A director’s perspective: Making the most of opportunities

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Alice Charity wasn’t planning to buy a property but came across an opportunity that was too good to miss. Emily Petts, Family Support Director and Co-Founder, tells us more.

Why did you need to buy a property?

Our lease was coming to an end. We’d outgrown the property and there was no wheelchair access. So, it was time to find somewhere else. When a former church, Ebenezer House, came up for sale, my mum, who’s our CEO, suggested we go and have a look. To be honest, we weren’t planning to buy anywhere yet, but we absolutely fell in love. The building has so much potential.

We're quite spontaneous at Alice. We didn't even know if we could get a loan at this point, but we put in an offer. We knew that developers would be interested in the property and that they’d have more money than us. So, we explained that we're a small charity and weren’t interested in a bidding war; ours was a one-time only offer. Within the week, our offer had been accepted.

Was the purchase affected by COVID?

Well, if it hadn’t been for COVID, we couldn’t have bought the property. The pandemic gave us a pot of unrestricted funds and we decided to invest that money in our future.

The surveys and other aspects were hugely delayed because of COVID; it took us seven months to complete. But Charity Bank was brilliant. Emails pinged backwards and forwards and we did a lot over Zoom, which meant we could see the faces of the people who were supporting us and ask questions.

How did you find the loan process?

We had a massive amount of support from the people at Charity Bank. It was all new to us, but they made us feel comfortable. If we had a question, they never made us feel daft for asking. It was lovely to see how excited they were for us. They were really engaged, really interested. We never felt like just a business proposition.

It can be scary getting a loan, so you want that personal connection. And that's exactly what we got. I’d definitely recommend Charity Bank.

Emily Petts, Family Support Director and Co-Founder, Alice Charity

How do the loan repayments compare to your old rent?

They’re about £200 a month more, but we have double the space and it’s our own property. We didn’t want to rent forever because rent is dead money.

Could you have bought the property without a loan?

We couldn’t have bought our property without a loan. Charity Bank made our dream come true.

We are hoping to get some grants now that we’re in the property. We’ve had two meetings with the Lottery Community Fund. The property needs a lot of work – new windows, new doors, decorating, plumbing etc – a good bit of love.

What’s next for Alice Charity?

We’ve recently linked up with a specialist college for young adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. We’re hoping to set up a community café together in the new building so that these young adults can have a job and a purpose. We also want to open another toddler group when the café is finished.

There’s so much possibility in this building. And without Charity Bank, we wouldn't have this wonderful opportunity of being able to generate income ourselves. With the way the world is going, that’s a brilliant place for us to be heading.

A question we get asked a lot is, ‘Do you love what you do?’ And, of course, we do love it. You don't do charity work for the money, that's for sure! But would we love to be able to close the door because not one person is in poverty? Yes, we would. The reason we have to grow is to keep up with demand that is increasing in volume and complexity.

We’re hoping to open another People’s Pantry in Stoke. When a family has no food, and is going through a major crisis, they don't want to wait 48 hours for somebody to phone them back. They need food now, and we're quite good at doing that.

You mentioned generating your own income. Can you tell us more about that?

Eventually, we want to refurbish our ballroom so that we can host weddings and other events. That will generate an income stream for us. We can afford to run the building without it bringing in money, but hopefully it’ll eventually pay for itself.

You can read more about Alice Charity in our case study.

Charity Bank has supported numerous charities and social enterprises wanting to purchase a building. If you need finance for your organisation, please call us on 01732 441919.

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,100 loans totalling over £350m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.