The benefits of being a full member

Thanet Creative Writers is a charity. To be precise, Thanet Creative Writers is an unincorporated charitable association.

What that means is that Thanet Creative Writers is run by its members. You can come along to our events, join our online groups, contribute to our blog, take part in contests, and everything else without being a member. So what are the benefits of being a full member?

Why having members matters

Having as large a membership base as possible is highly important to our aims as a charity. Having members allows us to address governments, local councils, funding bodies, and other large organisations on behalf of all our members.

The more members we have, the bigger voice the charity has for representing the interests of our members and the promotion of creative writing in Thanet.

If you believe writers and poets in Thanet need a stronger voice, then full membership is for you.

Our members have perks

With enough members, you empower us to organise exclusive events, local discounts, training opportunities and literary celebrity appearances.

Have you ever wanted to meet your favourite author?

By becoming a member you make it more likely that we can make that happen for you.

Our members have priority

When deciding who or what we fund (when we have funds available) the projects and wishes of our members comes first.

What is more, full members have the right to expect to have priority access to all events we run. Most events are open to all and have unlimited places but should there be a limited number of places or the event be closed to the public, our members still get first access. That includes priority registration to events with limited places.

If priority access to Thanet Creative Writers events is something you want then Full Membership is for you.

Members set the agenda

Full members of Thanet Creative Writers are the ones who decide what we are going to do next and help to shape what the year ahead will look like.

Full members know that it is one thing to be a consumer of the wonderful free services that Thanet Creative Writers provide, but another level altogether to have a say in those services.

If you are the kind of person that likes to set the agenda, to direct where things are going, to have a say in all matters, then being a Full Membership of Thanet Creative Writers is for you.

Members decide who leads

Thanet Creative Writers is lead by its trustees. The trustees include the chair (that’s me at the moment) as well as a number of other volunteers elected by our members. We trustees meet every month to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

As a full member, you get the right to vote in our annual elections to decide who will be taking care of business in the year ahead.

If you are the kind of person who cares about making sure the right people are running things then Full Membership of Thanet Creative Writers is for you.

Full members are leaders

In addition to deciding who will take care of business, full members are community leaders. They have the right to stand for election to any of the trustee roles.

If you are the kind of person who likes to be proactive in your community, or who likes to direct how the club or society they are part of will grow, thenFull Membership of Thanet Creative Writers is for you.

Full members are trendsetters

Full members have the right to sponsor others to become full members. Members also have the right to apply to have writer related events they set up recognised as an official project of, supported by, and funded (assuming we have funds available) by Thanet Creative Writers.

If you are planning on running events, clubs, or meetings for writers in Thanet, then Full Membership of Thanet Creative Writers is definitely for you.

Our members are awesome

Thanet Creative writers believe that its members are the most awesome people on the planet. We work as hard to make sure our members get the most they can out of being part of something bigger than themselves. We think you deserve it.

Become a member today

Now we are a charity

Yesterday evening a number of our regulars and other supporters gathered to progress Thanet Creative Writers from an Unincorporated Association into an Unincorporated Charitable Association.

On the surface, this might not seem like much of a big deal but this is the end result of months of planning and a high point we have been aiming towards for a long time. Despite cyber-bullies, baseless legal threats (from said bully), and general unpleasantness from what is likely a single individual in need of a hug, we joyfully saw a project that has run for the last four years become something more.

The formal signing of the Constitution saw the first seven members added to the charity and this was followed by the acceptance of five trustees including the three officers.

  • Mr M. Brown (that’s me) was unanimously elected Chair
  • Mrs L. Winder was unanimously elected Secretary
  • Mr D. Clemence was unanimously elected Treasurer
  • Mr A. Winder was unanimously elected as a trustee
  • Miss D. Gifford was unanimously elected as a trustee

Membership of the charity is not required for coming to our events. However, sponsorship by a member and a donation of at least a pound to show you mean it is required to be a member.

It is safe to say that we are hugely thrilled by this new chapter in our community’s history. Not least of all because now the community truly can be owned by the members and I can stop saying “this group is all about you, not me” because now there is a huge constitution that says so with a lot of words.

Those who expressed an interest in being a trustee, (but not just now), or expressed an interest but did not follow through by giving us your details in time, we will be holding an AGM at roughly this time next year and that would be the ideal time to step up if you still want to.

I am rather hoping that some of our newly minted trustees will feel the inkling to post here too. I am sure that you will grow tired of hearing from me soon enough. Until then, I hope that you will join me in congratulating our new committee and the members that made it all possible.

Charity Trustees

Thanet Creative writers are soon to become a charity. As part of that transition, we will be appointing trustees.

Trustees are an important part of a charity. A good selection of trustees can make a huge difference. A good board can help turbo charge the effectiveness of a charity.

According to reachskills.org.uk:

At its heart, being a trustee puts you at the centre of the action for the organisation you are involved in. The more effective the board of trustees, the greater difference you and your organisation will make.

If you feel like reading some more Ian Joseph from Trustees Unlimited offers advice on the questions trustees must ask to ensure they are fully aware of what they are getting into.

How much time will it take?

The amount of time it takes being a trustee differs from one charity to another. For Thanet Creative Writers you will probably be looking at a few hours a month, usually on one evening.

What are my responsibilities?

The trustees act on behalf of the chairty. In the case of Thanet Creative Writers the board literally reprisents the interests of all the members. In practice though, your repsonsibilities may be limited to asking the difficult questions and voting fairly.

Some trustees may be asked to hold items or money in trust (thus the name) as the charity will not be able to own them itself. Again, in practice this is not likely to make much difference to you as we will be setting up a seperate group bank account when and if we have a surplus of spare cash.

Chairty Commision Trustee guide has more details.

One more thing – It is you duty to speak up if you disagree. If you disagree with a decission the board makes then you need to go on record as objecting. If you are in the meeting it can be as simple as saying I’d like to go on the record as disagreeing.

It might seem quite minor, but it can be very improtant that the records ofthe charity reflect if a choice was unanimouse or if there were other ideas.

However, most boards try to reach full agreement on issues, if they possibly can.

Who can be a trustee?

Pretty much anyone can be a trustee. Unless you are bankrupt or were recently found guilty of fraud.

For Thanet Creative Writers, you need to be a member which means applying to become a member or being there on Thursday as we transition into a charity – in which case you are automatically a member. You can read more here

Take a look at the TCW Tustee Nomination Form if you would like to stand for election as a trustee. But be quick the forms need to be returned by the end of Wednesday.

Why TCW are becoming a charity

red and black pens

In February 2017 Thanet Creative Writers will be transitioning to a charity. For most people, this change means business as usual but there are some features of us being a charity that might make a big difference.

In this (rather long) article I will try to break down exactly what it means to be a charity, what you can get out of us being a charity and how to get the most out of this change.

Charities are important

Charities are an important part of our country. They exist for the public good. In fact, it is impossible to be a charity if you cannot prove that you exist for the public good.

What is a charity?

A charity is an organisation that operates for the benefit of others. Specifically, a charity must be:

  1. Not be for profit
  2. Have exclusively charitable purposes
  3. Operate for the public benefit

Thanet Creative Writers (TCW) runs for the benefit of writers in Thanet and not, in any way, to make a profit. Our hope is to make Thanet (and by extension, the world) a better place by encouraging people to embrace this satisfying and worthwhile pastime. If some of our writers can go on to make a living from their work then this is even better.

Integrity and Credibility

It is generally seen as easier to raise funds from the public at large for a charity rather than a small independent group. This due to the positive image of integrity and credibility charitable status presents.

Help and guidance is available to charities from the Charity Commission. This, in itself, should provide the public with reassurance and help to show that we are sincere in our desire to further the interest of Thanet’s writers.

Furthermore, the model of charity that we have chosen, with elected trustees and open accounting, should help to foster transparency and show that we are an honest and reputable collective.

If course, just being a charity does not automatically mean any of that yet it is the right foundation to build an honest and open community for the betterment of writers in Thanet.

Governing Document

Charities are defined by their Governing Document. This is a technical and legal statement that says what the charity is, what it will do, and the bylaws under which it will operate. The website charityexpert.net has a more detailed explanation.

The Governing Document provides a clear set of rules that describes how the organisation will behave. Thanet Creative Writers has, so far, run on the rules of discussion and common sense. That is fine for a small group but as we grow so our structure needs to grow with us.

The attempt by a few members to take over and control the group, last year, demonstrates that without some set of guidelines eventually there will be chaos and anarchy. While a bit of personal chaos can be good for the creative mind, generally it is preferable to have a degree of order within a community organisation. If for no other reason than so that we all know where we stand with each other.

Our Governing Document is a fairly standard one. It describes what we want to do and how we will go about doing it. It describes how we will elect our trustees and what we will do if there is a disagreement. I see this as an important safety net to have in place before we try and start any further ambitious projects.

I see it as a personal failure that I saw the danger and did not push soon enough or hard enough for us to establish ourselves in a more formal setting. Our Governing Document has been crafted to rectify this shortcoming while being as light, informal, and flexible as possible.

The final draft of our proposed Governing Document is available in our Facebook group as a file. Click here to see it.

Funding Benefits

Currently, any expenses that Thanet Creative Writers’ projects might incur have to be paid for by whoever is running things. That hardly seems fair nor is it particularly scalable.

Certain sources of funding, particularly grants, are open only to organisations with charitable status.This includes “Gift Aid relief” on donations from individuals. This is of direct benefit to the writers and events that we support as we will be able to access or provide funding to help get things paid for.

Additionally, we may be exempt from VAT in some cases. This should make some things less expensive by a significant amount. That’s good because it means that we can do more for you with less money.

Read more on the benefits of becoming a charity.

Being a Charity Member

Charity members get to vote in our elections and may stand for trustee rolls. Members also get the most benefit from our charitable activities in terms of support.

You do not need to be a member to come to our events. That said, we feel it would be a great idea to think about being a member.

Benefits of membership include:

  • Priority registration to events with limited places
  • The right to vote in our elections
  • Access to all our events even those not open to the public
  • The right to have any relevant event you might run listed as an official TCW event
  • Access to any local discounts that we might negotiate

On that last point, discounts, this is an aspiration for us at present but should we realise this goal it would be for members only.

To become a member you need only make a donation of at least one whole pound each year. As members have a lot of power over the charity, full membership (where all the benefits are) has a short vetting process. You need to either be at the signing of the Governing Document on the 2nd of February, added by a trustee later, or sponsored by an existing member. While we are small and it is possible to know all members by name, that vetting process is likely to take a few seconds at most.

The benefits and requirements of membership are explained on the Thanet Creative writers: charity project page.

Being a Trustee

A charity cannot run without trustees. The trustees are elected each AGM and serve to carry out the business end of the charities aims and objectives. To become a trustee you must first become a member.

Being a trustee can be a hugely rewarding experience, especially when you see the difference that the charity is making. Also, and this never hurts, having spent time as a trustee looks great on your CV especially if you were able to help achieve something notable during your time as a trustee.

It should go without saying, but a trustee cannot be paid for the role. That may be a touch simplistic as there are conditions under which trustees can be paid for professional services but the charities commission will require a full and detailed explanation and justification. Sufficed to say, trusteeship is voluntary.

Read more (from the BBC) about the value of becoming a trustee.

Projects we already run

We already run a number of small projects. The most prominent are:

There are a lot more Thanet Creative Writers projects if you would like to read about them.

What being a charity means to our current projects

If you enjoy coming to Thanet Creative Writers: Tea and Chat or other events that we run then I have some good news. The change to charity means no change at all for you in terms of the events themselves. Tea and chat will continue as it always has.

However, it does mean that there may be money available in the future to run bigger and better events. It also means that if there is a problem there will be appointed and recognised people operating inside a fair and impartial framework that you can go to who will take care of the problem and help you get back to doing what you love – writing.

It also means that if you want to create something new then there is a framework within which we will be happy to help you make that something. It should be safe to invest time or money into a project know that there are safeguards in place which will keep things on track.

Finally, it also means that no new project should overwhelm existing ones. Should TCW launch a website, conference, or even a festival, then your current meetings and groups will not be overrun with talk of projects that you might not be interested in right now.

In short, becoming a charity means doing things the right way from the start.

Projects and event we would like to set up

Our members have a lot of idea of things that they would like for us to be doing. We have spoken over the years of setting up a literary festival, of running writers’ social events, of setting up a weekly poetry event for new poets, and of running training and presentation evenings. In addition to that, we would like to produce an anthology publication to showcase the best work of those that come to our events.

If we cannot do all that we would, at least, like to inspire others to do some of these things.

While we are doing that we would also love to support the many different writer oriented events and groups that exist in Thanet. We would like to help others who have innovative ideas for new events and groups to realise those ideas.

Becoming a charity, with the funding that this would allow us to access and the yearly donations of our members should allow us to make some of these dreams a reality.

Booking Specialist Speakers

How awesome would it be if we could get top writers like Niel Gaiman, J. K. Rowling, or Steven King to come and speak to us budding writers for an hour or two?

Who do you think they would be more willing to come and talk to – some local writers’ group or a legitimate charity with the funds to cover their expenses?

Becoming more

When I founded Thanet Creative Writers my only thought was that it would be cool to hang out with other writers. Things have grown since then and this change to a charity is in many ways simply a natural part of that growth. Thanet Creative Writers long ago stopped being about me and became about us instead. We are writers and we want to help other writers.

Things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, youth, age, career (or lack thereof) should not be things that stand between you and enjoying writing. If we can help remove those barriers, then this is a good thing that we want to do.

If you would like to be part of establishing Thanet Creative Writers as a charity then please come along to our launch.

Thanet Creative Writers’ Charity Launch event