Golden rules

Some trusts are set up 'top down' with support from local authorities or quangos, others by local people operating on a shoe-string.

Trusts are really small enterprises with charitable objectives, so the aim is to end up with an effective independent organisation which can both serve local needs and sustain its own operations.

From my own experience, talking to those involved, and from questionnaires completed for this guide, here are some golden rules.

  1. Establish clear objectives. Work out what you are trying to do - whether tackling projects, providing advice or information - and stick to it. Decide what constitutes success and failure.
  2. Involve the whole community - both residents and businesses. Talk to key interests, bring them together in a seminar to launch the setting up process. Unless others have a stake, they won't support you.
  3. Establish a clear legal and management structure with advice from a solicitor with experience in the field. Most development trusts are companies limited by guarantee with charitable status.
  4. Gain local authority support. Even if they can't help with funding, they can provide advice, help in kind, and endorsement.
  5. Find good people. Recruit a high-calibre executive director, and an independent chairperson who commands respect. Choose Board/committee members for their skills, contacts and commitment - not who they represent. Get the best professional advice possible.
  6. Choose early projects carefully. Launch your own flagship schemes, but respond to opportunities and other people's ideas. Test feasibility before your start.
  7. Be business-like from the beginning. Set up administrative systems and tight financial controls. Create an effective structure before you recruit. Aim for excellence.
  8. Communicate effectively. Create a vision of what you are trying to achieve, a clear identity for your organisation, and produce well-designed materials and events.
  9. Plan to stay in business for the longer term. Balance socially worthwhile schemes with money makers. Don't be a soft touch just because you are a charity. Spread your funding to reduce risks of losing support.
  10. Take a balanced approach. Think big, but don't overstretch yourself. Plan carefully, but operate flexibly. Be optimistic, but assume the worst. Value the process of making things happen, as well as what you produce

© David Wilcox Tel +44 (0)1273 677377. Fax: +44 (0)1273 677379. These information sheets may be freely distributed with this attribution, but not republished as a whole.
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