Picture credit: Margin Expert
Money, fundraising and ROI are among the main concerns for anyone running a non-profit or charity. Thus, we compiled this guide as a compendium of top-notch pro bono and free resources for third sector organisations.
For each site recommended, we researched it thoroughly to ensure that it is the or one of the best-in-class resources or suppliers for its category. The categories covered are free legal and professional advice, free office space, third sector networking, knowledge bases and information hubs (including impact measurement resources), free software and IT services and free items to reuse or resell.
We believe this listing is very helpful for all non-profits but especially smaller organisations whose networks and resources are less developed. (Note that, for the purposes of this article, the terms “charity, non-profit and third sector” are used interchangeably.)
Pro Bono Legal Services & Free Professional Consulting Services
Trust Law Pro Bono Legal Support http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/
Founded in 2010, this non-profit, the largest international legal aid network of its kind in the world funded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, connects non-profits with thousands of lawyers (over 120k) seeking to do pro bono work. The average time for obtaining legal counsel is one month and 95% of requests are matched to counsel. NOTE: this service is not for assisting your non-profit with business advice, e.g., which jurisdiction to register within, even though general commercial legal matters fall within the scope of services offered. Their excellent FAQs page explains the exact process.
The BeyondMe platform matches charities and non-profits to company volunteering teams. Corporations participating in the program include Expedia, Deloitte, KPMG, Barclays and PWC. Individual teams are eight business professionals and 143 teams have been created since the program’s inception in 2011. To begin, you must create an account and fill out a short application, then post a project explaining your needs and expectations. Once your project has been chosen by a team, they dedicate their time, money and skills to your organisation for one year. On average, teams donate £2,500 and 150 skilled volunteer hours during the year they assist a charity. Since the project’s inception, BeyondMe has donated more than £564,000 and assisted 84 charities. The basic numbers stated on their website (number of teams available to assist versus actual current projects) show that this platform and service are significantly underutilised by the third sector so far, despite the blue-chip calibre of its volunteers!
The Worshipful Company of Management Consultants (WCoMC) http://www.wcomc.org/charities
Founded in 1999, WCoMC is a London-based livery company for management consultants with a pro bono program giving non-profits and qualifying charities in London and the Southeast consulting and mentoring advice. With a team of roughly 200 senior management consultants from top firms, areas of expertise include strategic business planning, project management, finance and purchasing. After charities complete a short online application within the website, WCoMC members select a charity to work with. This matching process generally takes anywhere from two to six weeks. When we called the organisation for more information, we were assured emphatically that any charity or non-profit that meets the WCoMC guidelines will be granted pro bono assistance.
Reach Volunteering https://reachskills.org.uk/charities-non-profits/find-skilled-volunteer
Reach Volunteering is an organisation which connects UK-based non-profits with skilled volunteers. Charities with an annual turnover of less than £1M can access their platform free in order to source volunteers from among 7,000 professionals specialising in fields including IT, finance, marketing and communications and the law. To use the platform, create an account and post a “volunteer opportunity”. Once a volunteer responds, you can communicate with them directly. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on location, time commitment to platform and the hours of volunteer work needed.
Free (and Substantially Discounted) Office Space
3Space is a charity offering free and substantially discounted office space (typically awaiting development approvals) across the UK to non-profits. The available stock is dependent on developers’ excess capacity at any given time and, therefore, changes, so you must apply and state your mission. Typical rental periods are between 6–18 months and you may have to move out quickly.
CAN Mezzanine https://can-mezzanine.org.uk/office-desk-space
This charity offers substantial discounts for hot desks, shared office space and meeting rooms in one of five locations in London. Use their online calculators to compute the rent for any given space right there and then without applying first. There’s also live chat assistance. At the time of writing, the daily rate for a single hot desk was £20/day but you can also book meeting rooms, multiple desks (at a monthly rate) and establish a virtual office address at any of their locations. This is a paid service but very flexible, tech-forward and inexpensive.
Business Development and Sourcing Corporate Partners/Sponsors
ThirdBridge provides an online matchmaking platform for charities to meet corporations seeking to donate skills, resources, and knowledge. Charities post their specific needs including anything from help with donations, fundraising and sponsorship to cause-related marketing, gifts in kind and skilled volunteering. Charities, once vetted (usually by telephone within one business day), use the platform free. Corporate members include O2, Sky and Accenture among other household names.
Knowledge Bases and Resource Hubs
The grand-daddy of voluntary organisations in the UK with 13,000 member organisations representing ⅓ of the country’s voluntary workforce, we would be surprised if you weren’t already aware of this organisation which provides support, advice and consulting to members. Membership is not free unless your organisation’s turnover is less than £30k per year but you can still access a lot of content authored by guest bloggers on their knowledge base, Knowhow Nonprofit.
Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) http://www.thefsi.org/services/
The FSI is an online information hub which supports small charities with a turnover of less than £1M by offering e-learning, conferences, webinars, seminars and training courses. The topic areas covered by FSI encompass 360° of managing a charity, from IT to fundraising, governance, GDPR and impact measurement. You have to pay a small fee to participate in face-to-face learning and online courses, but they also offer free webinars and resources online.
Inspiring Impact http://inspiringimpact.org/
Inspiring Impact helps charities understand impact measurement in a two-step process. The first step is assessment of your organisation’s impact measurement process, entailing completion of an online self-diagnostic questionnaire called “Measuring Up!” which poses questions like, “Do you use evidence to understand your work?” and “Do you describe the positive outcomes you want to achieve for your beneficiaries?” (Those questions were taken from the questionnaire for organisations with turnover of less than £100k/year. There is also a self-diagnostic for larger organisations, whose impact measurement is more advanced.) Upon completing the test, Measuring Up! “grades” your impact assessment practice, highlighting areas for improvement. At that point, you can access the site’s Resource Hub to address whatever particular deficiencies have been flagged by Measuring Up! Note that their resource hub does have free tools for impact measurement (as opposed to determining whether you’re doing a good job of measuring your impact) and guidance about how to set up an impact measurement system suitable for your organisation.
Free Software & IT Support
LibreOffice is a popular, free software suite with function and user interface substantially identical to Microsoft Office and compatible with it, for MacOS, Windows, and Linux, among other operating systems. It includes programs for word processing, spreadsheets and calculations, presentations, vector graphics, charts, databases, and formula editing. Vetted by TechRadar and ZDnet, the software is updated regularly to remain compatible with Windows Office and is available for direct download from the LibreOffice website.
Charity IT Association (CITA) https://charityithelp.org.uk/
Established in 2016, CITA is an easy-to-use platform which matches charities with turnover of less than £5M to IT professionals seeking to donate their time and expertise to the third sector. Typical projects mentioned on their website include building a new website, migrating to a new software system and setting up a database.
Free Items to Reuse or Resell
The Freecycle Network https://www.freecycle.org/
With 9 million members, divided into local sub-communities, Freecycle is the biggest consumer-to-consumer marketplace of free items in the world. Members can list items they’re seeking or wish to donate. Donors and seekers communicate directly to coordinate pickup and collection. Since this is a consumer network, items on Freecycle range from cat toys to computers. For charities, this is a great forum for sourcing domestic items.
Globechain is the UK’s biggest B2B reuse platform giving charities, non-profits and social enterprises access to thousands of free items donated by charities like Nando’s, NHS and Radisson among many others. Donation categories include office equipment, retail displays, fixtures, and fittings, medical equipment, construction materials and domestic items. To reserve an item, you must create an account, then make a request for an item via the website. The system then puts you in touch with the donating company so you can work out details of pickup and collection. You can also create a custom alert for any item that you may be looking for — a very useful tool, as items can be requested quickly. This site is great for bulk quantities of professional, technical items used in a business or institutional setting, for example, “twenty conference tables”, “15 wheelchairs”.