Charity Visits Scheme

The Charity Visits Scheme is open to all Members and Apprentices of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. If you would like to be involved, simply e-mail charities@merchant-taylors.co.uk saying that you want to join the Scheme. That’s it!

 

How the Scheme works

The Company has its own charitable grant-making trust called Merchant Taylors’ Consolidated Charities for the Infirm (‘MTCCI’) (regd. no. 214266). MTCCI receives unsolicited applications from other charities to fund their work, typically involving people with health problems, isolated elderly people, or young people from very troubled backgrounds. Every year, MTCCI provides several hundred thousand pounds’ of funding to the best applicants. It’s like the Big Lottery Fund, but on a smaller scale and with the money coming from investments rather than donations by the general public.

 

MTCCI receives many funding applications per year, more than it can possibly fund. The applications are sifted and a shortlist is drawn up for the MT Charities Committee to consider. This happens about four times a year.

 

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Due Diligence Visits

The MT Charities Officer can do a certain amount of due diligence on the shortlisted applications based on online sources, eg the applicant charity’s most recent annual accounts filed at the Charities Commission. However, there is only so much information one can extract from those sources. It is therefore reasonably common that the MT Charities Committee will decide there are outstanding questions about the background which can only be resolved by visiting the charity and having a frank conversation with its senior management.

 

The MT Charities Officer is tasked with conducting the visits, or sometimes a member of the Charities Committee comes with/instead of him. However, their time is already stretched very thin, and with an appropriate briefing on what to cover many visits could be carried out by a Company Member or Apprentice who belongs to the Charity Visits Scheme. It is also a great way for that person to get a first-hand insight into the tremendous impact which MTCCI’s grant-funding has. In relatively straightforward cases the Member or Apprentice would be welcome to go on their own, but would always have the offer of being accompanied by the MT Charities Officer or a Committee member. In less straightforward cases, they would always be accompanied in this way.

 

What is the time commitment?

Charity Visits Scheme members are asked to commit to giving a minimum of 6 hours per year  to conduct one Due Diligence Visit.

The 6 hours breaks down as follows.

 

2 hours to read a briefing from the MT Charities Officer to prepare you for the visit. This comprises:

  • general guidance about how small charities work, Do’s and Don’ts about how to behave when you are conducting the visit, what you can reasonably expect from the average small charity in terms of professionalism and financial awareness, common symptoms of a well-run or poorly-run charity, and links to helpful online guidance from the Charity Commission
  • a specific brief on the charity you are visiting, including what specific issues to raise with them and why the Charities Committee is interested in those particular issues.

You would of course be welcome to call the MT Charities Officer at any time to check any queries about the briefing.

4 hours to conduct the visit, including:

  • Travel time to and from the charity (which is likely to be in Inner London)
  • Time at the charity
  • Writing a very short report of the answers to the specific points which you have been asked to investigate, using a template provided in your briefing. This report will be considered by the Charities Committee to help them make their decision.

 

 

‘Getting to know you’ visits

Sometimes the Company becomes aware of charities which for some reason have not applied to MTCCI  for funds, but which at first glance sound like ideal candidates. If we are keen to know more about them, we use Charity Visits Scheme volunteers to visit them and talk to staff, reporting back to the Charities Committee. Again you would be provided with a full written brief.

 

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‘What happened next?’ visits

We also use Charity Visits Scheme volunteers to visit charities to whom MTCCI gave a relatively large grant in the last 5 years, but which haven’t re-applied for funding. This profile raises the question whether the project they asked us to fund has flourished or withered, and why. We send volunteers to investigate for us and report back, as usual armed with a detailed brief.

This helps us identify charities which perform well over the longer term.

 

How will I know when my visit will take place?

Don’t worry, the visit will take place on a date to suit you.

When there is a fresh round of visits to be conducted, the MT Charities Officer will contact everyone in the Charity Visits Scheme to ask about their availability. (If you have already done a visit that year, you shouldn’t feel under any pressure to volunteer again in the same year although of course you would be very welcome if you would like to.)

Based on the responses, the Company will help you arrange a mutually convenient visit date with a charity.

Realistically, all visits have to take place during the working day because that is when the applicant charity’s staff and trustees will be available and the charity’s activities will be happening. However, your visit will be benefitting not one charity but two – MTCCI, and the charity which has applied for funding – so it should definitely qualify for any CSR policy your employer has on letting employees take a certain number of hours off to do charitable things. The MT Charities Officer can provide an official explanation to your employer from MTCCI’s trustees on headed paper, to help you arrange time off.

However, if a Charity Visits Scheme member has an employer who simply won’t give them time off for CSR purposes, we would ask them to be prepared to use a half day’s annual leave to conduct the visit.

 

Thank you for your contribution

Understandably, many City employers are persuaded to do CSR work with charities with sophisticated fundraising capabilities, precisely because those charities already have the resources to put their case very well. If you become involved in the Merchant Taylors’ Charity Visits Scheme, you can take pride in helping smaller charities who do just as fantastic work on the City’s doorstep, but  don’t have a big fundraising budget.

 

What else does the Company do for charity?

You can see an overview of all of the Company’s charitable activities at: http://www.merchant-taylors.co.uk/charities/