Why Your Charity’s Property Is So Vital to Southwark’s Voluntary Sector.

Why Your Charity’s Property Is So Vital to Southwark’s Voluntary Sector.
Antonia Swinson, CEO, Ethical Property Foundation

It has never been a more challenging time to run a voluntary organisation in London. 

We are being asked to do more and more for less and less, and against a backdrop of rising rents, evictions, soaring demand and a worryingly unsustainable disconnect between London’s have-nots and the have-yachts.

My organisation, the Ethical Property Foundation, is a registered charity, was set up in 2004 to provide free and expert property advice to small voluntary groups. We have since supported many Southwark organisations– from issues around leases and licences and   premises management problems to support in moving and disposing property and coping with developers.  We work on the front line between London’s hard pressed civil society and an increasingly fevered market economy. 

In recent years, we have concentrated on property education in order to build property knowledge and resilience to local groups, with practical workshops and advice clinics to support those who understand that how a building is managed, whether rented or owned, massively impacts on staff, volunteers and service users.

Underpinning all our work is research and for the first time, in 2018, we published a survey of London charities and their property needs funded by City Bridge Trust. The London Property Matters Survey came out last November and makes for interesting reading.

It revealed that: close to one third of those surveyed said that property was a barrier to delivering their charitable objectives, while 68% of London charities did not have a strategic property plan. Over half, 51%, said that no-one, with the appropriate experience was specifically responsible for property within their organisation (9% more than England & Wales) while 53% did not report regularly on property to trustees (44% for England & Wales.)   Over half London’s charities (51%) said they did not carry out regular risk assessments on their property a significant 10% difference compared to the 61% of charities in England & Wales and over one third of London charities (36%)  said they do not keep complete records of the property they own or rent.

This lack of attention to property is exacerbating an already challenging reality for our voluntary organisations.  Increasing numbers are now renting form commercial landlords as local authorities sell and develop their estate, and funders are increasingly reluctant to fund core costs.  There are also worrying indications that some London borough are asking charities to prove their social value with a view to establishing commercial rents with social value reductions: still a unbridgeable increase for local groups used to community rents. 

Never has London’s not for profits needed to be more wised up about bricks and mortar to survive and to deliver for their communities. Do contact the Ethical Property Foundation to see if we can help your organisation. We offer free online and tailored 1:1 advice plus free workshop training, as well as affordable consultancy services such as property health checks and trustee training, to assist charities with more complex needs.

The Ethical Property Foundation is delighted to be bringing a free workshop to Southwark on 3rd December and we look forward to seeing you soon. You can see more details about the workshop here. London deserves a vibrant and successful voluntary sector and as everyone knows, Southwark is the big and beating heart of our capital. 

Antonia Swinson is the CEO of Ethical Property Foundation. #epf4charities The London Charity Property Survey 2018 is available es a free download from the EPF website


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