How to get started
The intention has always been that any groups who want to set up, work entirely autonomously. It’s the only way it can work in reality. It keeps each area tightly held and more efficiently organized and funding isn’t stretched by trying to cover too much ground.
We initially started by providing artwork which carried our generic theme, because we all believed its familiarity lent credibility and an aspect of trust to the initiative. However, as we’ve progressed, it’s been good to see different groups carry their own identity. Trust hasn’t been damaged – far from it – Back to School Banks across the whole country (and Northern Ireland!) have grown into individually respected and recognised organisations.
We’re not all registered as a charity. Only one bank, West Lothian, has decided to do this and it was always their intention. So that’s completely up to each individual group. You don’t need disclosure, or anything like it because everyone we help is referred to us by a third party. We will never know the identity of who we’ve distributed uniforms to. That’s important from both our point of view and to maintain the dignity and the privacy of the recipient. When you set up a group, one thing is certain … you can’t do this on your own. But it does only take 3 or 4 people to pull a group together and it’s a fair share of responsibility. It’s advisable to write a constitution relating to your group and its aims. It’s a safeguard if nothing else but it also opens doors to funding and grants that’s not available to those with a properly set up and constituted group. So, if you’re worried about the vagaries of setting up a charity, there’s no need to go down that road if it’s not for you. If you would prefer your group to run as a charity, there’s lots of information and help available … especially from West Lothian!!.
There is no-one in charge of the Back to School Bank as an organisation. Once you’ve decided to set-up, it’s all yours! The idea of course, is, that as we progress along, we help each other by sharing info and ideas and funding streams. We may even help out with swap stock from time to time but all the while, each group remains autonomous and self-supporting.
There is so much potential for us all to help so many families and each group needs the freedom to do it in their own way. The Back to School Bank has taken off at a rate of knots but we still need literally hundreds of groups in all areas of the country, whether here in Scotland where it all began, or further afield, across the whole of the UK.
Below is a simple (sort of!) breakdown, of the best way to get yourself going. Hopefully it runs this smoothly but I think we all know well enough what happens when you make plans …
1. Get a group together. People who are like-minded and who you know will work well with you as a team and with minimum supervision. Decide between you who does what, and where the areas of responsibilities lie. The idea is that you lean on each other, support each other, learn from each other and please don’t get bogged down in officialdom. It’s such a waste of energy. All that matters is that we pull together and collect enough donations to distribute to everyone and anyone who needs it most. That takes teamwork, not hierarchical jostling.
2. Start small and grow. Don’t take on so much that it overwhelms you.
3. Start fundraising. Pick people’s brains (and our Facebook page should be the ideal place for that). Set up an event to get you started and then try to get a steady stream of donations orchestrated. This can come from each of the team, passing on the requests to their own families and friends and connections; a chain reaction will form because of that. You need a good supply of donations before you can be depended on to supply any requests for help. Even if you only help one family, it’s better than that family getting no help whatsoever. Crowdfunders have worked well, as have PayPal accounts where contributors can donate directly. Local churches will often want to do something to help the local community and experience shows that to be an ideal collaboration. Local supermarkets may set up a trolley for uniform donations or allow you access to their Green Token scheme, if they have one. Supermarket bag-packing generally needs to be organised in advance and written requests are usually submitted to get approval and agreement from the store but it works very well. These are just a few ideas to get you started but there is so much more.
4. Identify where your referrals will come from i.e. local school(s), Women’s Aid, Citizens Advice, Social Work Depts., third sector organisations. Make contact with them and you’ll find out where you’re needed most.
5. Keep good records of donations, receipts, distributions and stock-holding. Sounds obvious but it really is key to the smooth running of the initiative.
What we’re doing here is probably, along with Food Banks, the saddest thing on earth. That said, the need to stay focused and up-beat is paramount. We’re the positive and encouraging force out there and it is infectious.
This website is our platform for anyone out there who is looking for and needs our help. It’s also for sharing … ideas, dos and don’ts, helpful tips, success stories, a swap shop, list of Back to School Bank groups and location and contact details, links to government schemes such as uniform grants and what’s available. … the list goes on but it will be an ideal base for us to work within.
The five points above are a simple basis for starting your own group. If you recognise that there’s something missing from the above, or you have some good ideas, please add to it.