Working with a charity can be extremely motivating for your students, and indeed for you. It gives your anthology a purpose: you want it to be good so that it will make money for the charity.
If you can tie the theme of your students’ work in with the charity, even better. This will actually provide some content for your students’ writing. For example, if you support a wild animal charity you might get your students to write about animals living in the wild. If you support a charity that looks into drugs for children with cancer, your students might write pieces that would amuse children. If you support a children’s hospital, you might produce work that would cheer up hospital patients who have a long wait.
If your book is good enough, and you have a good relationship with your charity, they may be willing to promote it for you. In addition, you could arrange further events for the charity and continue to sell the book. Your connection with this charity can become more than just about the book.
It may seem rather obvious to pick a charity that is going to be popular. Our young students find charities to do with children or animals easy to relate to. Sometimes it’s good to pick one that has a direct contact with your school. It’s certainly good to pick one that has a local contact. Perhaps ideal is one that has a local connection but is part of a bigger organisation – a national or even international one.
You could, of course, also pick a school project – e.g. raising money for a new stage or a new floor for the Sports Hall.
The charity commission provides a searchable database: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/. There are even instructions here about how to start your own charity, which might be appropriate is some cases. Oddly, this does not show some of the most obvious charities. ‘Remember a Charity’ does, even though it’s primarily an organisation for helping you to leave money to a charity in your will: http://www.rememberacharity.org.uk.
Simply Googling the word “charity” brings several lists you can use.
It is essential that you get your relationship with your charity right. Remember, you are there to support your charity; the charity is not there as a convenient hook for you and for your students’ work. These organisations have a real concern and are doing a real job.
One always has to be careful anyway that helping a charity is not just a way of making the helpers feel better about themselves. There is a world of difference between this and inspiring genuine passion about the cause in your students. However, it’s likely that the students will actually feel a genuine care. This will be reflected in the writing the writing and will motivate them to complete the book to a high standard.
As soon as you do anything for a charity – even just taking a collection at the end of a concert - you are in a relationship with that charity. They need to be consulted. Whatever you do is now associated with that charity. There must be nothing in what your students produce that is contrary to the aims of the charitable organisation. The book has to be good. It becomes a permanent link – it may turn up in any bookshop and sit on anyone’s bookshelf – especially as you are likely to use a print on demand printer so that the book will never go out of print. This means that you may never be seen to be doing anything contrary to the ideals of your chosen charity. Ever.
You normally have to obtain a letter of engagement from your chosen charity. This will often enable you to use the charity’s logo in your book, mention that you are working with the charity and use the charity’s name in the promotion of your book.
Great, of course, if they can endorse your book, and perhaps provide a foreword.
It is great to have your students chose the charity. However, if you wait for the start of the workshop, you miss all of the opportunities for advance planning.
So, it’s absolutely ideal if you can have access to your students beforehand so that you can discuss what sort of charity they would like to support. You could even get them involved in finding information. You may want to plan a series of meetings.
If you do this, you might even set up a small committee of students who can keep their eye on how the finances will work and who would be able to kick start the marketing.
Once you have decided on a charity, you need to get that all important letter of engagement. This will involve establishing:
· How the charity will benefit from the book (I suggest offering £1.00 per copy and links to their JustGiving site)
· How often they will be paid
· Whether they want to provide some copy for you book – maybe a blurb about the charity or even an introduction to the book
· Whether they can be involved in any book launch
· Whether they can advertise your book at all
· How long your agreement will last (though as mentioned above, your relationship will be permanent as you have a permanent link to a book whose sales may dip but that will never be out of print)