Back in January, Katie and I spent about three evenings locked in a meeting room after work filling out a big old wedge of paperwork. Applying to become a charity is no mean feat; translating legal jargon, trying to assemble a team of trustees, making big decisions without a full understanding of what you are signing up to.
Luckily, we did have some help, having found ourselves in receipt of some pro-bono legal advice from a charity lawyer. EXCELLENT!
Or not so excellent as it turned out. Last week, after a few conversations with the Charity Commission we received a big, fat rejection. It hurt a bit, and threw us off kilter for a few, long hours as we questioned our strategy and our intentions. Emotions aside, it was frustratingly, in-your-face obvious why we had been rejected. The application was shoddy - and legally dubious.
Had we not leaned on our professional, we would have spotted from the off that the application was a dud.
(Lesson 1: Google is a fierce and formidable tool, and experts are not experts on your business. Having an 'expert' on board doesn't exempt you from doing your research and having an educated opinion.)
Licking our wounds that afternoon, we did a little research into other options, and lo and behold found the perfect solution, to become a Community Interest Company. It allows us to work with fewer silos, to give the charities control over the money they raise, its governance is more dynamic and it is infinitely more suitable for a start-up who are hoping to raise money through a trading arm. In short, we act as a charity, without the red tape.
(Lesson 2: Wallow in despair for no longer than an hour or two (depending on magnitude of issue), then pick yourself up and crack on. There is always a solution.)
We met up with a few of our advisors in the days following the rejection to discuss the implications of becoming a CIC, in particular how we could ensure TAP's governance remains strong, and our identity as a not-for-profit is not compromised in the public mindset.
So, a few days ago Katie and I found ourselves surrounded by another wedge of paperwork. This time it was a process that felt liberating and exciting. Viewing ourselves as a CIC has allowed our tone of voice to reveal itself, it's encouraged us to be more playful, brave and dynamic without being afraid of not being 'charity' enough.
(Lesson 3: Changing the plan is inevitable, and can often be a blessing in disguise.)
Onwards and upwards