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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Quaker A-Z: M is for Measuring & Management

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

M is for measuring

Increasing productivity or income, decreasing waste and carbon all sound good but how can you tell if the plans you’ve so carefully made are working?

Keeping a record of measurements can help you decide if that very busy but messy hirer actually makes much profit as the not so messy hirer. Of course it would also help you explain why additional cleaning charges are now being levied to the messy hirer.

What measurements you take and keep will of course depend on your interests. Some baseline measurements include – regular utility metre readings, allowing you to see if the new insulation or boiler made a difference or spotting an increase can help discover a leak or other problem early.

Others can just give a snapshot of usage – writing the date you started it on the 25L of washing up liquid, means you can calculate how much is used per month, help set a cleaning materials budget and of course then wonder where it all goes…

An inventory is another form of measuring, and is not only useful for an insurance claim.

  • Do you have enough cups and mugs for Area Meeting?
  • Enough children’s chairs for the number of children in the meeting?
  • How many cushions are there in the cupboards?
  • How many post-it pads does one meeting need?

You may discover you have a surplus and can donate items, clearing space and ensuring that the items remaining can be found and maintained easily. Or be able to budget to replace broken or missing items.

M is for Management

Management in businesses and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Wikipedia

Premises are usually the committee who have the responsibility to manage the building of behalf of the meeting as a whole or the owner if that is not the local meeting.

Quaker Stewardship Committee can give advice on how to manage buildings and finances.

In addition to the physical building, there may be volunteers or employees to be managed as well. Quaker Life gives support to both employers, employees and voluntary workers. There are guidelines on good management practice within Quaker Faith & Practice which also talks about good employment practices and the e-list is a useful resource for specific questions too.

Management is often seen as an additional burden for a committee. However, it should be considered a tool that can be used to affirm both the volunteer or employees doing the work in the meeting’s name, as well as a check-list for that work to be measured against.

Never underestimate the value of noticing someone is doing as requested, and thanking them for it!

You may find Quaker A-Z: S is for Sustainability & Stewardship useful too.

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Quaker A-Z: L is for Lead & Lighting

2011 01 Front of buildingThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

L is for Lead

Many meeting houses have lead on their roofs or windows – even those who have a tiled or thatch roof may have flashing as can be seen on the porch above. Sadly this has become a target for thieves as the price of lead has continued to grow and the demand is likely to continue.
Most meeting houses can not afford to install complex security systems. However there some straightforward ways to protect your building and your lead from both theft and any damage done not only during the thieving, but after if the loss isn’t spotted immediately – giving time for water and other things to gain entry to the building.
  • Contact your local crime prevention team and ensure they are aware of the building and the value of any metals on the site. Check whether or not the area is a metal theft hotspot.
  • Keep gates locked and restrict vehicle access. Consider installing telescopic bollards, or similar devices. Remove any easy means of transporting stolen metal, such as wheelbarrows and wheelie bins, to a secure storage area.
  • Consider installing lighting. Any lights fitted should be weather proof, inaccessible and/or vandal resistant. However avoid lighting areas that are secluded as this might make it easier for thieves to operate. See below for more information
  • Consider installing LeadLok or similar fixings to prevent easy removal of the lead.
  • Encourage neighbours to keep an eye on the building and to report any suspicious activity to the police (particularly the unexpected arrival of workmen).
  • Maximise surveillance levels, for example by cutting back tall and overhanging trees.
  • Removing any means of access for thieves to roofs, such as water butts, waste bins and tall trees located in close proximity to the building and ensure ladders are stored in a secure place.
  • Consider planting beds of dense prickly bushes or trees, for example to reinforce existing boundaries. Use wide, low beds where it is important to retain good views. There is a list of plants available from the Crime Prevention website. Many of these can be attractive to humans and wildlife as well as a deterrent.
  • Conduct regular checks of roofs so that lead theft plus any damage, is detected at the earliest opportunity rather than when rainwater enters the building causing further losses.
  • Apply anti-climb paint to drain pipes and roof guttering to restrict access to roofing. The paint should not be applied below a height of 2m, and warning notices should be displayed.
  • Apply a traceable liquid such as SmartWater which can be painted onto the lead. This leaves a signature behind which can be read by reputable metal merchants using a UV light. Installation can be done during roof work or in some cases by anyone with a long ladder such as window cleaners. You need to register your bottle to ensure the signature can be connected to you.

L is for Lighting

Lighting is an essential part of modern buildings. Following on from lead I wanted to give some additional details about outside lighting.

Outside lights can be installed for a variety of reasons:

  • Aesthetics to make the building look attractive and welcoming; to highlight a specific feature; to encourage people to come out into the garden or onto a patio.
  • Practicality and safety especially around doorways, stairs and changes of height in pathways.
  • Security in addition to the doorways mentioned above, this might include triggered lights near pathways or places of access.

Each of these requirements should be considered when you are creating a lighting design for an area – you may decide that security lighting still needs to be attractive as it is in a very visible area for example.

PIR (passive infrared) detectors are popular and relatively cheap to source and install. They can also have badly defined areas and be set off by animals and weather as well as people. More expensive set ups can collate information from the range of sensors to decide if the trigger is a false positive or should be acted on.

Larger buildings may need a more complicated system or for the lighting to be integrated into other security systems.

However you decide to light your building do consider the environmental aspects too – use timers to reduce the amount of electricity used, LED light bulbs where at all possible, be considerate to neighbours and passer-bys with angles, brightness and length of time the lights are on.

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Quaker A-Z: K is for Knowledge & Know-how

Knowledge Sharing by Ewa Rozkosz

Knowledge Sharing by Ewa Rozkosz

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

K is for Knowledge & Know-how

“Learning the Knowledge” or the 25000 streets in central London that a taxi driver must be able to recognise to gain their license has been shown to result in a visibly bigger hippocampus. Whilst the learning curve isn’t quite as steep, any new clerk or member of a committee can feel lost and rather daunted at what they need to learn.

In the same way that most people are happy to just take the taxi, or to listen to their sat navs rather than navigate on their own, much of what is needed is not to memorise but rather to know where to get that information.

This is similar to what I talked about in the last post – joining the dots where knowing what each committee does and is doing can result in less duplication of work.

People who use the meeting house don’t need the technical or background information about the heating system or fire alarm they just need to know how to adjust the temperature in the room they are in and how to turn off the alarm when it is set off by mistake.

Most people have experienced a frustratingly laid out website or a manual which lacks good indexing or a table of contents.

  • Have you thought about what sort of information each group of people using the building may need and where they might look for it?
  • Have you ever thought about how to ensure a smooth transition from one committee member to another?

I talk about generic email addresses and file sharing as ways of ensuring information isn’t lost, but people need to know it exists in the first place. Examples of ways you might share that know-how include:

On your website

  • Information about Quakers including links to other resources
  • Room names, sizes in square metres as well as appropriate group size, photos of various set ups.
  • Downloadable copies of information leaflets, including times of Meeting for Worship, room booking procedures and policies.
  • Clearly labelled email and telephone numbers for each person listed.

For hirers

  • Practical guide to using the meeting house
  • Weekly or monthly calendars showing when there are rooms available
  • Information on other groups using the building

For members and attenders

  • A-Z of how the meeting house works (a summary of the fuller operations manual)
  • Committee role and other job descriptions (salary and other information removed where necessary)

What other information have you found useful to have available to hand to new committee members or others?

 

 

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Quaker A-Z: J is for Joining the Dots

alphabet-dot-dot-the-alphabetThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

J is for Joining the Dots

In the last post I talked about how so many of the jobs done both in the meeting house and across the country in each meeting house have similarities. Each meeting will have their own dots of committees and individuals to be connected to others within the meeting, the wider area meeting and the surrounding community.

Each committee can feel isolated from the others – Elders and Overseers often work together, as do Finance and Property but, what about the others?

  • How can each committee ensure that information flows freely from one to another?
  • How can we ensure that these dots of interest and responsibility are joined to ensure everyone knows what is happening?

There will be good practice in one area, several job descriptions being created in another and yet another innovation being tried out in yet another…

  • How can we ensure that not all of these individual meetings and committees aren’t duplicating effort with each attempting to reinvent the wheel?

Within the meeting or area meeting is probably the easiest place to start communicating – here are some ideas I’ve gathered on how others do this:

  • A noticeboard with items of interest for each committee (including photos and explanation of what that committee does)
  • Premises space or noticeboard with a place to put comments or concerns (rather than disturbing the convener before meeting)
  • Premises/Wardens paragraph in the monthly newsletter, or sent out to everyone interested directly ‘Wardens’ Waffle’.
  • Reports and (where appropriate) summary of business/minutes read during notices after meeting, rather than just during business meeting to ensure a wider audience. Often adding in an explanation of what that committee does and asking each member of the committee to stand up.
  • Regular meetings of all AM Premises elders/overseers/clerks/conveners/treasurers to ensure good practice and ideas are shared and for support.
  • Away days where deeper thinking can be done by Trustees rather than just a rushed meeting.

As my time at Muswell Hill came to an end a Threshing Meeting was held. At the end of the full day several people commented that they now knew more about how the meeting worked as a community, they therefore felt more involved and able to offer help than they did previously. Perhaps a similar day on ‘how does our worshipping community work?’ would be useful in your meeting?

  • In what ways do you ensure that the various committees talk to each other locally and further afield?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: I is for Interconnected Icebergs

2015 05 16 SWM IcebergThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

I is for Interconnected Icebergs

Originally this post was going to be titled I is for Interconnections, but I couldn’t resist using the SWM iceberg shown above. Thanks to John Dash for permission.

Six Weeks Meeting owns all of the Quaker Meeting Houses in the London area, overseeing the financial and physical management of them whilst holding them in trust for the Area Meetings who in turn delegate the day to day running and management to the Local Meeting Premises committees – who may in turn hand that on to a team of local volunteers which may include Wardens or Resident Friends.

So often people in the local meeting within London see SWM as ‘someone over there bossing them about or not doing what the local meeting would like in the time frame they’ve requested’. Outside of London similar situations arise with AM Trustees and their Property and Finance committees.

Connecting all of these disparate groups and ensuring that all parts feel valued with their skills and knowledge appreciated is complicated but necessary.

Looking at the number of names in the bottom half of the iceberg above and continuing the list to cover all of the 400 or so Quaker Meeting Houses across the UK. Although so many groups are doing similar things, being a Warden, or Manager, or Booking Clerk or Trustee or…. can feel lonely.

These aren’t jobs that are talked about on a regular basis within the meeting as a worshipping community – unlike clerk or overseer.

Often these roles are only mentioned in passing during the Premises committee report to Local Business Meeting, or when the Warden or other volunteer or staff member leaves and a hole is suddenly seen.

Due to their skills and experiences, wardens (or others) may find that they have more similarities with people doing similar jobs in different meetings than they do with members within the same meeting. In addition to the wardenship e-group, Quaker Life offer a series of events called “Wardens’ Talking”, which are chances to get together with other Wardens (or similar) and discuss the joys and challenges that come along with this range of jobs.

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Whilst creating the handover notes for Muswell Hill I was startled to realise the mind-map of connections within the meeting and community was so complicated. Almost all committees connected with me as the warden in some way – even if only in checking there would be a room for meetings or in requesting supplies were available or purchased for a workshop.

Some obvious links are between the meeting house as a venue and the hirers, users and potential hirers who come through the door, plus the community surrounding the meeting house.

However, there are also connections between the Warden and other committees in the local meeting and with the local community. Often they are seen as the public face of the meeting, are known as ‘The Quaker’ or find themselves having to explain Quakerism to a wide range of people in a wide variety of places.

Each of these connections can be seen as a place that we can live out out Quaker values and testimonies – whether it is by treating everyone – contractor, hirer, delivery or rubbish people in the same way. Or by our choices of supplier, cleaning supplies and how we maintain our buildings and grounds.

During the last Managing our Meeting Houses course there was a list created during the session of all the people/groups that participants came into contact with, as well as some of the concerns such as safeguarding. Used here with permission.

  • Hirers
  • Wardens/caretakers
  • Regular contractors (gardener/cleaners)
  • Line manager
  • Trustees
  • Local Meeting
  • Area Meeting
  • Clerks
  • Treasurers
  • Premises committees – other Q committees
  • Other Q groups
  • Enquirers re Qs and lettings.
  • Public services
  • Neighbours
  • Community groups
  • General public
  • F/friends
  • Volunteers
  • Suppliers/contractors
  • Wardens friend/support group
  • Local Council
  • OFSTED
  • Children and vulnerable adults – safeguarding

Can you add additional connections?

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Quaker A-Z: H is for Hirers & Hospitality

2012 10 22 New outside noticeboard cropped

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

H is for Hirers & Hospitality

Hirers are often mentioned in conjunction of, ‘how to increase the number you have’ or to complain about ‘what they do or don’t do’. Whilst I supply information on how to market your meeting house, today I want to talk about welcoming those hirers you have into the building.

1 Peter 4:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Whilst meeting houses aren’t considered sacred they are considered special and often members of the Quaker worshipping community may find it complicated to share that space with other members of the hiring/using community – and may not realise that these hirers can consider themselves part of the community.

Part of offering and creating hirer’s hospitality is creating relationships between the various groups who use the building – Quaker and others.

The hirer’s noticeboard (shown above) can be a way to help the different groups to become aware of the other building users. If there is any form of relationship between the hirer groups it can make it easier to ease problems between two hirers. People are more likely to excuse a known person’s behaviour rather than a faceless/nameless other. Showing Quaker events on there can ensure that groups realise that Quakers actually use this building and it isn’t just a hall with the real worship happening elsewhere.

There will always be people of course who are only interested in using the meeting house as a venue, but even these should be welcomed and if they are paying to use the building and facilities we have responsibilities to them in return.

It is important to balance the needs of different groups and maintain firm boundaries, but showing hospitality is an important aspect of the relationship between management and hirers.

  • As providers of venue and facilities we have legal responsibilities.
  • Have you or your AM Trustees made a list of these – similar to the list for LQM responsibilities found in Qf&P?
  • Have you considered how to include hirers feel welcomed and appreciated and not just for their monetary contributions?
  • What sorts of things have you done?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: G is for gifts

Wrapped Gifts Retirement Party 7-8-09 8

Wrapped Gifts by Steven Depolo on Flickr

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

Qf&P 3.22 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Cor 12:4–7)

It is a responsibility of a Christian community to enable its members to discover what their gifts are and to develop and exercise them to the glory of God.

During a day conference exploring aspects of managing meeting houses there was a plea from an attendee,

“When I was asked to be on Premises my first thought was why should I get interested in my meeting house? How do we engage with the people who don’t find these things – policy/strategy/housing interesting?”

This is such a perennial question, people often tell me they shouldn’t be on Premises as they aren’t builders or surveyors or gardeners or…. However, there is so much more to creating a building that is the centre of a vibrant worshipping community than just the bricks and mortar.

I’m paraphrasing Ben Pink Dandelion in his 2014 Swarthmore Lecture below:

‘if we as Quakers in Britain want our meeting houses to be vibrant, cohesive, coherent and socially useful, we need to be clear about what we are and what we are not…”

The whole meeting can be part of that discernment process and help to create a list of ways in that the building can be used. What other gifts may members of your community have that can be developed and help enrich both the building and its community of users – both Quaker and hirers?

Some gifts I have seen shared:

Art work – stained glass in windows, as decorations in larger windows as coasters, as wall hangings. Ceramic tiles as used in Horfield’s courtyard, cushions and cushion covers in bright sturdy fabrics.

Graphic Art work and photos – to improve websites, leaflets, signage and to add beauty to the building.

Interior Design – to give advice on which colours look best together or, who can suggest what sort of fabrics would be easiest to keep clean and might survive the expected heavy usage…

Hospitality – I suspect every meeting has at least one person who has this talent, someone who makes people feel welcome, who can point out a tweak or change that can make being hospitable easier. Those who look at a building or room and can make it feel warmer and more welcoming to both Quakers and others. Perhaps bringing in flowers or plants for the table on Sunday but also for other times.

Gardening – at Muswell Hill I welcomed gifts from those who didn’t have time to work in the Meeting’s garden, but donated divided perennials, extra seedlings and gave advice on planting schemes. Having some one willing to look after indoor plants can be such a blessing.

Organising – having people willing to delve into the corners, cupboards and drawers of a building, make decisions and then haul off the remains to the appropriate disposal place is a blessing. I had a wonderful afternoon doing this with a Q who told me that as a busy professional, parent etc. they didn’t have time to dedicate to regular committee work but an afternoon followed by trips with their car made them feel more involved with the meeting – and inspired some decluttering at home too.

  • How do you enthuse other members of the meeting to become involved with specific projects or the ongoing care of the meeting house?
  • What other gifts have you been blessed with in your meeting?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

You might find these posts interesting:

Why have a Meeting House?

Meeting Houses – Beacons or Burdens?

 

Quaker A-Z: F is for Free

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

F is for Free

While there is always the concern that you get what you pay for and surely someone must be paying for this somewhere… There are things that you can find that are free and useful whilst running a Quaker Meeting House. If you have anything you use and would recommend let me know and I’ll consider adding it.

Free Advice from Friends House

As well as the very useful website you can telephone or email staff questions on specific issues and be certain that they won’t charge you.

Free Posters, Leaflets and Outreach Materials

Designed professionally and supplied at no cost – if you order them from the Quaker Centre Book Store they’ll even pay postage.

Yes, of course the above are paid for out of central Quaker funds but they are still free to you as an individual or meeting.

Free Broadband for Meeting Houses

Did you now that you can apply for a grant to cover broadband access installation to your Meeting House?

Following a question to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the progress that had been made on delivering broadband and WiFi to church halls, Edward Vaizey MP replied:

“On 9 February 2015 the Government announced that two million premises have been passed by its Superfast Broadband Programme, meaning that superfast broadband is now available to almost 80% of UK premises, up from 45% in 2010. Church halls which are included within this coverage will be able to gain access to superfast broadband services.

Small and medium sized enterprises, including places of worship which are registered as charities, are eligible for a grant of up to £3,000 under the Government’s Broadband Connection Vouchers Scheme, which runs in 22 UK cities. The Chancellor recently announced that £40 million will be made available to extend the scheme to more cities from April 2015”

It is probable that many meetings may be unaware of the Broadband Connection Vouchers Scheme. You can ask if your current telephone supplier is part of the scheme. The official relevant Government website is: https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/

Free Productivity Tools and Advertising

Google supply many of their business tools free or at low cost. Check out their Google for Non Profits website for more details. I used to recommend this as a bargain to my clients before it became free to non-profits.

The offer is at registered charity level i.e. Area Meeting rather than local meeting. Setting up is straight forward and you only need one computer-savvy person per AM to organise this. Even if your Area Meeting isn’t a registered charity it is still worth applying.

This also ties in nicely with the Generic Email advice I’ve given before.

As part of the above Google AdWords Grants are available to enable you to create adverts and attract people to your website.

Google Places was talked about in the first Marketing Your Meeting House post and is still one of the first pieces of marketing I recommend.

Halls for Hire is a website that will allow you to enter data about your meeting house and the rooms you have for hire.

Free Photos and Images for Websites, Posters and Newsletters

Flickr has items that can be used with various levels of permission

Wikimedia Commons has thousands of images

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: E is for Equality

2015 04 22 Equals

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

E is for Equality

Equality is a key aspect of Quaker beliefs and testimonies. Some readers may remember that E was for Equality last time – then I talked about ensuring there was equal access for all users of the building. In the Friend (April 23rd) there was an article, ‘How do we Grow Acceptance?‘ which tackled similar issues.

This time I’m going to explore the ways that we an ensure there is equal charges and usage of the building.

When I am asked about discounts or using the building for free, I reply pointing out, ‘We are a registered charity and the Charity Commission does not allow us to give discounts to other groups or charities unless it is in our direct interests’. There is a useful set of guidelines at https://www.gov.uk/work-with-other-charities I have sent hirers there and quoted the below:

The trustees must properly consider and be satisfied that:

  • it will be an effective way of using your charity’s resources to further its charitable purposes
  • it will be in your charity’s best interests
  • your charity’s governing document doesn’t prevent you from doing it
  • you have identified and can deal with any risks that the proposal presents

In a previous post ‘Quakerly Business‘ I’ve also mentioned ways that we can work with other charities to raise awareness on issues we have in common or to put on an event or fund raise together.

This is different to ensuring that there is a policy document regarding room hiring that says that for local community groups and charities we give a discount of xxx% or similar.

  • Do you have a reduced rate for charities and community groups?
  • Of course there will always be charities that are much better off than others – do you take that into consideration?
  • If so, do you have written guidelines to ensure this is applied equally?
  • Do you expect the person taking the booking and creating the invoice to decide on the discount, taking each case on its merits?

Not all charities are necessarily be aligned with Quaker values and principles, what would happen if someone requested the charitable

How do you deal with this issue in your meeting?