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Why we cannot change the world if the roof is leaking

  • ...and why your premises should mean as much to you as your colleagues

     

    So what is the state of your organisation’s bricks and mortar?

    Possibly not a question to fire the imagination of the average volunteer or community group for it is, of course, your communities which inspire you to deliver those small miracles every day. 

    Yet this is a vital question. After staff costs, property is always the second biggest budget item for any voluntary organisation, and as the Charity Commission will tell you, is one of the biggest areas of concern for charities seeking help.

    My own organisation the Ethical Property Foundation was set up in 2004 with the mission to support charities and voluntary groups with expert property advice, free at the point of access. We have advised 3000+ clients to date and last February became lead referral partners to the Charity Commission for land and property advice.


    These are tough times for our sector, and it has never been more important to understand the how vital property is. It is the second biggest item out of our sector’s £39bn general annual expenditure and the sector owns operating premises worth £22bn - unsurprisingly statistics for a sector comprising 160,000 organisations and employing 820,000 people. (NCVO Civil Society Almanac 2015)

    Yes, we are a sector worth listening to about property. However,  as we know, we are too often written off as cheap and cheerful and, by implication, unimportant. This has to stop. What we need is a clear picture of the sector’s property challenges and opportunities so we can talk to policy makers, local authorities and the property. Hence why I am now asking for your help.

    Charity Property Matters Survey 2016

    This month the third Charity Property Matters Survey 2016 is launched by the Ethical Property Foundation 2016 in partnership with Charity Commission. This is the only one of its kind which asks voluntary groups about property. It just takes five minutes so please help us help the sector –

    Click here to complete survey

    Every week in our office we talk to voluntary and community groups about their property issues. Below are our top 10 property tips to consider for a confident property future:

    1. Review your budget. Has your organisation fully factored in the costs of running your premises: maintenance, utilities, security, service charges, etc? Are the calculations based on figures from a reliable source - the owner / landlord / a survey or guesswork?
    2. Check what repairs and maintenance obligations your organisation has with regard to the building. Have you planned how to meet these costs?
    3. Have you taken professional advice on the terms of your lease to ensure you are getting the best possible deal?
    4. If your organisation is taking on a building, ensure it has commissioned a condition survey to highlight potential problems and advise on the correct planned maintenance.
    5. Does your organisation have a planned maintenance schedule? When was the last condition survey?
    6. Has your organisation set aside money in the budget as a ‘sinking fund’? – a pot for unplanned premises expenditure should an emergency arise. How would you meet any unplanned costs? 
    7. How do you plan to / currently raise income from your building? Is the asset being used effectively? Are there other potential uses that are being missed?
    8. Re-read your business plan. Are premises needs included? Has could these needs may change over time?
    9. Check who on your team is responsible for looking after the premises in their job description? Check they have the proper training, knowledge and support.
    10. If your board decides that the organisation should rent space to other charities, are there proper tenant agreements in place? How is this managed? Is there space? Who are the tenants?


    As you can see property is quite a business! Do contact the Ethical Property Foundation if ever you need property support – and please Click here to complete survey

     

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