Sing Your Heart Out goes CIO!

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An award-winning group of music workshops has worked with Community Action Norfolk (CAN) to successfully register with the Charity Commission as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

Since 2004 Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) has been running singing workshops, led by professional voice coaches, to promote good mental health and wellbeing. Mental health service users, their friends, family, staff and carers are particularly welcome, along with anyone experiencing a challenge to their mental wellbeing or wanting to maintain good mental health through singing with others.

Many community groups experience problems with their legal status and organisation, often arising from their successes. SYHO comprised five separately constituted groups based in Attleborough, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, Norwich and Sheringham.  Income levels also meant they needed to formally register with the Charity Commission.  To support them through the process they approached CAN, whose advice provided SYHO with a clear action plan to begin the process of applying to become a CIO.

CAN’s Engagement Officer, Clare, said: ‘The CIO application process can be a herculean task but was made easier by SYHO’s well-organised and presented documentation and evidence.’ 

CAN will continue to support SYHO as needed. ‘We don’t abandon groups once an initial objective has been reached” added Clare. “As well as helping SYHO run safely, legally and efficiently, CIO status will help in applying for any future funding available.’

Julia Rumsby, Chair, said ‘The advice and support from CAN, including streamlining our finances and replacing our 5 committees with a Board of Trustees, was invaluable. It was reassuring to know that what we were doing was the right way forward. After much extensive discussion and planning we were able to submit our application. Clare was a good listener!’

‘In the light of information from other organisations, and from the Charity Commission itself, we expected to be waiting several weeks before hearing anything further. The application was submitted on the Friday before the August Bank Holiday but on the following Tuesday morning we received notification of success, and a Registered Charity Number! So our registration was approved almost overnight.’ said Julia.

SYHO were able to clearly present their aims, outcomes and objectives to the Charity Commission. They are not a performance-focussed choir; rather the SYHO sessions are about the more immediate benefits to those who come along to the workshops. As Julia says ‘Everyone is smiling at the end of a workshop, and in a better place than when they arrived.  Each year we hold a ‘Big Sing’ which brings together singers from all the groups and all the voice coaches. It’s a wonderful day where we celebrate being part of SYHO.”

The group’s provenance is well-founded, having been endorsed in a research project proving the benefits of their work. In 2017 Professor Tom Shakespeare of the University of East Anglia’s Medical School reported that a study of 20 members of the group over six months found singing and mixing socially had helped those who had serious mental health issues to function better in day-to-day life.

Each of the venues delivers 30 workshops each year, to a total of around 150 singers each week. SYHO receives no mainstream funding and doesn’t charge for its workshops. They rely on grants and donations, and on the time and goodwill of many committed volunteers, to help ensure that SYHO can continue to offer this valuable service to as many people as possible.