The paper below was written in 2007 and gives the useful outline of the practical action needed in building a community project. It omits the important contribution that may be needed, in the early stages, by an Enabler, but otherwise it is still a useful indication of the action required.
In this page we want to look at the process of starting to build a Wisdom inspired project
The very first stage will be for the inspired, original Initiator to put together a small core group of compatible people, with complementary skills, who understand and are committed to the envisioned project.
Once this core group has been established, the next stage is to decide how the project is to be run and the resources required. The needs here will be similar to those of a conventional business, as outlined in our web site Savaric.com - but with subtle differences including the following:
Business plan - The group may not be running a business, but they still need a plan ! The first step is to research and review all aspects of the project and produce a clear development program and master business plan defining the services, market, staff, resources and funding required.
The master plan will cover all aspects of the new project and be worded in such a way as to be acceptable to the core group. Clients, staff, volunteers and potential community supporters will need to be inspired by the spiritual potential of the project whilst suppliers of conventional services and funding will want to be convinced that the project is stable, worthwhile and sustainable. It may require different versions of the master plan with emphasis appropriate to the particular group with which it will be used.
Some members of the core group may feel the expression of their spiritual vision in worldly terms is a betrayal of their fundamental beliefs. This is not so. The need for balance between the spiritual and the material occurs again here. No worthwhile project is brought into being without being grounded in practical terms, and this includes those that are spiritually inspired. Devoted choir monks, spending their life in chanting, prayer and contemplation, were only able to do so in a Monastery providing shelter, clothing and food.
The business plan is a living entity and grows and develops as experience is gained throughout the life of the project.
Decision - Up until now the core group had the exciting task of defining the vision and deciding what was needed for realization. Eventually comes the point at which a start is needed. A new stage of commitment has been reached. It is tempting to keep putting off this beginning of activity by ever more research and planning but sooner or later a positive step must be taken. This needs new commitments to volunteers, staff, landlords and suppliers, before the necessary income and financial resources are established. So, this is the vital point where the core group confirms the spiritual inspiration of their objective, and their confidence in its guidance, and makes the decision to start the practical project. They will now need to look at the following:
Funding - It may have been thought that the project will only start when third party funding is in an available. This will be difficult to achieve. We are studying a spiritually inspired project, not readily understood by conventional sources of funds, and in addition, core funding for administration and staff is anathema to most funders.
Third-party funds will become a possibility once an organization is established and seen to be delivering useful services. But first it will have to be started, and this will only be possible with support from the core group and their friends. Only modest sums will be required initially but it may also be necessary to offer personal guarantees to landlords and suppliers of services.
Legal Structure - It might be thought that a not-for-profit organisation, largely run by volunteers, does not need a business structure, but even the smallest project needs to be properly set up and run, if it is to succeed.
The simplest way is to start with an ‘Unincorporated Association’. This is an organization
‘Set up through an agreement between a group of people who come together for a reason other than to make a profit’.
It doesn't have to be registered and it doesn't cost anything to set up but needs a formal constitution, recording its members and objects, which banks and other suppliers may want to see. When it starts trading it needs to make an annual tax return.
It is simple to establish but has the disadvantage that the recorded members are personally responsible for debts and obligations of the Association and, as it is not an incorporated body, bank accounts, insurance policies and leases may have to be taken in the personal name of one of the members. This not a problem in the very early days but is something that needs to be reconsidered once the project grows and the financial sums involved become larger.
Initial steps - Having decided upon the structure, the following action will be necessary:
Premises – An address will be needed for legal purposes legal purposes and from which the activities are carried out. At first a small rented office or the home of one of the members of the core group will be sufficient.
Name – A distinctive name, not being used by anyone else, will be chosen.
Bank account - A bank account will be set up and the bank will probably formerly ask for it to be set up in the name of one of the members ‘Trading as the Association’.
Presence – A Letterhead, logo, email address, contact telephone number, website, and in due course Facebook page we all need to be designed and setup.
Services – The proposed services need to be clearly defined and some form of descriptive literature produced.
Staff – Decide upon the people and skills needed to deliver the services and to run the organization. At first the core group may do all the work.
Publicity – Advertise in some way so that the existence of this new entity is made known to clients, the community and possible supporters.
When the above is complete, the organization exists and is able to start delivering services, albeit on a small scale.
With success will come the need to grow and expand and this will require the following:
Defining the Service - As the project expands it will be necessary to redefine the nature of the services and terms and costs of delivery. There is also a need for constant scrutiny of the effectiveness and value of these services. The core group may have been guided to establish the project, only to find potential clients showing little interest. The timing may be inappropriate, or the guidance may be planning it as a stepping-stone towards something greater. Sensitive attunement is required to ensure that the services are needed - and to make subtle changes as and when necessary.
Value – The core group will understand the spiritual value of the service but the benefits to the community will also have to be made clear.
Statistics – Progress needs to be measured. Potential funders want to see how the service is being used and valued by its customers. A system of recording statistics is necessary in order to supply this information. This information will include numbers and types of clients, services used and financial turnover. This will also be of value to the core group and staff in measuring progress.
Competition – Up-to-date information is needed on what is already available to ensure that the new service is complementary to similar services being supplied by other facilities. It is also important to keep in touch with potentially competing projects in order to maintain a friendly and useful sense of cooperation.
Staff - More people will be needed to run the organization and deliver the services. The core group decides which tasks they will handle themselves and which will need additional staff. Volunteers will do most of the work, but some paid staff may be required.
The selection of suitable staff and volunteers might appear to be a daunting task. But our project is spiritually inspired, and guidance is available, not only in defining the tasks but also in inspiring those who are to help, and there will always be people who are already thinking about the concept.
The task is to ‘Sound a Clear Note’ so that the objects of the project are conveyed in such a way as to obtain a response from people already aware of the idea. This can be done through advertising, talking to individuals, organising a public meeting, etc. As is so often the case in this work, if the project is defined with sufficient clarity, those who do not resonate with the concept will not come forward and wasted conversations will be avoided.
As the project develops, and volunteers, staff and supporters arrive in increasing numbers, a delicate balance will need to be held between the two poles of our dichotomy. There will be those who are spiritually inspired and support the vision but who shy away from what they see as brutal and ‘clunky’ material plans - and others with the material skills, competence and experience to run the practical side who may despair at the ‘fluffy’ ideas of their more spiritual colleagues. The task of the core group is to honour and support both poles of this dichotomy and recognize each as being essential for success.
There will be various categories of staff as follows.
Volunteers - Need to be interviewed in order to ascertain whether the person is interested in the project and has the necessary skills, temperament and experience. Although not paid, selected volunteers need a contract in order to avoid misunderstandings in the future. This contract will define their duties and what they may expect from the project.
Paid Staff - Some specialised tasks will require paid staff. As the project grows, someone will have to manage the day-to-day functions. This person may be a volunteer, but it works best with a paid full or part-time manager in this role. With further growth, more administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, website, web sales, packing and despatching will become too much for volunteers to handle, and additional remunerated staff may be necessary.
Professional Advisors - As the work expands, it will be necessary to set up new administrative structures, find larger premises, produce annual accounts and deal with legal contracts. A team of friendly advisers is needed to provide the necessary professional skills and experience.
These professionals will only come on board if they consider the project worthwhile and of value to the community. They may not understand the spiritual side of the services being delivered, and so it will be necessary to stress the more obvious, material benefits. Advisers, convinced of the value of the project, will often give initial information on a non-committal and voluntary basis and only charge where some specific task is called for.
When in doubt about any practical problem, the core group should turn to these advisors. Timely, wise advice will often save a great deal of trouble in the future.
Mangement Skills – People will be needed with experience in running a business or a project, whether they are amongst the core group, the volunteers, the paid staff or the professional advisors. This experience is needed to set up the internal systems essential if the services are to be delivered in an efficient and sustainable manner.
This is another area where difficulties may be experienced. People, inspired by the spiritual ethos may find themselves reacting to what is a straightforward business problem. It may be a rent review, a demand for a Health and Safety Assessment or some other everyday matter, which appears to have an unhelpful impact on the spiritual project. The organisation needs a way of ensuring practical material decisions are made in a detached and objective fashion and are not over-influenced by emotional considerations.
Networkers - A vital skill is the ability to make contacts in the community to provide awareness the new project and to develop support. This is a specific talent and if such a person does not exist within the core group or staff, then they need to be found.
Administration - How is the organization to be run and managed? Our projects are similar to conventional businesses, but with differences arising from their spiritually inspired nature. The need for office equipment will be quite straightforward, but there will be some areas where special conditions apply, including:
Planning – Many spiritually inspired people do not take kindly to planning ! Their motto is ‘go with the flow and let everything effortlessly emerge’. They need to be helped to understand that progress needs a balance between listening to guidance and being open to making changes when necessary, whilst having a clearly defined plan for the practical steps to be taken.
Management Committee - The core group is responsible for policy decisions. As activities increase, it may become necessary to set up a management committee to run the day-to-day activities. This committee will consist of some members of the core group together with others. The number of people in this committee is not critical, but ideally it should be not more than eight, each member being responsible to the committee for a defined range of tasks. The committee is responsible to the core group for administering, managing and supervising all aspects of the services being delivered. They will agree how often they are to meet and how to make decisions.
Many of the responsibilities of this committee are identical with those of a conventional business. However, we are looking at spiritually inspired community projects so that this committee, like the core group, needs to be a peer group. This means there will only be a loose authority structure, and each member will accept the skills of other members and have a clear understanding of how decisions are made.
Again, a delicate balance needs to be held between the spiritual purposes of the project and the practical reality of day-to-day affairs. Walking this particular ‘razor’s edge’ calls for a spirit of sharing and acceptance within the committee.
Officers - The bank will expect the organisation to have a chair, treasurer and secretary. These officers will be appointed from members of the core group.
Internal Information – Volunteers and staff will be kept informed of progress of the project. They need to feel they are part of an integrated organization and not just ‘cannon fodder’ to be deployed at the arbitrary will of the core group. If not handled in a sympathetic manner, there is a risk of the core group being perceived as a small cabal, making decisions imposed on the staff without explanation.
A balance needs to be held as not all members of the staff will understand the spiritual ethos of the project, but all must know the project has a real value and their specific task is a vital part of the whole.
Marketing - Covers all aspects of designing the services and making them known to potential customers. The usual methods are needed including a website, Facebook, Twitter and advertising. Consideration needs to be given to the manner in which the various interests are addressed. Overseas potential clients will need a different approach to that appropriate for local audiences.
Financial Control - Tends to be looked upon as a rather boring area that will look after itself. Once again, as with any conventional business, this will not be the case. Like every other aspect of the project, even though spiritually inspired, the finances need to be grounded in practical reality. This means having a budget, management accounts, cash forecasts, annual accounts and a person to run them and interpret the results that emerge.
In the early days, the core group will have used their own resources to pay the small expenses involved. Once the project is started, regular costs will be incurred including rent, rates, telephone and possibly staff. The core group cannot be reasonably expected to carry these regular costs.
By its nature, the project may not be understood, or even be regarded with suspicion, by funders such as banks and investment trusts. Even if finance is offered, these sources may call for personal guarantees or some form of collateral. It will also be difficult to raise funds from conventional investors, as the project is unlikely to make profits sufficient for it to pay interest or dividends.
If finance cannot be raised from conventional sources, where are these funds to be found ?
Fortunately, the nature of the project gives it the potential to generate funds from some of its own activities namely:
Sales of goods or services - People using the spiritually orientated services may not be able to afford the true cost and it may be necessary to give these free or for a voluntary donation. This can be compensated for by arranging courses, workshops, and talks, compatible with the ethos of the project but of interest to a wider audience and for which appropriate charges can be made.
A modest income will be generated from these activities, but it may well be insufficient to support the whole project and some funds will have to be found from another source.
Patrons and Friends - Conventional sources may find the project difficult to understand, but some people in the community will be in tune with the concept and be potential providers of donations and voluntary help. This friendly support will be vital to make good the short fall in income during the early stages of the project - but in order to get this support, it will be necessary to convince these possible patrons that the project has real value. It is usually best to approach them on a one-to-one basis, but once they are supporting the project, they can be kept in touch with developments by a regular newsletter.
The project has now started and is actively delivering services and supporting itself with the revenue it is generating but is still at an early stage. In the next page we will in look at how the project matures and grows.
Sustaining and keeping going
We our drawn down page Sustaining