Three years ago I set The MSE Charity up, and to my delight it’s become organisationally self-sufficient, so I can step down from being a trustee and have been asked to become the patron. For those who don’t know, the MSE charity gives grants to other charities and individuals to help promote financial education and is really gathering a head of steam….
It’s a great source of pride for me that the site has set up and funded The MSE charity. It’s helped scores of individuals doing the Open University personal finance course and working with Mind, Citizens Advice and lots of small charities with financial education projects.
It’s all about the GAP
One of my concerns when setting the charity up was that I didn’t want to be involved in the ‘who gets what’ decisions. It’s not good for me, or for the charity, to be personally involved in turning people down for money. So while of course as trustees we have overarching responsibility for ensuring things are done properly, we set up the independent GAP panel (Grant Application Panel) from site users with relevant experience, to sift the applications and recommend who should get the cash (within the charity goals).
Since then the GAP has grown and developed into a formidable body, that has a real expertise on the issues and is able to provide wonderful guidance and insight into the process. We’ve been blown away by the quality of people who sit on GAP, many serious charity and financial inclusion specialists, so much so we’ve invited some to become trustees too.
The whole operation is now quite an efficient machine, as such, having been chair of trustees since it launched, I have now decided it is time for me to take more of a back seat – though the rest of the trustees have asked me to become a patron, to champion the organisation, which I’m more than happy to do.
What has The MSE Charity done?
There’ve been scores of grants and many amazing projects. The focus is on sub-£5,000 grants to smaller organisations (including local offshoots of bigger charities). Let me give you just an example.
A grant of £4,985 was given to the Exeter Community Housing Aid, which successfully helped them deliver the Smart Money skills project for financial literacy education to homeless people (and others under threat of losing their home). The aim was to teach them about managing money, bank accounts, avoiding debt and budgeting. The great news is this service is still expanding, a youth version targeting 16-25 year olds has been set up too.
Many similar grants for groups with mental health issues, those struggling to understand finance, or just people wanting to get a better grip on their cash have been enabled around the UK.
How much has been donated?
The charity was first registered on 19 October 2007
Since then the charity has received un-ringfenced (see P.S.) donations of £403,000, virtually all from the MoneySavingExpert.com Charity Fund. So far £234,000 (c. £20,000 to individuals for courses, the rest to charities) has been paid out in grants and £171,000 in reserves. The aim is to donate about £130,000 this year, so that sum is along the lines of our reserves policy.
Very little of the money donated goes towards the cost of running the charity (see the P.S.), a tiny amount compared to most charities, something else we’re proud of. In fact over 90% of the unrestricted cash goes in donations (excluding reserves which will be donated at this ratio in future).
Now just to clear up a little name similarity confusion here. There are two very separate and distinct organs at play here:
- The MoneySavingExpert.com Charity Fund. This is what we call this site’s fund given to all charities; two thirds goes to The MSE Charity, and one third to five selected other big UK charities. See full: MoneySavingExpert Charity Fund info.
- The MSE Charity. This is a completely separate entity to the website. The MSE Charity (Charity Registration Number 1121320) proveds grants to other charities and individuals for consumer and debt education. See full: The MSE Charity for info (though the website’s due a total revamp in the new year).
I hope this little update helps.
P.S. One final note. My Dad is the charity’s operations manager, he’s got experience with this work and is someone I of course trust. This role requires a lot of work doing all the admin, supporting applicants, and the GAP panel, and he is paid to do so.
Yet his salary doesn’t come from any public donations or the money given by the site, he is (and has been since the beginning) paid from a separate ringfenced donation that I make as an individual to fund the cost of staffing. To avoid any confusion, this means if we say the site gives £100,000 to the MSE charity, then not a penny goes to the operations manager. The vast majority of it (barring a few small admin costs) goes to grants. For more see the accounts on the charity commission website.
Sadly a few people in the past seem to have written it’s the other way round, which isn’t nice as some even seem like they’ve deliberately set out to confuse others. So I thought I’d clear it up as I’m writing about the charity.