Posts tagged ‘community’

A Sound Education – affordable and accessible – or not!

By Mohammad Shakir

Some of you may know about that many private schools in the UK are registered charities – in fact a quick search on the Charity Commission website shows that over 25,000 organisations are educational in nature. Whether they are after school clubs, scouts or pre-school play groups; all organisations are involved in supporting the education and development of the youth today.

What you may not know is that expensive private schools such as Eton College, University College School and Highgate School are all registered charities. One of these private institutions, Fettes College in Edinburgh is under threat of losing its charitable status unless it greatly increases access for poorer students within the next 18 months. The school charges over £9,000 per term for boarding pupils and little over £7,000 for day pupils.

For a charity to have charitable status, it has to demonstrate that it provides public benefit. While the fact that admission and boarding fees Fettes is seen as a barrier to an education at the school, the question remains – should schools which charge fees, close to the price of one year at university keep their charitable status.

I feel that schools in general offer an immediate public benefit to pupils by the fact that they are a place to learn – so schools are welcome to a charitable status on that ground. But the question of access is one that needs to be looked at. There are many state schools which offer a rounded and engaging education for many children, which are over subscribed. A private school is  an option which parents should be able to consider as a viable alternative to over subscribed state schools – if the child shows the aptitude and willingness to make the most of their education.

January 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

A warmer winter for UK Charities

By Mohammad Shakir

Anyone that followed the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this afternoon will have noticed that he announced an exemption on paying VAT for charities which share services and resources such as staff and IT equipment.

This is a major positive step as the current economic climate has led to charities downsizing such as Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) moving in with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in summer next year in order to save costs.

At Zakat House, we have a growing number of small charities and organisations that share resources such as IT services and marketing and communications staff.

The exemption is mandatory and was introduced under European law in 1977, but has never been applied in the UK. This will help our partner organisations such as the Muslim Charities Forum and the Small Charities Coalition as well as charities that are based at Zakat House.

Our dream is to ensure that new and growing charities get a chance to achieve their goals through offering them affordable office space and the chance to plug their resource gaps by sharing resources with their fellow charities.

We also encourage all charities to share their experiences so that all can learn from the best practice of another.

So we welcome the Chancellor’s exemption on VAT – but we are also aware that there is so much more work to be done to ensure that the charity sector can weather this financial storm.

To find out more about what Zakat House can offer – click here.

November 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Cultivating an online garden

By Mohammad Shakir

OK. So the title of this blog needs a bit of explaining. I came across this article on The Guardian’s Voluntary Sector section today about building an online community. For me, the more you put into it, the more you get out it – much like a garden.

You see, in a garden, you sow the seeds and water and prune plants to ensure the health growth of flowers and crops (I know this, because my mother does it). This leads to great smells and fresh fruit and vegetables for your enjoyment. An online community is much the same.

It’s all well and good having a website, a Facebook page, Twitter account and You Tube Channel – but what is the point if you don’t use it? I include Zakat House in this as well, where we have an idea about what tools we have and what direction we need to go in, but haven’t quite given it the due care and attention that it deserves.

Much like the flowers that bloom and crops you eat, the visitors that visit your website or those that follow your social networks have to be nurtured, entertained and encouraged to actively support your cause. You need to excite them and entice them through what you can offer on your different platforms.

Regardless of what approach you take, smaller charities may rely on social networking and online tools as the cornerstone of connecting with your online community. It can be a cost effective approach and should not be sniffed at.

The irony is you are most likely reading this on your computer, phone or tablet device and have been directed here from a social network of sorts.

November 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Bringing charities in from the cold

By Mohammad Shakir

As the winter months set in and the rain and snow get ready to besiege the United Kingdom once more, we will be looking to wrap up warm, keep a hot drink with us and take that extra blanket out of storage to ensure we aren’t caught in the bitter cold.

Let’s use this scenario with charities; especially new and growing charities. Let’s say you have just received your registration from the Charity Commission – what do you do next?

Well regardless of your aims and objectives, there are certain things you will need such as a place to meet with partners and colleagues or a place where you can use an office or desk on an ad hoc basis. A place that is flexible and easy to get to. A place where everyone knows your name… (OK, that last one is not necessary, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing).

The concept of Zakat House is to support these charities by offering services that cater to their size and needs. In reality – does a charity which has one person coordinating its work really need anything more than one desk with phone and internet connection?

We have to encourage these new charities to work transparently and diligently to make sure that the money and aid that is donated to them reaches the beneficiaries for which it was raised.

Charities don’t work for profit or loss – they work to achieve something that is greater morally, spiritually and with a greater humanitarian and community spirit.

Come and join the Zakat House family.

November 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

What does it mean to be a trustee?

By Mohammad Shakir

Trustee Week 2011 ended last Friday. The purpose was to highlight the role of trustees within charity sector and what it means to be a trustee and encourage more people to be a trustee.

A trustee is essentially a member of a Trust which runs a charity. It is a voluntary position where a person devotes their time and expertise in ensuring that a charity runs transparently, smoothly and with accountability. It is a position of responsibility within a charity as you are accountable for the donations that are given by the members of the public.

A trustee is entrusted with all those responsibilities. But that shouldn’t put you off. It can be an enriching experience where you get the opportunity to use skills that you may not use in your working life or at home.

The other aspect of a trusteeship is that almost anyone can become a trustee, subject to interview and background checks.

Some people are disqualified by law from acting as trustees, including anyone described in section 72(1) of the Charities Act 1993. This includes:

  • Anyone who has an unspent conviction for an offence involving deception or dishonesty;
  • Anyone who is an undischarged bankrupt;
  • Anyone who has been removed from trusteeship of a charity by the Court or the Commissioners for misconduct or mismanagement; and
  • Anyone under a disqualification order under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

At the end of the day holding a trusteeship of a charity is a two way street. A charity gains the benefits of your expertise and you can have a rewarding experience helping a charity and learning something new.

You don’t have to start your own charity to become a trustee; you can join an existing charity that is working in a field that you have an interest. The options are almost limitless. Give it a try, you may enjoy it.

November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

Security in my humanitarian space

The Humanitarian Space - Would you like to join?

By Dr. Hany El Banna

Security means safety, stability, sustainability and productivity. While my humanitarian space means my rights, dignity, privacy and ability to develop my country.

But why are we talking about my humanitarian space? Because it is a basic human right for each and every one of us. This is my main philosophy. This is the main philosophy behind the creation of Zakat House. Financial security for small and start up charities that want to carry out humanitarian works – a home for them in the heart of London’s West End.

We did not only want an empty space for these organisations – a desk, computer or individual- but we wanted to give them an interactive humanitarian space and experience, to bridge the gap between them and other start up organisations and allow the cross fertilisation of thoughts, dreams, visions and the dynamic cohesive productivity towards common solutions.

Early this week, I saw the beginning of the fruits of this interactive, humanitarian, connective space. Abdurahman, the MCF coordinator asked me to draw a three year strategy for their organisation. I thought that this was not my job. This is either the job of a highly paid consultant costing up to £500 a day, or it is his job – because I believe that strategic thinking is not something you can only you can learn at Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge, but something that has been intrinsically embedded inside every creation including birds, fish and reptiles.

Instead of talking to Abdurahman individually we called Fatima from the International HIV Fund, Abubaker from Zakat House and Rahma from the Somali Relief and Development Forum. We all sat together around one table to discuss how they can think strategically and effectively about their goals and objectives.

Once they started their own discussion, I pulled out and I watched from behind the glass door, and felt the heat of the motivated discussion amongst them. I smelled the scent of the beautiful fragrance of the flying, argumentative humanitarian thoughts between the four organisations.

Then I saw, the bonding result of the intellectual cross fertilisation process amongst them. After two sessions each lasting 90 minutes, they managed to structure the process of strategic thinking, which was more valuable than a consultant’s colourful presentation or handout. The outcome of this interactive bonding, productive humanitarian space was:

  1. Building confidence in the hearts of the coordinators.
  2. Enabling them to think loudly and collectively for a common goal
  3. To create the teamwork not amongst members of the same organisation but amongst DIFFERENT organisations.
  4. To incite their common vision, common objectives and leadership quality.
  5. To save time that was going to be utilised by a consultant.
  6. To save the £500-£1000 that a consultant could be charging us.
  7. To cement the infrastructure of the social fabric of society empire multi storey building.

While having my lunch with another organisation in the kitchen, Fatima from IHIVF, came to make her presentation to reflect the recipe of our new cuisine which has been cooked elegantly in the Anglo, Pakistani, Indo-African kitchen of our organisations. Please come and have a bite! I can tell you it tastes mmmmmm……

October 28, 2011 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Jobs, Hope and Cash

By Mohammad Shakir

I came across this quote late last week:

“10 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have no jobs, no hope, and no cash.”

The above maybe describe the stark reality of the world surrounding us today – or be a eulogy to three people who bought joy to millions through technology, entertainment and music. What do you think?

Since the economic downturn in 2008 we have seen businesses fold, homes repossessed and charities shut down. Lives and families have been shattered some have taken their lives to escape the current economic climate.

While the government has been working shore up business and home ownership levels – charities have been left with cuts to funding to projects and services that they deliver. This recent report from the NCVO highlights the current state that the charity sector is in. Recent months has seen a major decline in the numbers in the voluntary sector workforce which can have a negative effect in the long term.

In the era of the Big Society – we need to encourage the government to invest in the charity sector or much like the Big Society, it will be become history.

October 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

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