Dereham Men's Shed - the road to becoming a charity

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There are definite benefits to registering as a charity, not least of which is credibility when applying to potential funders. Making your case to the Charity Commission needs to be done in an organised and planned way. 

Priority needs 

Dereham Men’s Shed was set up three years ago - and now has five priority needs:  

  • Suitable premises for use as a workshop, along with a separate area suitable for meetings and presentations for around 30 people 
  • Financial support 
  • Tools and equipment 
  • Materials and fixings 
  • Safety Equipment (Personal Protective Equipment) 


The trustees recognised the value of becoming a charity in respect of finding long term premises – and that’s where CAN’s advice and support came in.  

“Dereham Baptist Church has been exceptionally supportive” says Kevin Green, Men’s Shed secretary. “We meet there every Wednesday afternoon and they don’t even charge us a hire fee! We’re hugely grateful to the church, but we can’t leave our equipment set up there, for safety reasons.  

For the same reason we can’t make artefacts, objects and structures there. We need somewhere where we can leave lathes, static pillar drills, bench mounted tools and the like set up for use whenever our members come in. So we need funding to help find premises.”  

A benefactor offered a site a few miles outside Shipdham, but a building within the town would be preferable and more convenient for the members, some of whom need to be able to walk in rather than drive.  

Registering as a charity  

“We received some monies from Dereham Town Council and Roy’s of Dereham to help us set up, but we need to explore additional funding possibilities. We are mindful of the issues of loneliness and social isolation prevalent in the community; therefore, by gaining charity status we hope to be able to provide something positive for our group of men within Dereham and its surrounding villages.” explains Kevin.  

“We had downloaded the requisite forms from the Charity Commission and. They were complex, and we recognised that our responses would need to fully address the questions being posed by the Charity Commission. We were put in touch with CAN by Liza Diaper, development worker at Norfolk County Council, based on CAN’s expertise and experience in helping groups find funding and achieve charitable status.  

Following an initial meeting with Tonya Winsley, development officer from CAN, two of our trustees sat down with her and she helped us re-word our application ensuring we considered all aspects of what our Men’s Shed. It was evident that the trustees should also consider reviewing our constitution document to ensure it reflected our organisation more precisely; all the trustees reviewed and signed off the revised document. This, and Covid, meant the application process was delayed a little – we planned to submit the application by May this year, however we finally managed to submit it in September. Then we waited – but not for long. Just one minor amendment came back from the Commission, and that was more about grammar rather than detail of content! Our stated aims were clear and, within a week of responding to their suggested amendment, much sooner than expected, we got our charity registration – it almost caught us unawares!”  

The trustees now feel they have real credibility when it comes to being accepted by potential funders. Not yet familiar with where to look for funding however, advice from CAN will help direct their efforts toward the right sources.   

Reaching out  

New members are coming through – part of the appeal of the Men’s Shed is that it helps tackle social isolation and loneliness and, as Kevin explained “Most guys are retired, some bereaved, and all are looking for a shared sense of purpose and belonging.”  

Three recent enquiries via the website have mentioned specifically they are ‘lonely’, reflecting the need of common purpose and companionship. Once we get established in our own premises we can really help make an impact to our members and to the community by making items and artefacts that people want and will buy, helping us raise funds through our own activities.”  

Read more about Dereham Men’s Shed – and find out how you can help and support them - here.

More information

If you or your organisation would like advice and guidance on registering as a charity, contact our Community Development Team on 01362 698216 or email office@communityactionnorfolk.org.uk  Read more about the pros and cons of becoming a charity here.   

This is part of a series of examples of the huge contribution made by local VCSE organisations and groups during, and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To understand more about the pivotal role played by Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise organisations in Norfolk’s Covid-19 response effort please read our Norfolk VCSE Covid-19 Story page