Sozo House of Praise was founded in the year 2001. The name Sozo is a Greek word and it means “complete freedom”. This charity is always searching for new and innovative ways in which to carry the word of God to the community. The ethos of Sozo House of Praise is founded on building a more vibrant, active and relevant committed community of faith. Its individual members seek improvement on spiritual, financial and personal levels, whilst also developing its local and international outreach activities.
In this era of economic recession, financial sustainability is a key topic on every charity’s agenda. Some of the most innovative solutions to help disadvantaged people in the communities come from the UK’s faith-based charities. Most of these charities are small however they have grand ideas and the heart to make a real difference. For Sozo House of Praise, two goals are paramount, promoting the charitable face of Christianity within the community and continuing with their growth plans. Having previously worked with organisations that did not share their vision for the future, the trustees knew something had to
change! They needed a partner who would understand and help to deliver their ambitions for their community.
The Trustees wanted to work with an organisation that had experience and empathy when working with Third sector faith-based organisations and could stay ahead of the minefield of compliance issues that are part and parcel of dealing directly with Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Their concern was that the declaration and donation process had been implemented but not managed to ensure maximum tax refund potential. Also, their incumbent agents (at the time) had been sitting on their potential claim for over a year as they did not have the focus or manpower to process the claim swiftly. Had this situation been left to continue it would have resulted in the loss of the 3% government transitional relief and more valid donations falling outside the range of the 4-year claim period. Sozo runs many community-based initiatives from counselling (via trained counsellors) to keep-fit classes and were looking for innovative ways to inform people about these services.
After careful review, it became clear that a phased approach to overcoming the challenges was necessary. It was important to start work immediately as time was required to work through the previous years reclaims, to educate and deploy the new solutions for the current year’s refund and to promote key community messages. During the consultation process we demonstrated our knowledge of:
1. HMRC Charities and the claim process.
2. An understanding of the bigger picture and what was required to help grow their congregation by way of promotion and marketing.
3. Community Fundraising and how to implement it within minutes.
It did not take long for the Sozo House of Praise to engage Good to Give as the partner of choice. We agreed on a phased approach to implementing the new system and changes required and set a loose timetable of milestones to work around their busy schedule. Often this would involve out of office hours at no extra charge.
Our system has been tested by HMRC as fit for purpose. The system will ensure that claims relate to valid donations that have a valid declaration. We advised Sozo to recall all previous years’ donation and declaration history from the previous incumbent. This information needed to be scanned and transcribed onto our system for clear donation accountability and to ensure each donation had a valid declaration (a key requirement as stipulated by HMRC). From this we provided an error report allowing the charity to speak to its donors and correct any donations that fell short of the requirements (in most cases these were donations with missing Gift Aid declarations, agreeing for the tax to be reclaimed). Once updated these were reprocessed. Having worked closely with the HMRC to develop the ideal format in which to present a claim, the claim was swiftly processed and paid. The net result was that GoodtoGive were able to maximise on all aspects of the claim by:
1. Entering all donations
2. Identifying errors
3. Retrospectively claiming for four years
4. Receiving prompt payment
Training staff and volunteers who would be users of the system was an important requirement. This was now going to be the tool that would empower Sozo to achieve the organisational goals. The flexible and user-friendly system is designed to have multiple users from the same organisation use parts of the system relevant to their role. The system is protected by secure access with specific authorisation levels determining what the user sees upon entering.
Sozo now use our envelope system for hassle-free management and total accountability of all donations. Donation information is read electronically from the envelopes into our HMRC tested system allowing us to file, liaise with HMRC and resolve any queries that they may have and swiftly receive frequent reclaim payments. If the system picks up any errors as it processes the information it produces an error report, this ensures that any tax claim submitted is maximised to its full potential. Leaving Sozo more time to spread their message.
To supplement Sozo’s own website our service comes with a free-to-use events website. It is designed to host all of a charity’s events while providing a facility to collect donations online and automatically process the tax refund where required. As part of the solution, Sozo are planning a number of events to help increase the awareness of their message as well as increase their fundraising. All these events will be created using our simple-to-use events form.
This was created for illustration purposes to show Sozo what could be achieved.
Sozo wanted to thank their donors for their support and donations so using our free-to-use email template they set up an email to be sent automatically every month to all members and visitors who filled in their email addresses. Our system personalises each email like a mail merge and to help promote their activities it automatically inserts their top five events making it easy for their congregation to keep informed about Sozo’s causes as well as donate.
Sozo now have a structured way in which to manage their donations and declarations which they receive via the internet or envelopes. Every client is assigned a client liaison manager who works closely with the charity’s treasury department to help ensure smooth deployment of the agreed solution(s). The Trustees feel empowered by way of the events website and email template to better communicate with the community, supported by proactive calls from our marketing team, they are able to keep the momentum going. More importantly, they feel secure in the knowledge that they are using a system that adheres to HMRC standards which leads to swift and successful claims.
“We are happy to be dealing with a professional organisation and were extremely happy about the speed they turned around our claim” — Bishop O T Miller