Quaker A-Z: W is for Where does the money go?

2013 06 18 Collection box

W is for Where does the money go?

One of the difficulties I have found in both being a warden, and in dealing with finances is that most people aren’t interested.

They nod politely when you mention money, glance at the account reports briefly when presented (if they’ve attended Business Meeting) and it is usually the same small group of people who actually ask any questions.

During the Treasurer’s Course at Woodbrooke earlier this year Alison Gray, one of the facilitators, shared the reports given to her local meeting.

Alison explained that as she is a primary school teacher she’s used to explaining complex matters in a simple fashion. “I ask my children if they can understand these reports, if they can then I know I can take them to Meeting.”

2015 03 01 Alison's flipchart treasurer's presentation pg12015 03 01 Alison's flipchart treasurer's presentation pg2  More traditional spreadsheets and account reports are available, but these give a simple easily understandable overview.

Glancing at these will give you a deeper understanding of the answer to that perennial question, “Where does the money go?” as well as its partner, “Where does the money come from?” In this meeting, as in so many, room hire brings in more than Quaker contributions and collections.

  • Have you tried such illustrative reports?
  • Do you have any other suggestions or examples for ways to encourage interest in the financial aspects of the meeting?

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Quaker A-Z: V is for Vulnerable Victim

2011 07 28 banking cheques

V is for Vulnerable Victim

After a case of fraud in North Somerset and Wiltshire Monthly Meeting, members of that Monthly Meeting and Quaker Stewardship Committee produced a report titled: A vulnerable victim (you can download a copy at that link). The Judge at the Crown Court hearing referred to the Religious Society of Friends as “a vulnerable victim” and the report continues this theme:

This report was commissioned following a joint meeting of members of North Somerset and Wiltshire Monthly Meeting and members of the Quaker Stewardship Committee. The report outlines events leading to the theft of £148,151 by a Friend who had been serving as Treasurer of the Monthly Meeting and the steps taken by Friends following its discovery in June 2004. The prime purpose of the report is to provide the Monthly Meeting with an independently written record of events and to draw the wider lessons that will be of value both for itself and to the wider Religious Society of Friends in Britain Yearly Meeting; it does not set out to identify responsibility for events or to apportion blame. The history of events shows Friends trying to find the best way forward for the perpetrator and for the Monthly Meeting; balancing necessary legal processes with seeking to find ways to apply principles of Restorative Justice. The report also describes how Friends set about finding ways that enable them to fulfil the responsibilities of Trustees to protect the property of the Monthly Meeting and ensure that it is used properly.

This report is not only a useful summary of the events and procedures (and lack thereof) in this specific instance, it is also a useful reminder to all people charged with handling monies that it is in their own best interests to ensure good financial handling and reporting procedures are available.

A Friend in NSWMM has written: Speaking as a past treasurer [in a different MM] the question of trust versus bureaucracy should not be an issue, rather, sound financial systems should protect the treasurer against any allegations – true or false. I would require this if I was ever to be treasurer again.

An article by Alan Sealy in the Friend also endorsed the view that this report should be mandatory reading and commented on the thoroughness of the report – which drew upon Business Meeting minutes and reports that had been kept.

If you haven’t read this report – or haven’t read it in some time I do recommend it. Especially the ‘What can be learned?‘ section which points out possible solutions to the difficulties and problems discussed in the report – but common throughout the voluntary management sector.

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Quaker A-Z: U is for Unique

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Point / USPThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

U is for Unique Selling Point

It is unlikely that your building is the only venue in your area. I remember having a discussion with the warden at Bridport who commented that their small village had a plethora of places to hire rooms – all competing against each other. But this can happen in larger towns and cities too – and small differences can mean the difference between someone choosing your venue over another.

The first and possibly most obvious Unique Selling Point or USP is that the venue is a Quaker Meeting House and any profits go to support Quaker work. However, unless you are a Quaker you may not know much about Quakers or care about this work.

Instead, each building needs to think about what they can offer that means the hirer will want to come to their venue compared to another. Once you’ve thought of your list ensure you publicise it.

If you rang a hotel to ask for a room and were told, “£50” and then rang another and were told, “Our standard rate is £50 per night and includes use of the pool, free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast and parking.”

Which would you go for?

The first hotel may well have offered all of that too but they didn’t spell it out so their potential customers may go somewhere else.

Friends House Hospitality on their venue site (not quaker.org.uk) include their tag line:

“With us, events don’t cost the earth.”

and have another statement pointing out that this is a Quaker building (if you didn’t know Friends referred to Quaker)

“As a Quaker concern, the facilities provided are both of high quality and honestly priced. The welcome is always warm and friendly.”

Perhaps your budget doesn’t go to a slick website or brochure? Bridport didn’t – but what they did have was a Warden who was willing to go that extra bit to give advice and help to the groups that chose the Meeting House to ensure that they continued to flourish and use the building. Word of mouth is after all the best marketing there is.

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Quaker A-Z: T is for Threshing

Threshing the crop, 1480

This post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

T is for Threshing

Threshing is a rather arcane word, but its use dates back to the earliest Quaker publications and internal letters. Most people I’ve spoken to have never attended a threshing meeting – and yet a threshing meeting held to discuss the ideas and theories around an issue can be incredibly helpful in ensuring that everyone present understands and has a chance to explore the issues.

Rachel Muers and Rhiannon Grant have just finished some research into British Quaker understandings of Threshing Meetings. I took part in one of their meetings which contained a wide range of discussion and views. They’ve published their findings in a report you can download from the University of Leeds website, currently third document down.

We find it helpful to see a threshing meeting as a “threshold” or transitional space – usually, into Meeting for Worship for Business. Threshing an issue is one of the ways in which a meeting can work to bring “the whole of its… life under the ordering of the Spirit”. Threshing meetings themselves are usually held in a spirit of worship, but, unlike business meetings, they are not focussed on reaching a decision through discerning the will of God. Rather, they focus on exploring and understanding the complex, messy and multi-stranded nature of the “whole of life”. This includes, especially, strong emotions, rational arguments, and disputes about matters of fact – all aspects of our lives that might be set aside or downplayed as a Quaker business meeting reaches a decision, but which need to be heard and taken into account in the preparation for that decision. A threshing meeting is one way in which Quakers can respond collectively to the advice to come with heart and mind prepared.

Threshing meetings should still be a Quaker space – they are often described as spiritual, intense, emotional, grounded but have a more fluid arrangement than a Meeting for Worship for Business. They aren’t to be considered just a place for ‘blue-sky-thinking’ or similar secular management phrases, there should be relationships and the process is guided by the facilitator(s).

The report is a fascinating glimpse into current day practices while explaining the historical aspects of threshing. I do recommend it – especially the three fictional case studies, plus the specific recommendations and description of the processes that lead to a successful threshing meeting.

  • Have you even taken part in a Threshing Meeting?
  • Does your meeting use this tool?

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Quaker A-Z: S is for Safeguarding

2011 08 07 worshipping group & cathedral 2

 A&Q 18 How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

S is for Safeguarding

Safeguarding is the protection of children and adults from harm. It is often seen as only applying to children, and yet abuse can affect anyone no matter their age, so safeguarding guidelines apply also to vulnerable adults.

It is often seen as only applying to sexual relationships, however, abuse can happen within other relationships too.

Fundamentally, harassment and abuse is a serious misuse of power and authority, committed by a dominant partner in an unequal relationship. Power is a fact of life, it is present in every relationship and situation, it is how that power is used that causes problems.

Area Meeting Trustees have a responsibility to adopt a Safeguarding policy and to see that all AM activities abide by it.  This includes all local meeting activities and any Quaker residential events.  Premises committees need to consider how to remind Friends of the policy. A local meeting can choose to create and adopt a more stringent safeguarding policy if they feel it necessary.

However any other non Quaker groups who are hiring the building do not need to be aware of, or to follow the AM Safeguarding policy. Instead they must have their own policy and ensure that they follow any other laws or regulations. Premises should ensure that the group know that it is their responsibility to do this and to ensure that they know it is not Premises’s responsibility to critique the policy or to ensure that it is abided by.

I suggest my clients put the following clause, or something simialr into their terms and conditions:

The Hirer must ensure that all necessary Child Protection checks have been undertaken before the Hire Period commences. (Name) Meeting cannot accept any responsibility for a failure to comply with this legal requirement. Children must be supervised at all times.

Quaker Resources

National resources

  • Churches Agency for Safeguarding (CAS) is the national body that provides Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal records application service and safer recruitment training, information and advice.
  • NSPCC has useful resources including research and fact sheets
  • Elder Abuse has resources specifically aimed against the
  • Mencap has resources for people with learning difficulties.

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Quaker A-Z: R is for Responsibilities

2015 07 17 Colourful pencil sharpeningsThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

R is for Responsibilities

Every Relationship has more than one side, as well as more than one set of rights and responsibilities.

Local Meetings may be used to reporting that they have at least considered the list of their responsibilities found in Qf&P 4.33 to Area Meeting. If a local meeting decides to hire out space to other groups it also comes with responsibilities.

There are various responsibilities linked to having a public building open and available to the public.

  • Some are legal – like fire risk management or accessibility
  • Others are good stewardship such as keeping the building in good order, or ensuring good security.
  • Or make management of the building easier such as updating inventories and contracts
  • You might consider customer satisfaction for example hirer management – ensuring that groups have are compatible to be next to each other.
  • Community consideration – for example ensuring groups are respectful of the local neighbourhood when leaving.

What other responsibilities can you think of?
Has Premises ever considered such a list?

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Quaker A-Z: Q is for Quantities (and Quality)

2015 07 14 buying in bulk 2This post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

Q is for Quantities (and Quality)

Buying in bulk can save money – whether from a warehouse store as pictured above or elsewhere. As long as you are able to store the resultant quantity and use it up before it can be spoiled. In bulk doesn’t mean having to buy things in hundreds either.

One of the many uses of an inventory

  • is the ability to work out how quickly items are used up.
  • plus as how much space you have to safely store replacement items.

Knowing these two facts can help you set budgets as well as decide when it is worth paying for higher quality items and when cheap and cheerful is more sensible.

It can even lead to reorganising within the building to ensure that there is a safe and suitable space for storage.

Always amazed at how much decluttering is possible is most meeting houses, often because Quakers declutter their own houses and bring things to the meeting house to donate. When sorting at Muswell Hill just after we started I came across a box carefully sealed and labelled, “Unwanted Crockery”. I did check before getting rid of it.

  • Does your Meeting buy supplies in bulk?
  • Do you find that this helps keep costs down?

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Quaker A-Z: P is for Paxton Accounts

Balancing The Account

Balancing The Account by www.SeniorLiving.Org used with permission.

This post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

P is for Paxton

Paxton Charities Accounting is now Britain Yearly Meeting’s recommended software for Area Meeting consolidation of accounts.

I went to the Annual Conference of Treasurers, held at Friends House on June 27th and attended a workshop where Averil Armstrong and Fenwick Kirton-Darling both from Northampton AM talked about their experience in using Paxton.

It is not a full accountancy package suitable for use at Local Meeting level, this does mean there is duplication of entries, as any reports sent by local meetings will have to be manually entered into the system. However, in some Area Meetings all inputting is now done at area meeting level with the local meeting sending receipts and reports regularly.

It is a database that adds up all totals of the charity’s constituent parts i.e. local meetings etc. and does not expect any non-donation income. Therefore, If any local meeting hires out rooms, you also need to purchase an additional sales module to allow for sales income to be combined with the main version.

Averil gave an entertaining presentation – she also teaches the Treasurer’s Course at Woodbrooke where I met her earlier this year.

Overview

  • charity accounting: income in funds: designated or restricted
  • income from donors and grants or other (sales module mentioned above or not)
  • donor income can attract gift aid
  • grants may be claimed against spend
  • budgets can be set against income and expenditure within funds
  • It is set up with bank accounts so you need to map out your organisation’s finances before you start to set up the system.

Budgets can be profiled to be even throughout the year or alter it to allow for uneven income – knowing that money comes in at specific times.

Some Area Meetings are combining using this package with the use of a bookkeeper who inputs all data. Either on behalf of the local meetings and reporting to them as well as to the area meeting treasurer or just on behalf of the area meeting.

As it is a database it also handles personal data for all donors and room hirers as well as gift aid. This management is again at area meeting level and when the concept of giving access to each local meeting was mentioned the response from several treasurers present was that this would reduce consistency and complicate matters as people would classify differently.

How does it work in practice?

Many Area Meetings who have started using Paxton have said that they feel it has made things easier for them, and the local meeting treasurers who no longer have to do as much work at year end.

As well as regular reports for Finance Committee or Trustees, each Local Meeting’s end of year accounts including the SOFA, is produced at the press of a button saving many long hours of work as reconciliation and reports have been monthly or quarterly ensuring accuracy and before memories have faded.

One treasurer said that they no longer receive spreadsheets from their local meetings, but instead an annotated bank statement. Another said that their local treasurers now only had a cheque book and a deposit book – all financial management was done at area meeting and trustee level.

Sharing is possible

It is possible though to share the database through on-line services – which also relieves the necessity to choose a platform and can allow access for a short period for example by an examiner or auditor.

Another way to share the package would be to have a computer which was shared by various members of the finance team based in an office in one of the meeting houses.

Of course there are costs

To buy the standard Paxton system you would need to purchase a version that allows for either receipts and payments or accruals, it can also deal with VAT.

The software is available in both Mac and PC versions, prices start from £250 plus VAT and in addition you need to pay an annual fee (£100 to 200) to receive software updates and for access to their telephone help line.

For the on-line hosting version mentioned above the subscription cost for a two person licence is £45 plus VAT per month. That cost does also include the annual fees for support and updates.

There is more information available on BYM’s website (link above) plus on Paxton’s website including a series of demonstrations.

  • Do you use Paxton?
  • Have you used a different finance package?
  • Would you welcome the centralisation of your accounts?

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Quaker A-Z: O is for Openness

2009 08 30 open signThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

O is for Openness

Qf&P 20.20 For a Quaker, religion is not an external activity, concerning a special ‘holy’ part of the self. It is an openness to the world in the here and now with the whole of the self. If this is not simply a pious commonplace, it must take into account the whole of our humanity: our attitudes to other human beings in our most intimate as well as social and political relationships. It must also take account of our life in the world around us, the way we live, the way we treat animals and the environment. In short, to put it in traditional language, there is no part of ourselves and of our relationships where God is not present.

Harvey Gillman, 1988

Openness is therefore also something that should be included in the way our buildings are used by both Quakers and the other hiring groups.

It is hard to move beyond our own unconscious processes and inherent biases. This is one of the most complicated issue – and often over looked. How can we ensure that the way we allow our buildings to be used and the relationships these usage create reflect our Quaker way rather than just a business matter.

How can we find ways not only to be willing to work with those in our local communities but also to welcome them – to live out our openness.

Qf&P 13.32 We appear to offer our facilities, but in fact we offer our love’

This is easy to say but can be tricky to do!

One simple step to demonstrate our openness – is the use of a publicly available lettings policy. Such a policy can be a way of ensuring that those coming to look at or use our building can see and assure themselves, that our decision to hire or not is not based on personal biases but on our overarching concerns and testimonies. It is also a good way of giving us a frame work of reference to work from when a enquiry comes in and there is a concern about the appropriateness of the hire.

Good Business: Ethics at Work: When we realise that everything we have comes to us as a gift from God, we understand that we are all stewards accountable for our use of time, people, money and all natural resources. In each situation a good steward seeks the right balance between prudence and adventure; conservatism and creation; leading and serving; stimulation and supporting. Good business is the way we serve the social and economic community.

Friends House has their letting policy available on their website, so does Bridgend, Ealing, St Albans and others – search for ‘Quaker meeting house lettings policy’ to find more.

  • How does your meeting show and practice openness to the wider community around you?
  • Do you have a lettings or room hiring policy?
  • Is it publicly available?

You can find more information on this topic in: H is for Hirers and Hospitality.

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Quaker A-Z: N is for nonsensical Notices

2015 06 10 statis cupboard notice

This post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

N is for Nonsensical Notices

It is always sensible to ask someone else to read your notice before putting it up.

Just to check that it means the same to someone else – as it did in your head.

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