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?

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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 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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