Rosamund McCarthy: A new charity is like a new love - it burns with hope but needs support

Helping the founders of charities to establish their fledging entities can be a happy task, says our columnist

Rosamund McCarthy
Rosamund McCarthy

I am writing this in the aftermath of the royal wedding. By the time you read this the media blitz might have subsided. I took myself off for the day of the wedding, thus avoiding the service and the now famous kiss on the balcony. However, I am a hopeless romantic, so this didn't stop me overdosing on the TV highlights and musing on the nature of love and marriage.

As far-fetched as it might sound, I often find the founders of new charities exhibit the traits of those who have just fallen in love. The new charity is the bridegroom; the founder the bride. The founders are often in a state of grace, believing anything is possible. I have often thought that something will never work, or sounds crazy or hopelessly naive - and then miracles happen. It makes the heart leap.

I love passing couples on the street who have recently fallen in love, when in the words of the American poet CK Williams "they're at that stage where so much desire streams between them, so much frank need and want". It gives a joy and edge to the day to witness couples who can't be torn apart.

Similarly, helping the founders of charities to establish their fledging entities is a happy task: the meeting room crackles with the founders' desires and excitement, their idealism, campaigning zeal or the catharsis of converting their pain or loss into something positive. No one ever set up a charity out of envy, spite or revenge. Even if they are angry at the injustices of the world, that anger is a fire that burns for justice - that believes in justice.

If the founder is in a state of grace, the motivation is not to be a leader, or to prove something, nor to create his or her project. No, at the root of the charity is a wonderment and a thanksgiving - a trust that together we can build a better world. It is this trust that opens doors, makes connections and fuels the most momentous energy for take-off.

Of course, this is when the hard work starts. The launch can seem so effortless, yet the problems arise when the new charity is in orbit and become stuck in the same circuit. This is why it is so important that the vows of establishment are made to a wider audience than the Charity Commission. The founder needs to gently let go, so that the trustees as a whole can discern together and share the responsibilities.

Failure to do this is when pride and ego kick in. Suddenly, an unconscious act of creation becomes a conscious source of pride. Support from a wider audience is crucial. At a Quaker wedding, every person present signs a declaration to support the couple, and this then hangs above the marriage bed. It reminds the couple that the wider community is there to uphold them. In the same way, new charities require special care from a larger group of people. We invest our hopes and dreams in both a wedding and a new charity. Mazel tov.

Rosamund McCarthy writes in a personal capacity.

Rosamund McCarthy is a partner in law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite

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