Quaker A-Z: M is for Mission and Money (but not Marketing)

Committed to a Mission

Photo by Eric Castro

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

M is for Mission

What is your mission? Not a question that is asked often here in the UK. But one that was a common first question among people meeting in Kenya during the FWCC World Conference in 2012. Instead of the more common ‘what do you do?’ they asked, ‘What is your mission?’ How would you answer such a question?

There is a good summary with links to current Quaker missions on the Quakers in the World site. However – it isn’t mission ‘out there’ I’m talking about, but your own individual mission, or perhaps the mission you support in your local worshipping community.

Perhaps your meeting’s mission is to do no more than fulfil Qf&P 4.33, or perhaps there is a calling to work with refugees, sustainability, social justice or some other cause. Or perhaps, as I heard one Quaker say only partially jokingly, ‘it is to earn money to support other meetings in our Area Meeting’. It can even be to do whatsoever you are called to do next as well as you can.

23.63

The individual and the community

Work and economic affairs

One of the aspects of parenthood which I enjoy most is putting my mind to trying to solve all sorts of problems. I get a big thrill out of designing gadgets which will make life a little more comfortable. I love to get to work on a thoroughly neglected garden or room and put it right again. I find great satisfaction in being consulted about other people’s problems and helping to sort them out. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that this is the area in which I shall both find my main direction and satisfy my needs to be creative, practical and supportive. If, rather than concentrating on one particular job or career, I apply myself to tackling the many problems that come my way, I am sure that my life will be more than adequately filled with work that I ‘most need to do and the world most needs to have done’. Thus I shall have found my vocation or mission. It will not mean that all the problems will get solved, of course, or that those which do will be solved satisfactorily every time, but I am sure that it will mean that my relationships with other people will improve and that both the giving and the taking of love will come easier to me.

Helen Edwards, 1992

Have you ever stopped to think about what your mission is or what you might like it to be?

M is for Money

I’m not talking about ensuring that ‘this community should be able to support itself & its activities‘ as I mentioned in Beacons and Burdens. Nor how to increase lettings, as I did in the how to do Marketing series. Both of which are different aspects of income and outcome.

Instead in this post I’m going to cover Petty Cash and other monies. Such monies aren’t large amounts, but tend to be ones that there is confusion over and often cause upset.

Before we start you might want to think about how does your meeting handle money:

  • Is there a Treasurer or a team of Treasurers?
  • Are they well supported?
  • Are things organized so the person responsible for maintaining any inventory has the ability to easily do so?
  • Do you have separate Premises accounts and general funds or is everything in one pot?
  • Did you know that there are training courses for treasurers and others working with Quaker finances – both on-line and at Woodbrooke?

How are small amounts of supplies purchased?

Warden/Quakers/Another buy with their own funds and claim.

This presumes that person being asked to do the shopping can afford to do this – and puts the onus on them to keep receipts and make an expenses claim. It makes it easy for these small amounts to slip through and be paid for by the individual not the meeting. This isn’t good practice, and it also means that you don’t have an accurate account of how much it takes to keep the building going.

If someone wants to donate in the most tax efficient way, they should claim and donate that amount with gift aid added.

We only have a Petty Cash box/account

Who maintains this and does this mean you are unable to buy on-line or in bulk unless you have someone else pay and reclaim?

We have an account with linked debit card and/or cheque book

This works well for on-line shopping presuming you have accounts and can pay via invoice and cheque book and/or can pay with the debit card. It will mean you are able to buy in bulk. It also means you can pop out with the debit card to cover the last minute pint of milk and a packet of biscuits!

If there are several signatures on this account, including the Treasurer who can both keep an eye on the float level and top it up as necessary, this system can work very well.

We do some combination of the above

This is probably the most practical of options.

Good record keeping and transparent practices are necessary to avoid fraud. Debit cards may make some treasurers nervous as you aren’t able to have two signatures on these, but with a limited account balance this isn’t much risk.

  • How does your meeting deal with these types of transactions?
  • What advice or good practice could you share?

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

Quaker A-Z: L is for Learning and Lights

Scattered Light at Northern Spark

Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light at Northern Spark at Upper Landing Park in Saint Paul.

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

L is for Learning and Lights

Learning and Light are things Quakers talk about regularly, although perhaps not always in relation to premises.

  • How do you involve other members of the meeting in learning about the meeting house as a building?
  • How do you empower members of the meeting to help in the decision making and running of the building?

As part of my leaving transition preparations, I’m running a workshop on that subject at Muswell Hill on Sunday afternoon. Starting with a treasure hunt – looking for such things as the fuse boards, cleaning cupboard and banners and finishing with a building tour. I have done similar events in the past.

  • Have you ever done a similar event?
  • What were the results?

Woodbrooke and Quaker Life both offer ways of learning about meeting house management and sharing good practice – through courses and regular workshop days such as “Wardens Talking”.

Informal chances to get together with others can be difficult to organise but useful – if only in having the chance to talk to someone who does understand the joys and problems opportunities of living on the job!

If you are able to attend one of these gatherings, I do recommend them. The next two Wardens Talking are in September (London) and November (Lancaster), the cost for the day is only £10 which includes lunch and refreshments. A bargain I assure you!

L is for Light

In 2011 Britain Yearly Meeting agreed to corporately strive to become a low carbon, sustainable community. One of the simplest ways of reducing the meeting house’s carbon footprint it to start to use low energy light bulbs.

LED light bulbs are coming down in price, although compared to compact fluorescents they are still expensive – but use a fraction of the energy and have (or are supposed to have) a much longer lifespan.

Perhaps start by using them in places where it is difficult to change bulbs, and therefore the longer life is a good motivation.

This is something that Bath LQM did, using a sustainability grant from Quaker Peace & Social Witness, as part of their overall restoration plans.

Or use natural sources… Cotterage Meeting House uses solar tubes to bring light to their toilets. Not to mention the Large Meeting House at Friends House with its new skylight.

Don’t forget that if you make changes that reduce your energy consumption and thereby ‘green’ your building, you can use the money saved (comparing utility bills before and after) to invest in new improvements.

Plus you can also use those to make your building more attractive to potential hirers. Friends’ House use the phrase ‘With us events don’t cost the earth’ to stress their green credentials.

  • What ways have you found to help your meeting house live lightly?

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

Quaker A-Z: K is for Kitchens and Keys

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

K is for Kitchens

You may remember seeing some of the kitchen improvements I made after attending the Woodbrooke “Managing your Meeting House” course – where I added photos to improve equality.

But there is more to managing a kitchen than adding labels. Almost all Meetings will fall under food hygiene legislation, and as such have to think about what they – and others, do in their kitchens.

Quaker Meetings (well all churches) need to register at Food Businesses. Additionally the Churches safety page http://www.churchsafety.org.uk/information/other/food.htm is very clear that we not only have to register, but that the food handlers should be level 1 food safety/hygiene certified.

This level 1 certification is widely available and not very expensive, so ensuring that several members of the meeting have qualified won’t be too difficult. Some members may already be qualified too of course through their job or other activities.

This quote from North Norfolk Council struck me as useful: (I’ve snipped all but the two that apply to most Meetings, and a slightly ironic definition of food…)

“Food business” has a very wide definition and includes any activity where “food” is supplied whether carried on for profit or not. Examples of food businesses that need to be registered

  • Educational establishments, e.g. schools and colleges.
  • Community/church halls where a kitchen is used by the owners to provide food.
  • Please note “Food” also has a very wide definition and includes:
    • drink,
    • articles and substances of no nutritional value which are used for human consumption,
    • chewing gum and other products of a like nature and use and articles, and substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food.

Your local council will be able to give more detailed information as to their specific requirements, so do contact them for details.

  • Has your meeting registered?
  • Did you need to do any improvements to do so?

K is for Keys

Security is a continual concern for anyone running a building, choices as to whether the meeting house is left unlocked at certain times (such as during Meeting for Worship) or kept locked up at all times is something that each meeting will need to decide for itself.

How to deal with keys and giving access to hirers comes up regularly on the Wardenship e-list run by Quaker Life. Some meeting houses don’t give keys out, but access is supplied by staff, others hand out keys or use a key box system.

Newer technology has brought other options – keypad numerical systems allow each hirer to be given a specific code which can be added and removed easily thus allowing access for a short time, or to be changed if you suspect someone has given out the code, it also allows the access to be removed without having to chase the hirer for a key.

All of the above have benefits and problems, but a central register of who has been given a code or key is important. Some insurance companies request it and after an incident such as a burglary being able to hand a list or file of names and addresses to the police rather than having to create it from notes or memory, is extremely useful.

  • What system does your meeting house have in place to give access and secure the building?

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

Quaker A-Z: J is for Juggling Roles

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

On the Wardenship e-List one of the perennial questions a newly appointed Trustee or member of Premises asks is:

“What does your warden do?”

As with so many things this question has as many different answers as the number of Quakers or Meetings answering!

Some the roles a warden is now fulfilling may have never been on the original job or role description – they may not be written down. Instead the job has grown organically to complement the time and skill set of the existing warden(s).

Often, it is difficult to untangle what was on the original job description and what has been added on — officially or unofficially — since the description was created or since the warden was hired. Such tangling wasn’t intentional, but can lead to amazement at what is no longer being done when the Warden or Resident Friend leaves.

Thankfully, the untangling can start with a simple decision to do so.

  • If there isn’t a clear job description than one should be drawn up.
  • If there is a Warden or Resident Friend ask them to keep a record of their tasks for a week or so.

I use HoursTracker, an app on my mobile phone, to ensure I accurately charge (and I include clients and MBS as categories here).  As I swap tasks I log in and out plus add a brief description of the tasks.

Let’s get back to answering the original question, “What does a warden do?”  My records in HoursTracker enabled me to create a mindmap which includes the following sub headings:

  • Maintenance which included Caretaking and Gardening
  • Hospitality services both for hirers and for the Meeting
  • Marketing and PR
  • Lettings Administration
  • Finance and Bookkeeping
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Website Maintenance
  • Outreach
  • General Quaker Stuff

Other Wardens/Staff responding to the question, mentioned other jobs they were expected to do, too:

  • Living in and maintaining the B&B
  • Looking after rental property including a hostel next door
  • Coordinating teams of volunteers
  • Running the TraidCraft stall every Sunday
  • Making soup for midweek Meeting for Worship

Working out how many different jobs you are are expecting your workers to juggle can help work out problems, find ways of ensuring that their time is being used appropriately and aren’t being asked to do too much.

By being mindful of the time a warden spends on jobs and the different roles in the job description, a Meeting can also create opportunities to bring in other people to help with the juggling if necessary.

Qf&P has a section on employment and ensuring they aren’t overloaded, which can be useful for management of volunteers too.

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

Do you have any more jobs to add to my list of things Wardens have been asked to do?

Quaker A-Z: I is for Inventories, Insurances and Inclusiveness

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

I is for Inventories, Insurances and Inclusiveness

Inventories and Insurances

Inventories and Insurances seem to go together – Inclusiveness perhaps less so.

Insurances are of course another of those matters where I will advise that professional guidance should be sought.

Contents

If the Meeting House contains valuable antiques (furniture, books, etc.) make an inventory with photographs to help the police if they go missing; things like TV sets, videos etc. can usefully be marked indelibly with the postcode. Some insurance companies offer lower premiums if specific security precautions are taken: ask for their advice. Know where all your keys are; the police like to have a list of keyholders. Identify any problems of security which may occur when the Meeting House is actually open.
Handbook for the Care of Meeting Houses 1996

Most people when thinking of an inventory will think of a list of the contents in the Meeting House with a monetary value attached. That list of contents often has no use except as mentioned in the quote above in case of problems. That sort of inventory is very useful and should be created and maintained by Premises committees.
However, inventories also give everyone a chance to consider what is currently in the Meeting House and to decide if it meets their requirements. “Is it useful or thought to be beautiful” to paraphrase William Morris.
Clutter isn’t a good thing no matter where it is. It is easy for it to build up in cupboards and rooms and not been seen by the regular users. Digging through the cupboards and creating space may enable the meeting to give away excess to bless someone or somewhere else or inspire an activity to use some of these materials up.
This is also a chance to work out which items/records are not needed any more, should be archived somewhere else or to realise which have been moved somewhere else and either be retrieved or that location noted. For example the discovery that one meeting’s financial records were held in an office where an ex-treasurer’s father-in-law used to work before he retired…
As a warden I more than once decided that I was indirectly decluttering other people’s houses by creating space in the Meeting House. As once shelves were cleared people felt able to bring in more records or files.
Do remember that some files and records should be stored securely without easy public access.

Inclusiveness

Inclusiveness is another complicated subject – it is important to ensure we remember that each person will have their own requirements and wants when it comes to being included. These wants and needs will change as they go through life, but thankfully so many features put in for one person or group can be used or enhance the usage of the building and grounds by others.

For more spiritual resources I do recommend Qf&P Chapter 10 “Belonging to a Quaker Meeting” especially 10.20 where George Gorman muses about how religion is about relationships between people…

But in this post I’m going to talk about ways to ensure that all members of the Meeting feel valued and included.

Some building changes will be more expensive and time consuming…

You Tube video of sesame steps

But thankfully ensuring the meeting and its building are inclusive to all members doesn’t mean just wheelchair ramps. I mentioned these sorts of things in E is for Equality with concern about the Equality Act for 2010.

To quote the beginning of Advices & Queries 18

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome?

and to paraphrase the meaning of Qf&P 10.10 where Peggy McGeoghegan says “If we take seriously the nurture of our children in the worshipping group, we must start by re-appraising the whole life of the group.”

  • Could someone who is smaller or less able than others open the gate to come into the garden or enter the building?
  • Once inside could they (where it is safe) reach the interior door handles and locks?
  • Do you have appropriate cups, crockery for children and are various dietary requirements considered during your refreshments?
  • Do you have left handed scissors and kitchen tools?
  • Is there a large text version of Qf&P or other leaflets available? Or magnifying sheets?
  • During notices do you ensure that Quaker jargon is clarified?

This can mean ensuring that coat hooks are low enough for children to reach, that foot stools for sinks and hassocks for chairs are available for anyone who needs them; that handles and soap dispensers are easily used by those lacking mobility and of course that signage is good.

Balby Meeting have produced an introductory leaflet which explains in simple language about the meeting, photos and names of its members – including guide dog Cassie. The leaflet also has brief descriptions of what might happen when you visit.

  • Does your meeting consider all members when reappraising both the building and the life of the meeting?
  • What has your meeting done that worked well?

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

Quaker A-Z: H is for History plus Health & Safety

FMH Muswell Drawing

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

H is for History plus Health & Safety

History

In B is for Buildings I mentioned writing down a history of the building to act as a corporate memory for Premises Committee.

There is of course so much relating to the history of the Meeting as a community, than a building…

  • Have you asked other members of the meeting to share their memories of the Meeting?
  • Created a way to share those memories with newer members and attenders?
  • Considered creating a scrapbook archive that can be looked through and added to by each generation of members/attenders/children?

2014 03 21 shared mealsThis doesn’t have to be complicated – print out any Life & Service reports to slip into plastic page protectors for example.

An easy addition could be just a photograph or two a year – ask around as members may have taken some or be willing to take some.

A brief note of any highlights (births, deaths, membership matters, social events) would be fun to look back on.

Ring binder photo albums can hold a variety of different types – holding A4 paper, photos etc.

2014 03 21 newspaper clippingsAdd in photos of the children’s latest play, a shared meal, or carol singing and you’ll have wonderful material in years to.

It may even inspire new activities!

Perhaps you can sense that I am an enthusiastic scrapbooker and memory keeper. Don’t know what that means? See the Life Artistry tab above.

One project I enjoyed at Muswell Hill was taking head shots of current members and attenders as part of a Centenary Scrapbook.

I resized the photos to 3″x4″, printed two to a 6″x4″ photo and cut apart. We used paper and card trimmed to 6″x4″ and created a stack of cards inspired by the recent “I’m a xxxx, an xxxx and a Quaker” posters.

2014 03 21 I'm a 6x4Discovering little titbits about each other creates fellowship and much laughter as the cards are read and shared. These were slipped into plastic pocket page protectors which were put into the Meeting’s scrapbook album.

Health & Safety

Again as I mentioned in F is for First Aid this is a concern that often slips into the background…

until someone drops hot tea down themselves or is cut whilst chopping veggies for soup…

The basic requirements are that you have a Health & Safety policy that states that your Premises Committee follow all appropriate rules/legislation and that someone has the responsibility for checking that you are.

As well as that policy I’ve presumed you have a first aid box, an accident book and again that someone has the responsibility for checking those and replenishing stocks if necessary. Plus ensuring that basic H&S rules such as fire exits aren’t blocked, assessments of risk have been done etc.

Not sure what those rules are? The Health & Safety Executive website has a handy H&S ABC section.

Two tips I brought back from the very useful Woodbrooke & Quaker Life course, ‘Managing Your Meeting House’ were:

1) Have Health & Safety as a standing agenda item for Premises – even if all you can report is that nothing has been reported.

2) Put copies of your risk assessment on a wall or noticeboard for hirers. Those who need them won’t have to ask if you have one and those who haven’t thought about such things will be reminded.

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

  • What have you done to share the history and traditions of your meeting with new attenders and members?

Quaker A-Z: G is for Garden

2014 02 21 snowdrops 1 This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project click here for more information.

G is for Gardens

Many Meeting Houses have gardens or burial grounds or both…

QUAKERS BURIAL GROUND

photo by Leo Reynolds

During the Woodbrooke “AM Properties: Spiritual & Strategic Resources” course I attended last year several Trustees brought up burial grounds as a problem.

‘Tis a complicated subject with many variations – so I’m not going to get into the technical legalities of burial grounds and their maintenance.

Nor am I going to attempt to enthuse you about gardening – although it is a passion of mine. Especially in urban areas, outdoor space can be a big draw for hirers of the building, as well as making the building look more inviting.

I mentioned in C is for Choices & Changes that I had told the hirers about Minute 36, what the Meeting hoped to do to reduce its carbon footprint and some practical changes that would be happening.  I also put copies of the minute and other information up on the garden noticeboard – this has guidelines on the garden and its usage.

I was able to talk about how the organic, wild life friendly garden is managed, why the various areas exist and how doing this both improves bio-diversity and reduces our carbon footprint at the same time.

Whilst each group may feel that composting their tea bags and left over biscuits may not be much, they can see that combined with the other groups it does make a difference.  Ensuring that there is a display of what those differences are – for example photos of the apple harvest or pond wildlife can encourage visitors.

Good garden design can make all the difference to the usage and maintenance of the space. Maintenance and some new flowers can also help tremendously.

2013 06 Cotteridge gardenCotteridge Meeting House had their garden designed by a professional gardener Debbie Arrowsmith, who was able to combine a busy Pre-School play area with a quieter meditative space which appears when the play things are all packed away.

Whilst chatting with the gardeners at Friends House, I discovered they have to be careful of the height of plantings – to prevent people using that semblance of privacy for various anti-social behaviours. Instead they’ve redesigned the area to create height and interest in different ways.

Contrasted to another gardening chat with the Warden, where their main vandals were local cattle…

Did you know that there is a Quaker Gardens Project? The Project ran a course at Woodbrooke offering help and advice on using the space to ensure that our Quaker values and testimonies are on show here as well in our buildings. Woodbrooke’s grounds are wonderful – and draw visitors in to their open days who not only enjoy a brief glimpse at this urban oasis but also learn a bit more about Quakers and organic gardening at the same time.

At a Wardens Talking event we discussed ways to use the garden for outreach – such as joining with a local gardening or green group to arrange an open day – especially if there are strong connections with the Meeting already. The group might be able to offer additional people on the day, plus marketing directed at a completely different group.

This sort of joint event could even be arranged in a Meeting House where there isn’t much garden – apple identification, seed swaps etc. are all indoor events.

Horfield Meeting in Bristol managed to convert their rather small and dingy outdoor yard into a space complete with planters and Quaker made tiled mural – a place to stop and admire whilst waiting at the bus stop rather than ignore.

Horfield courtyard

Whilst if you have been blessed with ample green space you could consider using part of it to grow vegetables or fruit, as a memorial area or even create a peace garden [link to peace garden project]. Woodbrooke hold open days which attract many people into the space to enjoy the garden but also to learn a little bit about Quakers too.

  • What have you done to attract people to your outdoor space?
  • Have you considered the usage and maintenance of that space as a way of demonstrating Quaker values?

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

Quaker A-Z F: Fair Trade Churches & First Aid

2012 02 23 1st aid drawer

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

F is for Fair Trade & First Aid

Fair Trade Churches

Fair Trade Fortnight was 24 February – 9 March 2014 this year – did you do anything?

A Meeting House can become a Fair Trade Church – a small but significant step towards a fairer more equitable society.

How? Thankfully that is fairly easy, you may discover you already qualify at least in part.

Your Meeting must agree to the following:

  • Use Fairtrade tea and coffee after Meeting for Worship and in all meetings for which you have responsibility
  • Move forward on using other Fairtrade products such as sugar, biscuits and fruit
  • Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and during the year through events, worship and other activities whenever possible

The Meeting will get a certificate which you can display in the kitchen. Some meeting houses also have fair trade products available to sell. Others just ensure that the supplies they use are Fair Trade.

The Fairtrade Foundation Churches scheme is supported by Quaker Peace & Social Witness centrally, but each Meeting can join in with the Fair Trade Church campaign.

F is also for First Aid

It isn’t until something happens that it occurs to us to ask… “Is there anyone in the Meeting who has an up to date first aid certificate?” The old question of a doctor needs too much clarification on occasion!

First aid again is another of those not so interesting but necessary items overseen by Premises and building management committees.

One of the useful tips I picked up on a first aid course was to sign and date the accident book when checking the box’s contents. Just to show that you were there – and to prevent anyone from entering an accident that you weren’t aware of.

Did you know there isn’t any legislation saying what you should have in a first aid box - although the HSE do supply guidance free to download. Note: you shouldn’t have tablets or medications in there or be giving them out.

  • Is there a first aid box in the meeting house?
  • When was the last time the contents were checked?
  • If you hire space to other organizations do they use your first aid kit?
  • Do you have any guidance for them or the Meeting on where it is and what to do if there is an accident?

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 & Environment

2010 12 11 new meeting room set up 1This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project click here for more information.

E is for Equality and Environment

Environment

Here I’m not thinking of our green and pleasant land, but around the Meeting House inside and out.

According to Quaker Faith & Practice – Elders have a responsibility to ensure ‘the right holding of MfW’ and ‘to be responsible for the quiet gathering of the meeting for worship in order, reverence and harmony, for the arrangement of seating‘.

Whilst Premises have the responsibility to ensure that the meeting isn’t doing that gathering whilst balancing gingerly on unsafe chairs or dodging leaks.

However it is a joint effort to ensure that the building and its surroundings looks as the Meeting would like it to look, as with any place clutter and unorganised areas can start to build up without anyone having the responsibility to sort, purge and clear them away.

  • Have you ever asked yourself or others in the Meeting how the Meeting House should look? Looked as a prospective visitor or hirer may?
  • What does that quote mention of ‘order, reverence and harmony’ let alone the seating look like for your Meeting House?
  • Does the Meeting House meet the needs of all of the various types of user groups and still maintain a sense of peace?
  • Are there ways you could address any problem areas and create a more harmonious and serene space to worship and work in?

Equality

Recently one of the most interesting (and frustrating) aspects of managing a Meeting House has been around Equality. Both in relation to Disability Access and trying to balance all the needs/wants of each group with different ages and practical requirements, in a building which was built well before such concerns was common place is not uniquely Quaker – many other churches and historic buildings struggle with such things.

There are various rights around access and equality that are legislated about. More details on those can be found at the Government’s ‘Creating a Fairer and More Equal Society‘  pages. But to quote one very frustrated disabled Quaker,

“I just wish people would remember that disabled doesn’t mean wheelchair user!”

Ramps, lifts, evacuation concerns and hearing loops may all require professional advice. As well as a disability advisor or architect who can be questioned on specific instances or concerns that you might have about your building. I’m not going to attempt to offer any advice on such things.

But here are a few other tips I found useful that are simple and cheap to implement.

1) Ensure all door frames and doors are a different colour to the surrounding walls.  This gives someone with partial visual impairment a large rectangle to aim at.

2) Have a variety of different types of chairs, some with arms, some without, some taller and some shorter. If at all possible allow people to choose their own chairs, with cushions available for those who need them (one meeting has a basket of fleece rugs too as several of their elderly Friends were feeling the cold), and perhaps footstools. Consider where else you can supply such things – for example left handed scissors and can openers were donated at a previous meeting I attended by a left handed Quaker.

3) Offer different lighting options – a task light by the library desk where people want to read/write for example or under kitchen cupboards where people are preparing refreshments.

4) Supply photographs of drawer or cupboard contents as well as labels. As it was pointed out you shouldn’t presume that people can read your (often small) labels, or can read English…

It also meant the cupboards and drawers were tidied out thoroughly before we took, printed and laminated the photos. These are used and commented upon by people who can read and see perfectly well but find the photos easier.2014 02 05 kitchen photo cupboards

  • What steps have you taken to ensure that your building is suitable for all?
  • Did you find professional advice useful?
  • Have you produced any leaflets or guidance to improve access or equality among members and attenders?

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

Quaker A-Z D is for Dangers

2014-02-05 12.11.10This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project click here for more information.

D is for Dangers

I don’t want to suggest that there are unsuspecting dangers lurking around every corner – but there are a few things I’d like to suggest that each Premises committee should consider.

What are the dangers that you might be most concerned with?

  • Fire
  • Accidents
  • Decay or lack of maintenance which causes the building to become unsafe
  • Loss of hirers and therefore income
  • Loss of volunteers and therefore needing to hire people to do the same work

Then how to solve these:
Most risks can be avoided with some practical preparation and common sense.

Fire and other Risk Assessment templates are easily available from the HSE website with guidance and questionnaires to work through.

Did you know ROSPA do surveys of the building and garden if you want a professional viewpoint. Otherwise ensuring you have appropriate H&S policies and procedures should protect yourself and others.

Be careful to differientiate between things you have to do legally and those that you want to do and what others might suggest you do…

Insurance is always a good idea to protect assests.

Ensuring that each building is surveyed professionally on a regular basis – commonly every 5 years ‘a Quinquennial Survey’ plus more often – at least annually by members of the Premises committee.

Consider ways to build a relationship with your hirers, ask questions to see how that relationship is (doesn’t have to be as formal as a survey), find ways to add value to encourage them to stay with you.

Have a back up plan of how you would run the organization if you didn’t have volunteers and think of ways that your volunteers feel supported and appreciated. (There will be more about this when we get to V!)

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