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Frequently Asked Questions
What does Voscur do?
Voscur is the support and development agency for Bristol's Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE). Voscur supports organisations to increase the impact they create for their clients. We work with the investors that commission and fund the work of the VCSE to ensure they make informed decisions and design effective services. We also build relationships between providers and investors to help them work together to coordinate services and maximise the social value they collectively create.
What services does Voscur provide?
Voscur offers support and expertise throughout the organisational lifecycle - from individuals just starting up, to groups seeking to grow and collaborate, deal with challenges and change, to lead contract delivery and influence policy. We offer:
- News, information and policy updates tailored to Bristol and the West of England
- Training at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels
- Practical advice, guidance and signposting to improve the management of organisations
- Policy and strategy briefings to help groups understand the broader context in which they work and the implications for their services
- Specialist consultancy and in-house training
- Intensive one-to-one support for organisations delivering priority services and/or facing significant difficulties
- Funding support across the range of income types: grants, contracts, trading, social investment
- Facilitation and leadership to develop partnerships, networks and collaborations
- Job advertising to bring the right mix of people and skills into organisations
- Discounted prices for paid services for members
Who can Voscur support?
Voscur works with VCSE organisations, public sector bodies and businesses primarily in Bristol and the West of England. We are funded by Bristol City Council to provide free organisational development support to groups that contribute to the city's priority aims. Our training, consultancy and other specialist services are priced to be accessible to all types of organisation.
I am a charity trustee - can I be paid for the work I do for my charity?
Charity Trustees cannot usually be paid for the work they do as Trustees and cannot become employees. There are certain circumstances where Trustees can be paid for specialist work for the charity but you must check the rules in your governing document to see if this applies in your situation. The Charity Commission publishes guidance about the payment of Charity Trustees and Voscur provides a range of related support for governance.
- You can publicise your volunteer opportunities on the Voscur website which focuses on Bristol-based placements.
- You can use Do-It, a national database of volunteering opportunities.
- Vinspired specialises in volunteer opportunities for young people aged 11-25 years old.
- Reach Volunteering matches volunteers with professional skills to charities across the country.
- The Media Trust helps organisations find volunteers that provide support with communications.
I am a Manager or CEO of a not for profit organisation. Where can I get specialist advice about an employment issue?
Voscur can offer general employment advice such as where to get DBS checks done or information about training for staff in Bristol. For more detailed advice about employment issues, Voscur recommends that organisations seek advice from an employment law specialist. Voscur members have, for example, worked successfully with Workplace HR whose services are designed to support smaller groups.
- Discounts on job advertisements to ensure you recruit top quality staff - full members receive a 68% reduction on job adverts, which are viewed over 110,000 times per month on average.
- Reduced rates on training courses and events to give your team the skills and confidence to take your work even further - typically starting at £39 per person.
- Exclusive access to the Grants Online Local opportunities database which includes European, national, regional and local Trust and Foundation grants relevant to your area of work.
- Discounts on inhouse training courses and consultancy which for many groups more than covers the cost of annual membership.
Full details and a membership application form are available here.
I am looking for a consultant or fundraiser - can Voscur help?
Voscur provides specialist facilitation, training and consultancy in a number of areas of organisational development and improvement - such as strategic planning, business planning, social enterprise, governance, fundraising and collaboration. We also work with a small group of quality assured Associates to add capacity to our staff team and provide additional specialist skills. Please find out more and contact us to see if we can meet your requirements.
As we are unable to assess and monitor the quality of other independent consultants and fundraisers, we are unable to formally recommend specific individuals, but most can be easily identified by searching online.
As above with consultants and fundraisers, if we can't meet your needs directly or via our Associates, we'll let you know and aim to signpost you to other local providers.
How can I set up a bank account for my community group or charity?
Before you set up a bank account for your group, it will need to have what is called a “governing document” that sets out what your group does and how it runs. If your group doesn't yet have one of these, Know How Non-Profit outlines the most common types.
If you do have a governing document, you can approach any bank to ask about setting up an account in your group’s name. It’s worth making sure you shop around to see what each bank is offering: will they charge for your account? Will you have access to online banking, if you need this? Most high street banks offer charity accounts. Specialist accounts for community groups and charities are also available from some banks.
You will need to agree at least three members of your committee who will become signatories on your account. They are usually the Treasurer and two more. They need to be people who aren’t related to each other, and who don’t live at the same address. Agree this at a meeting and record the decision in formal minutes - the bank will want to see a copy of the minutes to prove the signatories are properly authorised.
Do remember that the process can take a while and isn’t always simple. Because of anti-fraud laws each person authorised to make payments will have to visit your chosen bank to show documentation to prove their identity and where they live. They will also have to supply specimen signatures. If any of the signatories already have accounts there things will be a little faster as they will already be identified on the bank’s system.
How do I set up a Community interest Company (CIC)?
The Regulator of CICs provides all the basic information you need about how to set up a Community Interest Company.
You may find it useful, if you haven’t already done this, to take some time to be sure CIC status will suit your organisation better than becoming a charity or other legal form.
How can I write a case study?
Case studies are a great way to showcase the impact of your work. What information you include and how you present the case study will depend on the audience it is intended for and its purpose but the key principles and components are likely to be:
- Background - Information about the individual or group for example: who they are, what services they have used.
- Issues faced by the person or group.
- Actions taken by your organisation.
- Positive outcomes - which parts of this process of change went well and why?
- Negative outcomes - which parts of this process of change didn't go so well and why?
- Lessons learned - what were the key things that were learned?
- (Optional) Information used to create the case study.
It is best to keep case studies free from jargon and easy to read.
How do I get a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service check) for a new member of staff?
DBS checks should only be made when necessary and at the appropriate level of disclosure. We're aware of two local organisations that can obtain them for you:
Formal legal advice can be obtained from a range of commercial law firms such as, in Bristol, Burges Salmon, Veale Wasbrough Vizards and Foot Anstey. Though often relatively expensive, in certain situations legal advice can be essential and good value for money (if it helps to avoid problems that may occur in the future).
Some organisations offer "pro bono" legal advice, which means eligible organisations (typically registered charities) can get help for free or at much reduced costs, if volunteer solicitors with the necessary expertise are available.
You can browse opportunities on the Voscur volunteering pages and contact organisations directly.
In your local community, volunteer opportunities are also often adverstised via:
- Library notice boards
- Community centres/cafés
- Community newsletters
- Local papers and magazines
Volunteer opportunities are also published by:
- Charity Job
- Volunteering Matters
- Sports Volunteer opportunities
- Reach Volunteering (for people with professional skills)
- Media Trust (for people with media skills)
Where can I find a researcher or evaluator for my project?
Depending on the kind of evaluation you require, Voscur could provide a suitable specialist or you could advertise the project to find a suitable consultant on our website.
You could also search online to find other independent local consultants.
How can I set up a new charity?
In order to register a new charity you need to decide on, and formally adopt, a structure for your organisation. It’s usually best to use the Charity Commission standard models, if possible, because they've already been checked as compliant which simplifies and speeds up the registration process.
You will also need to describe the reason your charity exists ( your “objects”) in the correct, legal way that the Charity Commission will recognise. The Commission has put together a list of sample objects that you can use or adapt to suit your specific requirements.
If you haven’t already done so, you may want to think first about whether it would be best to register as a charity or a Community Interest Company (CIC) or other legal form. The most common types are outlined by the Charity Commission.
Where can I get financial support for someone that I work with?
Turn 2 Us provides information about benefits and grants for individuals (rather than organisations).
Where can I get help to start a new social enterprise?
Voscur runs a free short course - "Kick Start" - which is specifically aimed at people who want to start new social enterprises.
Several national membership organisations offer specialist insurance cover tailored to their members' area of work - advice agencies, community centres, housing providers etc. If you are part of a specialist national network, this could be a good place to start.
If not, Voscur members have previously found Ladbrook to be useful, as they specialise in insuring charities, social enterprises, etc.
Who can help me with bookkeeping or accounting?
Many small charities use local freelance bookkeepers, accountants and auditors. Local organisations specialising in charity and community group accounting include BCAP Community Accountants and Gerrard Financial.
Where can I get advice about renting an office or managing a property?
The Ethical Property Company provide advice and assistance to charities and social enterprises.
GDPR is a complex topic that has potential implications for lots of different areas of an organisation's work. Our blog on the subject is a gentle way in with lots of useful links. We'll keep adding guidance and resources to our website and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the place to go for detail and support from the source.