The Capacity Community: The Proud Trust

By Christopher Graham

The community cafe in Sidney Street, off Oxford Road, does a brisk trade, five days a week. The Proud Trust reckons they served 5,000 hot drinks last year. Over a coffee, Strategic Director, Amelia Lee, told me how Capacity is helping The Proud Trust to raise their game and professionalise their approach to business at a time when the Trust is developing ambitious plans for the future.

February is LGBT History Month, and 2018 marks 30 years since Manchester’s Gay Centre opened its doors - next to the Manchester Islamic Centre and King’s Church, evangelical congregation. The year 1988 was all about the campaign to repeal section 28 and the national scare about HIV/AIDS. The Centre was developed by Manchester City Council, but in the teeth of a good deal of local opposition. 30 years on, the relationship between the Centre and other tenant organisations is, Amelia says, ‘quite neighbourly’.

Now known as the Joyce Layland LGBT Centre, the building was originally opened for condom distribution, a helpline, and for support and advice. Today The Proud Trust, operating out of the Centre, is altogether more ambitious.

Located apart from Manchester’s Gay Village, but close to the university campuses, The Proud Trust is well positioned and well placed to offer information and counselling to young people questioning their sexuality and lacking self-confidence. The Trust also looks to support minorities within the LGBT community who could be seen to be doubly disadvantaged and marginalised. So LGBT Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Black and Asian LGBT group Rainbow Noir, Youth Groups, Disability groups, and six out of the ten LGBT groups in Greater Manchester are all supported by the charity through venue space or direct delivery.

Rainbow Noir celebrated its 5th birthday on 8th February.

The Gay Centre was built on Council land. The Proud Trust took over the lease in 2012. Today, The Proud Trust has plans to develop the site for a modern two-storey centre to replace the current somewhat eccentric layout in what feels not unlike a converted garage. More space would enable the Trust to run more activities, with group sessions being able to run in parallel where this is not currently possible.

The Proud Trust hopes that they will be able to persuade the City Council to contribute to the building project - and grant the Trust a 50 year lease in place of the current short-term arrangements.

Amelia calls these few months the Trust’s ‘eye of the storm moment’. In March, we’ll hear how they have got on with their application to the Big Lottery Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund to whom The Proud Trust is looking to support its vision for the future.

Capacity is in the process of constructing a Business Development Strategy for the Trust to see them through the next three years. Additionally, Capacity have been developing cashflow, financial projections, and management accounts, and training staff in how to use them effectively. The overall management accounts for the Trust are more or less complete. The next task is pulling together profit and loss accounts for each area of the business to establish where the gaps are. These can then be prioritised within the Business Development and Fundraising strategy, building in risk management discipline.

Capacity’s role is clearly valued.

Amelia says, “good charities have to be good social businesses, operating across the public, private, and voluntary sectors. Capacity gets that; but, at the same time, they challenge us from that point of understanding.”

It was also good to meet Operations Director, Sally Carr, Centre Manager, Ali Hanbury, and the band of staff and volunteers who run the Centre. As we chatted, the community cafe was filling up. Clearly, the Centre is serving an important function - and The Proud Trust is thinking ahead to meet the needs of the future. I’m proud of the part Capacity is playing in the story.

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