Having the structure to apply for funding
Some funders can only give out money to groups that have certain structures in place and a bank account to deposit the funds.
This doesn't mean you need to make your group more formal or face a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork. It's important to find the right structure that works for you and your group members.
Find out more about getting funding for your peer support on this page.
How to get funding for peer support
For the purposes of this guide, we're going explain how to create a structure that suits you, and how to open a bank account.
Please note, all funders, banks and building societies are different, so this is just a guide.
Groups can be structured in the following ways.
Independent community group
This has no formal structure. Remaining as an independent community group with no formal structure is attractive to many people who might be put off by registration or bureaucracy.
Remaining small and independent can work well for many peer support groups where people are simply aiming to support each other with no pressing needs for expansion or funding.
It can still be useful to have a bank account with more than one signatory in case you get some funds or collect contributions from members.
This has a simple structure, like a constitution, with no legal status.
An unincorporated association is a group of people gathering together under a formal agreement, which does not include making money for themselves (this is often termed ‘not-for-profit’). This will make you eligible for more funding opportunities, and it's not too difficult to achieve.
All you need to do to achieve this status is to write a constitution. A constitution is a written agreement of the aims of the group and what everyone participating will or won’t do. It might include ground rules like listening to other people and treating each other with respect.
You can write the constitution together with your group. This is all you need for your group to become an unincorporated association.
For more information on writing a constitution, and forming an unincorporated association, see the following resources:
- The Resource Centre has a guide and resources on how to form your group as an unincorporated association
- More information on writing a constitution
- Information on unincorporated associations
Charity or social enterprise
This is a more detailed, formal structure, with legal status.
You may want to move beyond being an unincorporated association and become a social enterprise or registered charity.
This might be because you want to apply for funding which needs you to be a registered charity or social enterprise. Or because you want to grow your group into a larger organisation with more ambitious aims.
The key difference between a charity and a social enterprise is how they finance themselves. Charities rely on donations and fundraising, while social enterprises usually generate income by trading, or selling, services or materials.
‘Charity’ is an umbrella term, encompassing several different types of charitable organisation. These charitable organisations all exist to benefit the public, or other people.
‘Public benefit’ can apply to the members of your group. There are 13 categories of charitable purpose listed on the charity commission website (such as animal welfare, relieving poverty, or promoting education).
To find out more about setting up a charity, see the following:
- Simple Guide to Setting up a Charity – the Small Charities Coalition
- Step by Step guide to setting up a charity
Social enterprises usually take the form of a community interest company (CIC). This is essentially a business that prioritises benefit to the community over making money for individuals. A CIC needs to demonstrate that it benefits the community that it exists to serve.
To register a new CIC, you have to apply to Companies House to register a company, and include with your application form CIC36, which you will use to describe how your company will benefit the community.
For more information on social enterprises, see:
- Step by Step guide to becoming a community interest company
- The Resource Centre: community interest company
- Choosing the right organisational structure for your group
Find out more about the different structures at:
Activity: The Aims of Your Group
We suggest reflecting together on your aims and aspirations for your group, to help you decide which structure suits your group best. You may want to consider the following:
- What do you hope to achieve in the short and longer term?
- Are you hoping to attract new members or reach specific communities?
- Would you like to be known and recognised locally or nationally?
- How much time do you have to devote to establishing or developing your group?
When writing a constitution, you should include your group’s aims. Why does the group exist, and what do you hope to achieve?
Even if you decide not to write a formal constitution, it's helpful to reflect on your aims from time to time. The following activity can help your group think about what you want to do and how you plan to do it.
As a group, pick one goal – something you would like to do or achieve - and put this in the first column. Then continue moving to the right, completing each column, until you reach the end. Repeat this for as many goals as your group can think of.
Discuss what the priorities are and what is realistic.
What do you want to do?
How long will it take?
Who are you hoping will benefit?
How will they benefit?
How will you know you will have achieved this aim?
What practical steps do you need to take to achieve this?