For a long time, I have been wondering about making the Tree House officially a non-profit social enterprise business. We are a limited company, mainly because that was the easiest thing to do when I first set up the business. But after five years, I feel I have invested so much of myself in the whole venture that I am struggling with the idea of giving up overall control – that says a lot about me, I know! It is still a longer-term possibility, but for now I don’t feel ready to change the status.
The principle remains though: we operate as a non-profit. Any profit we make is ploughed back into the business and given to charity when we can – though we don’t technically make any profit, as I don’t yet earn a wage from running the place, and profit would begin after staff wages were considered. We are, however, getting there, and the phenomenal support of the local community continues in humbling ways: a long-time supporter has just set up a very generous monthly standing order, which will help us to put in place some ideas that should generate more income in the longer term. More on that in due course!
One initiative I am going to start from September is a more formal way of giving to charity, and making our non-profit aspirations more transparent. We will be supporting two charities each month – one national, one local – by a variety of means.
I will be installing a filter coffee machine, and coffee will be available on a donation basis. Half of what we get from these donations will go to our chosen charities. (You can have tea as well, just ask!)
Since we started our Tree House Sessions four years ago, we have charged an entry fee – intially £2, now £3, which includes a £2 book voucher and tea or coffee. From the next THS, on 1 September, we won’t have a charge; we will ask £1 for tea/coffee, and we will raffle a £10 Tree House book voucher each time.
Our book clubs and Nifty Needles will also be donation-based, and half of the donations going to the charities.
There will be other one-off events at times – coffee mornings, raffles, book promotions, etc.
September’s two charities have really been decided for us. We are joining in with the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, as we always do, this year on Friday 28 September, so Macmillan will be one of our charities; and Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance have a charity week earlier in September, so they will be our local charity.
So – do come and have a cup of coffee – bring your reusable cup if you want to take it away – and leave a donation. We’ll be using good coffee, you can drink while you browse, and the aroma should be fab!
I hope we will be able to be both more regular and more generous in our charitable giving, and people will see more clearly that their donated books are creating a place that has all sorts of benefits.