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?

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 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?

 

Quaker A-Z: D is for Digital Diaries and Documents

Pen, Diary and GlassesThis is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

D is for Digital Diaries and Documents

Diaries can be a wonderful organising tool, but they can also lead to confusion if not updated on a regular basis. If lost the information can usually be downloaded again.  many people use a combination of paper and digital calendars these days.

Digital diaries have the ability to synchronise with other people through the cloud keeping them up to date with your plans and whereabouts without continual emails or phone calls. People are able to see if you might be available by looking at your calendar.

This can work well for a meeting house too – where you need to know if there is a space available at a specific time. Either through through sharing ‘live’ individual calendars – as shown by Beverly Quakers or by sharing a pdf calendar that are manually updated – as shown here by Welwyn Garden City.

By sharing this information you can cut down enquiries where there isn’t availability, and can also encourage hirers to consider other times.

Even with digital diary sharing trying to get everyone together for a meeting can be frustrating.

Doodle Polls are a web based system that allows you to create a range of dates and times for a proposed meeting and then allow all attendees to fill in the dates they are available. Why not try it the next time you have to co-ordinate diaries and find a date to meet?

D is for Digital Documents

All documents can be digitized, often if created on a computer it is easy to file a copy into a cloud based storage system such as Dropbox or similar. More information about that in Z is for Zipped.

Another aspect of the digital age is the ability to send contract documents to hirers electronically – saving paper and postage as well as time. I mentioned the importance of having contracts in X marks the spot, the ability to share these easily with other Premises or Finance committee members is also important. A query on a user or amount owing can be answered quickly and easily by a glance at the contract rather than having to be sent to the record keeper and awaiting their reply.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can you sign digital documents including contracts? Surely you have to print, sign and scan in?”

First I need to tell you that there are two types of computer based signatures – a digital signature is cryptographically secure, and confirms that this document has been read by a specific person who has then used their private signing key to authorize it.

This is usually expensive and only common in legal and commercial systems.

Instead I’m going to explain how to add a digitized signature plus text to a pdf document. Whilst this isn’t as secure as the above digital signature, it is equally secure as receiving a scanned in document with a scribbled signature.

The ability to send, receive, review, sign, return and counter-sign documents all within the computer is one that I use daily. On a Mac this is very straightforward as it is done within Preview – click on the Tools menu and annotate using printed text or a scanned in signature.

Don’t have a scanner? You can take a photo of your signature on a white piece of paper using your phone or a webcam, then extract the signature. Once the signature is digitized it can be saved as a png or pdf file and inserted into any document. Remember to save each document so that the signature can’t be easily extracted and used by someone else.

With a PC, you will need to use one of a variety of programmes. Adobe Reader is very common and is able to do this on your computer. Open a document – if you aren’t prompted to sign the document once opened, click on the ‘sign’ button in the top right hand corner. Follow the on screen instructions to create and add a signature to the document. You can save the signature to use again.

If you don’t have Adobe Reader, HelloSign is a web based programme which is free for individuals. There are also mobile apps such as SignNow or DocuSign Ink.

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

Quaker A-Z: C is for Cash or Cheque

2011 07 28 banking chequesThis is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

Many room hirers pay by cash or cheque, especially those groups which are fairly informal, without a group bank account, or who need to have two signatures on any cheque.

However, cash handling is one of the weakest points for any financial system. it is too simple for cash to be lost, misused (using room hire receipts for petty cash is all too common) or appropriated.

Cash is more complicated to deposit than cheques, which can be deposited by post. As the Treasurer’s Handbook points out

“The Meeting’s money should not pass through the treasurer’s personal account, even though there may be times when this could seem more convenient.

The only possible exception is to enable odd amounts of cash to be paid into the Meeting account by means of the treasurer’s personal cheque.”

There can be other, larger sums of money coming into the building, separate from any cash collected for meeting funds or for other collections. If the meeting house hires out rooms and the fees are paid in cash, this can also put the building (and any warden/staff) at risk if knowledge of this cash on the premises becomes known.

There is also the need for someone to collect these room hire cash and cheques, record this alongside a second counter signatory and then take it to the bank. If the Treasurer or Assistant are not able to attend meeting very often, this can mean that the envelope of monies is waiting around for some period of time.

Due to these reasons, many meeting houses are no longer accepting cash from groups, instead asking that the group organise a way to collate the cash and pay by cheque. This was discussed on the wardenship e-list and one warden explained the decision,

“The Treasurer decided that accepting cash was putting extra work upon both the wardens and the treasurers that actually should belong to the group. Instead the group were asked to do their own treasurer’s work and pay by cheque or bank transfer. This has worked for all groups and we now have the majority paid by bank transfer with only a handful of cheques.”

If you decide to continue accepting cash payments do ensure you have procedures in place to track such payments from receipt to deposit, such as numbered receipts which can ensure the cash can be traced not only to the bank account but also to the contract or invoice it was paid against.

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

Quaker A-Z: B is for Better Banking

Forex Money for Exchange in Currency Bank by epSos.de

Forex Money for Exchange in Currency Bank by epSos.de

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

Banking is a complicated subject – often choosing a bank is based upon geographical location rather than ethical or other issues.

How does a Meeting or a Finance Committee make decisions about which bank to use for day to day business, not to mention where to invest any reserves or savings?

Often a decision is made based on out of date information or on a whim from one of the committee members. How can a decision be made without hours of research? Thankfully there has been a huge increase of interest in ethical finance since Young Friends General Meeting brought that issue to wider Quaker notice in 1980.

Many meetings use the Co-Operative bank but surprisingly, that doesn’t rate the highest on ethical and other issues. Move your Money is a not-for-profit organisation working to raise awareness about the broad range of financial institutions available to customers in the UK. They are funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, charitable foundations promoting excluded communities.

Ethical Consumer helped create the scorecard and has other information on ethical finance website too.

Geographical location, the ability for the Treasurer and Finance Committee to access the accounts on-line or any other issue may still affect the final decision but hopefully these tools will help cut down the amount of research time before any decision is made.

Quaker Peace & Social Witness have prepared the following paper about our relationship with the Co-operative Bank in response to questions raised by Friends: Banking with the Co-operative – A dilemma for Friends [PDF: 147kb – new window].

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

Quaker A-Z: A is for Accurate Accounts

keep-calm-and-be-accurateThis is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

I like the poster above, it can be taken in so many ways.

At first you might think this is referring to the types of accounts that the treasurers have to keep. This is very important and as all Quaker meetings are charities registered or not it is a legal requirement.

But in this post, I am talking more about ensuring the total cost are running a meeting house or a committee or a project are accurately recorded. So often when I ask for receipts someone will say, “oh don’t worry about it.”

This casual attitude can create a culture where we presume that anyone nominated to do some work should fund it from their own pocket. Even if they do claim it back in the end, it can be presumed that their budget is able to fund this until they can be paid back.

I once pointed out to a committee I was on that they didn’t have a budget for a specific project they asked me to work on. I was told the budget had been removed because the money hadn’t been spent in many years. But of course the work was still happening – it was merely being funded by individuals not the group as a whole.

  • What will happen when those individuals are replaced by someone for whatever reason don’t feel they should be supporting that work from their pocket?
  • Or if someone wants to be part of that work, but doesn’t have economic means to support it themselves?

Presuming the work is still something the group wanted to support, there won’t be any record at how much was spent previously to be used as a guideline and there won’t be any money allocated to it the existing budget.

Another bonus is that if the individuals using their money are taxpayers, they can claim back the money they have spent and then donate it as a gift aid donation.

Legally there must be money exchanging hands, so they do need to claim and then donate, rather than writing off the receipts. As long as you have audit trail then gift aid can be claimed – there is more information at that link.

For all of these reasons I hope you can see why is important to have accurate accounts.

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

An Explanation of the Quaker Alphabet Blog project for 2015

Q is for QuakerI’m joining in with the Quaker A-Z blog event – where all sorts of Quakers from all walks of life are coming together to share ideas.

Linked only by our Quakerism and the format of publishing blog posts from A-Z.

Just like last year’s series, this as a bit of a hodgepodge of ideas and views.

There will be some serious posts while others… Will be more of a bit of fun. To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link in the side bar or here in this post.

Hope you enjoy it!