for the types of things they prefer to do.
The easiest way to become an organisation is to form an Association. This only requires a group of people to adopt a set of rules (the constitution) at a meeting where the founding members then sign. It is a simple as that. The document is not get registered anywhere so minor subsequent amendments can be made at meetings if necessary. The constitution and minutes should equip you to open a bank/building society account in the group’s name, subject to the Bank’s requirements.
Most independent Sheds have started this way even though another legal form may be chosen later on such as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation or Charitable Company. The main reason Sheds choose to ‘upgrade’ their status is that whilst an Association the officers are acting in their personal capacity and can be sued for damages or debt. Whilst careful management can prevent the latter and reduce the former some risk will still remain. When incorporated (as in the examples above) it is the organization that is sued as it is has become a ‘legal person’.
If forming an Association with charitable objectives the simplest and shortest (700 words) version of a constitution is the one on the Charity Commission website https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/setting-up-a-charity-model-governing-documents. It is easily understood. Adopting it doesn’t mean you are registering as a charity with the Commission as to do that you would need an income of £5000.
You will need to add the purpose of the Association which can cause some useful discussion. Sheds fulfill several purposes (promoting health, social inclusion, re-use of materials/repair of objects, community-building etc.) each of which may be given more precedence by one than another. It helps group cohesion to give this adequate time to check everyone’s aspirations against practicalities.
There are many issues to consider when choosing which type of organization would most suit your group. A good place to start is http://www.getlegal.org.uk/home/issues-you-should-consider.html which has been written by a leading law firm with extensive experience with charities in conjunction with the NCVO and several other bodies. After this initial page and its links do also look at the tabs on the left ‘the Legal Journey’, ‘Resources’ and the walk-you-through ‘Decision Tool’.
Law Works for Community Groups http://www.lawworks.org.uk provides the information in a comparative chart which is useful for ease of reference. Called Charitable Entities its at http://lawworks.org.uk/index.php?cID=606&cType=document Law Works offers free legal advice and guidance to small charities, not-for-profits, voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises in England and Wales through a) giving advice, b) clinics and c) factsheets (including employment, corporate structure and charity law, intellectual property, data protection, tax and property).
A LawWorks office for Wales was established in 2013. See http://www.lawworks.org.uk/lawworkscymru_aboutus
Most Sheds seeking incorporation have chosen to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) a recent provision that allows a charity with a subsidiary trading company to only have to report to the Charities Commission (England and Wales) rather than both that and Companies House. The Commission has model documents and sample Objects (purposes) clauses. It will ease registration if an applicant uses wording already approved by the Commission.
The Objects Clause
Objects Clauses both state and limit what your organisation can do so it is useful to adopt a broad purpose that will cover what you might do. Here is one example the Commission (England and Wales) has already approved:
‘To promote the preservation and protection of men’s good health, for the public benefit, in particular but not limited for those who are retired, unemployed or have health problems through the provision of facilities for hobbies, recreation or other leisure time occupations including practical interests, skills sharing, the learning of new skills, and helping with other community based projects.’ Milton Keynes MiS.
If youwould like a different way to learn about Charitable Incorporated Organisations the following audio recordings of a LawWorks talk are free to download. They do not contain definitive advice.
CIO.24.1.2013 Part 1
CIO.24.1.2013 Part 2
CIO.24.1.2013 Part 3
The slides from the PowerPoint presentation are available by clicking here. They can be a useful quick reference.
One Shed has opted to become Community Interest Company (CIC) which is a limited company run to benefit the community. CIC’s can trade without the restrictions the Charity Commission impose but are not supported by some grant givers. CIC’s have their own regulator which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-regulator-of-community-interest-companies.