A note: This post became quite a bit more technical than I thought it would. The initial goal with this post was to detail the ideas behind setting up the foundation and also for its future. At the same time, I feel it’s important to share all the other relevant details (if those are of interest).
The idea for this foundation came about quite a few years ago. My thought process boiled down to:
- Approaches that had been helpful in my own journey, I wanted to share with others.
- I wanted to make all this available for free (as much as possible).
Now, when speaking with people about this, I’ve found the “giving away for free” approach seems to generate quite strong opinions. These have generally included:
- How on earth are you going to do that?
- Why would you do that?
- People don’t value something if it’s free.
I understand those points of view, but one of the central ideas of this foundation is the free aspect, and that will always be central to how we do things.
Free vs Paid
In particular, it had bothered me for a long-time that many publications, services and events that were meant to help people, were priced at a level that didn’t seem particularly helpful. The “for profit” aspect seemed to greatly overshadow the “helping people” aspect.
And with higher pricing, often comes aggressive (even misleading) marketing and sales tactics. Which again, I consider particularly unhelpful (even dishonest in some cases).
Of course I understand people need to make a living, but when one business might be charging thousands for a retreat, and another only asks that you pay the cost of accomodation (or nothing at all if you arrange your own), perhaps one of those is overcharging.
Now, I’m certainly not telling people how to run their business, what influences that is the market and the law. Neither of which I have any impact on. But over the years as I repeatedly came across such approaches it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I strongly felt it was counter-productive to the goal of helping people.
With all that in mind, I chose to take a completely different approach, and (very slowly) this foundation was born.
As a side note: I feel there’s a lot to be said for offering a “sliding scale”. For example, one meditation teacher in London I visited for a number of years has his standard rate for one to one sessions at £50 an hour. That’s quite standard.
But if you can’t afford that, you certainly aren’t turned away, and you aren’t lower priority when it comes to booking a place. His sliding scale goes all the way down to £10 for the hour, or even zero, depending on your personal circumstances. Despite that, he still makes a great living.
And Findhorn Foundation offers three price points for everything they offer, depending on your personal circumstances. And they also offer financial support / burseries in certain circumstances.
How a Free Foundation is Funded
I believe it was either 2013 or 2014, the idea appeared of a non-profit that is entirely self-funded by owning a profitable trading company. The trading company doesn’t necessarily need to have anything to do with the non-profit at all. It it simply donates a percentage of its profits on an ongoing basis. In other words, the better the trading company does, the more the non-profit can achieve.
And the more I researched this, the more I found such a structure isn’t particularly unusual at all. There’s many foundations that are entirely self-funded through ownership of investments. Wherever the money for those investments may have come from initially, any assets the foundation now owns (businesses, property, land…etc.) are entirely its own. And the goal of those assets is to support the long-term well-being of the foundation. (Here’s a list of some of the wealthiest charitable foundations around the world.)
The trading company owned by this foundation is ForwardView Media, which offers web/software training and consulting, as well as (ideally) publishing its own software in time.
The reason for choosing that particular business is I come from a technical background which makes it easier for me to offer a meaningful contribution to the business on an ongoing basis.
Many charities here in the UK have trading subsiduaries, but they’re typically directly related to the work of the charity. For example, Age UK receives around half of its income through its hundreds of charity shops.
Full details are available at the Charity Commission. Here’s a snapshot from 2019. Note that half of its income comes from trading activities:
And at Age UK, each shop needs to turn a profit, otherwise it isn’t kept open. Profits the shops generate are then donated to the charity so it can work towards its stated mission.
Interestingly, charity shops in the UK didn’t used to have to pay rent, but now that isn’t the case, so they need to (at least) cover their costs. Of course, charity shops do have the benefit of receiving stock for free, and getting a lot of extra help at no cost in the form of volunteers.
Donations, Volunteers, and Contributions
With all that in mind, it was also particularly important to me that this foundation doesn’t take donations. Yes, perhaps I like a challenge, but not following through on the original vision would have been ignoring the values and approaches that I feel are central to this foundation.
That said, in time, ideally this foundation will grow to involve many more people. As they’ll be work to do on an ongoing basis, and I have a limited amount of time available. So help with tasks will allow this foundation to achieve more. So I’m more than open to the idea of volunteers.
And it would be great to have many people contributing content in time, including writing, audio, video. Also leading events. I’ve always pictured this foundation as so much more than me, as by myself I can achieve very little. I’m starting a tiny little ball rolling, but ideally in time it will become a tremendous boulder!
The Legal Structure
So from the idea starting life in my mind in perhaps in 2013, it took a number of years until it started to become more tangible. In 2016, I set the foundation up as a company limited by guarantee. That means it is its own legal entity, but has no share holders. It’s self-owned, in other words.
Then, to use the word “Foundation” in the name, I had to ensure there were a number of clauses in the Articles of Association (the constitution of the legal entity, effectively). But nothing really happened with the foundation for a few years, and I mostly focused on attempting to grow the trading business. That said, nothing impressive nor particularly interesting occurred with the trading business during those years.
And, the arrangement didn’t feel quite right. It needed to be more non-profit focused, not just as a stated aim, but also from a legal perspective. So I researched the viability of turning the foundation into a registered charity (and that remains the longer-term goal), but for now it would have complicated many things hugely (and slowed things down even further) as charities are incredibly highly regulated. The ability to pay no tax isn’t just handed out left and right!
But, as has happened a number of times in my life, a Google search has changed the direction of things quite considerably. Because I had no idea there was such a thing as a Community Interest Company as it’s not widely publicised (even though there are 10,000+ of them in the UK).
Simply put, a Community Interest Company is company with a community focus (sometimes referred to as a Social Enterprise). It can generate income (or own businesses / assets that do), but everything it does has to ultimately be about the social mission / non-profit work. It’s somewhat similar to a charity, but much easier to set up, and doesn’t have any tax benefits at all.
So this set up works right now, and interestingly, once a company has been converted into a Community Interest Company, it can’t be turned back. It only has three options:
- Stay a Community Interest Company
- Convert into a charity
- Close down (dissolution)
The Focus for This and Next Year
So with all that settled for now, in 2020, the focus can now start to move onto working towards the stated goals of the non-profit:
- Publishing helpful content that also helps the foundation get more visible. In particular blog posts, articles, and ideally interviews / podcasts too.
- It would also be great if some blog posts / articles can be expanded to be the size of a small book (ten to twenty thousand words), and put online for free (PDF download and also Kindle).
- I’ll also be growing the directory / calendar section of the site.
- And ideally the trading company income can start to grow in the near future (this year if possible), so that profits can begin to be donated to the foundation, since currently I’m paying for everything out of my own pocket, and it wouldn’t great if that didn’t continue for too much longer (accounting costs in particular can add up, since annual accounts are a legal requirement of any company).
And once there’s enough of an audience in perhaps the next year or two, then it’s time to start to think about running events.
But… I write this in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, so now is not the time to even think about events! We’re all social distancing right now. So it might take quite a while for things to return to some sense of normalcy. By the time you read this, you’ll probably know what happened, but right now it’s all rather uncertain.
So this means running events may not be feasible before 2021, or even perhaps 2022. This comes down to three factors:
- It depends how long social distancing (either legally mandated, or simply habitual) continues.
- Plus, this foundation needs to build up an audience (email list, website traffic…) before it can run events. As there’s no point running events if no one attends!
- Also events cost money to run of course, so the trading company needs to grow its income too.
Those are the three factors that need to be in place for events to run, and for this foundation to really start growing and becoming more active.
Okay, I think that pretty much covers things to date…
So from the idea arriving in my mind in perhaps 2013 or 2014, to forming the company in 2016, to converting it into a Community Interest Company in 2019, finally in 2020 activity is starting, although it could still be another year or two before events start.
Certainly not a fast start by any means! But… this is a very, very long-term project, so now things are in place, it’s time to start to build upon that. So ideally they’ll be a fair amount of publishing activity this year.
So that’s it really…
I thought it may be helpful to put in writing (for those who are still reading!) why I started this, how it started, and where it’s going.
But I will start blogging quite regularly now, sharing foundation news, and also sharing my own story and viewpoints if that may be of interest. I’ve been on my own journey since my teens, and there may be some aspects of that journey that could be of interest to others.
So thanks for visiting this site, thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you find the content published and (in time) the events this foundation runs of interest and of value.
About Louis Allport
An interest in meditation started in my teens, and I begun to visit non-dual meetings in my twenties. Since then I’ve been a regular attendee of such meetings. I’ve also been a (somewhat) meditator, and have spent over 10 years using emotional releasing approaches.
I started ForwardView Foundation to share what I had found particularly helpful, with others, and it was important to me that this was offered at no cost.