#AdventWord 2019: 5 Raise

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Perhaps not surprisingly the first topic that today’s #AdventWord Raise inspired was money. Raising money is a continual topic when running a meeting or a building – charitable or not.

At one point the building would have been supported and even built or repaired by the worshipping community. However, for most buildings I’ve visited the building now is maintained by professionals and supported more by other activities – hiring the building out to groups, or through longer-term leases.

One topic I’m often asked to comment on is the level of room hire charges. This is a continual debate and one that doesn’t have any easy answer. Often people will say that they’re happy to be at the cozy and cheap end of the market, while others aspire to be in align with a local office or conference centres. I go into this in more detail in the marketing course, you can read one article about this here: Marketing the next steps.

Another continual topic is how to raise interest in the worshipping community for the various behind the scenes jobs that are essential. Finding ways to ensure that reports and conversations explain what is happening throughout the year. Then for projects that people understand the plans and fully support the people doing the work.

If you are trying to ensure people feel part of the process and are willing to increase their funding there are some simple steps that can have fairly impressive results.

  1. Tell people about the need, people give more for specific topics so perhaps draw out a list of things that might be of interest and work through them. This month talking about raising money to support the local LINK group, next month bursaries for sending people to courses and conferences, then on to the library, hospitality, etc. Having different people speaking to support is always best as there is a personal connection. People often do this for ‘special collections’ for outside organisations but it works to educate the community about its different aspects.
  2. Ask – give specific targets, create an annual appeal letter and suggest that people review their giving as often a standing order is set up and then forgotten about. If someone isn’t giving by standing order make it easy to complete the form – including gift aid if applicable and offer help if needed.
  3. Share the knowledge and responsibility, consider a finance team rather than just a treasurer. Break the role down into tasks and see if simplifying systems can remove some of the tasks. For example, no longer having a cash collection removes the need for banking, counting, etc.
  4. Keep reports simple and use illustrations where possible – there are examples in the Quaker A-Z: W Where does the money go? post from a local meeting treasurer who checks the reports against her primary school children. If a target isn’t made tell people – but also celebrate when targets are reached.

How do you raise interest in finance and building management within your community?

#AdventWord 2019: 4 Humble

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String connection workshop activity at Managing our meeting houses conference at Woodbrooke

The Lord has told you, ·human [O man], what is good; he has told you what ·he wants [the Lord requires] from you: to do what is ·right to other people [just], love ·being kind to others [mercy; lovingkindness], and ·live humbly, obeying [walk humbly with] your God.

Micah 6:8 Expanded Bible

Like so many behind the scenes supporting jobs, building management is often seen as a humble purpose, busy with blocked toilets, leaking roofs and cluttered chaos. Yet, it is how this job is done that is the important thing.

From the Micah quote above – ‘to do what is right to other people’, often translated as to act justly. Which can be your own attitude, or how you treat suppliers, contractors, volunteers and others working alongside you to get the work done.

However, this can include much more, such as transparent policies, paying a living wage, being a Fair Trade church.

The second phrase ‘being kind to others’ is also translated as ‘loving to show mercy’. So often being willing to forgive and move forward toward reconciliation can be seen as a weakness, yet being willing to accept others frailties can build a stronger team and community. Of course, there are times when being loving towards someone means making hard decisions, but that can also be done in a transparent and truthful way.

Finally, the third phrase ‘live humbly’ with the idea of walking alongside God brings us to a more spiritual aspect. So often meetings get caught up in agendas and projects, plowing through items to ensure it is all dealt with efficiently. Yet, it is important to leave time for discernment, to work out what is not necessarily easiest or most efficient but what those ‘promptings of love and truth in your hearts’ are leading us towards.

How can we ensure that all aspects of our building and business reflect these three phrases or instructions?

#AdventWord 2019: 3 Time

2014 07 31 sculpture in the city Time here becomes space

Today’s #AdventWord Time made me think of plans, calendars and schedules. It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I have multiple to do lists, calendars for each ‘hat’ or role/client, not to mention lists of lists. They’re all reviewed regularly, in theory so nothing falls through – although of course it does. As I trust the calendar – it can mean that things go wrong when the calendar is wrong…. but that’s all part of life!

I see the schedules, checklists and calendar as creating space, I don’t spend time wondering what I’m doing today as it’s already planned. I trust that the past-me who sat and planned out the week, knew what they were doing, and that there is margin included for all the extras that appear in my day.

When I do mentoring I tell my clients to be nice to the future-you who will be grateful for the work you are doing now. Preparation and thinking now will mean less work later, thinking through and creating policies and procedures at a time where there isn’t a crisis is so much nicer than doing in the middle of one after all.

When I do clerk support – I supply a calendar spreadsheet (download it from here), which builds up to be a record of what needs doing when, and when it was done. Most maintenance jobs – whether physical or administrative repeat on a schedule and once that’s recognised you can put it onto the calendar and it will remind you, so you don’t need to remember. Although you do need to look at the calendar of course!

Atul Gwande’s book the Checklist Manifesto showed that a checklist makes even the most efficient and accurate person or team that bit more efficient and accurate. Important if you are a surgeon or pilot, but also important whatever you are doing.

#AdventWord 2019: 2 Visit

Bromley Quaker Meeting House

One of the things I love about working for MBS is the chance to visit so many meeting houses and churches. Each looks different, each reflects the time and place that it was designed, built, or renovated. There is a collection of images on Flickr created by a Quaker photographer John Hall – well worth looking to see if you recognise any of the buildings, or just enjoy a virtual visit around the country – and abroad.

The English Heritage Quaker Meeting House project was done during 2015 & 2016 with the report being presented at Bath Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering (YMG) as a special interest group. The room was a reasonable size but the group overflowed, not only standing room but also into the corridor as people gathered to hear about how special our buildings are – I loved hearing non-Quakers tell us what a wonderful resource and heritage that Quakers across Britain had preserved.

During the survey a total of 345 meeting houses were visited across Great Britain: 324 in England, 12 in Wales, 7 in Scotland and 2 in the Channel Islands. You can read more about it and download the reports for each building, as well as the national overview report on their website: http://heritage.quaker.org.uk/ Central England Quakers used that information to produce their own booklet, showing a Quaker time line against the founding of each of their meetings.

Reading through the national overview report, and listening to the presentation what struck me was the love that people have for these buildings and gardens and how interesting each one was. Although in Norfolk and Waverley – the survey shone a light on the buildings (ten, of which six are listed) noting that all buildings were loved but often by just one or two people locally, and where the Premises person was often was 90+ years old and still climbing ladders.

Visiting other meeting houses, and churches can create connections, share good practice and give inspiration on how to deal with problems in your own building. It can be a joy as well as a recommended practice in Qf&P 12.12.

#AdventWord 2019: 1 Unexpected

For the sixth year in a row, #AdventWord will gather prayers via a global, online Advent calendar. Virginia Theological Seminary is offering meditations and images during this holy season beginning Sunday, 1 December. Images and meditations can be experienced via the #AdventWord website, direct daily emails, as well as on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and ASL videos via YouTube. This year, meditations will also be available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

I saw this series of prompts on social media and thought it would be interesting to work through them from an MBS perspective. Thinking through the spiritual aspects of running a building and charity business while starting the end of year round up of accounts, reports and contracts.

Perhaps Unexpected angle – but then preparing for the unexpected is essential when dealing with buildings, volunteers and the general public.

Quaker A-Z: Z is for Zen

Wallpaper Zen Spirit 1280x800 edition 2006Z is for Zen

No, I’m not suggesting that you become a Buddhist or learn to meditate. Instead I’m suggesting you find a way to bring a bit of Zen acceptance of what is, into your life.

While managing a meeting house you have to accept that there will be days when:

  • Someone thinks that pouring cornstarch and jelly into the toilet is a good idea, and is confused as to why this didn’t work as a disposal mechanism.*
  • Someone decides your garden/doorstep/outside space is a toilet or a rough sleeping area causing disruption and upset to the others using the building.
  • Someone discovers that the downstairs is completely flooded by the storm water coming up through the basement toilets to the level of several inches (and it is still raining hard).
  • Someone takes out their frustration and anger at you for things that are outside your control, and you didn’t even know about.*
  • Someone steals or breaks or loses items that are rather vital to the smooth running of the building – leaving you to deal with the fall out.
  • Someone comes to ask deep questions about Quakerism and their own spiritual journey – while at least one of the above is also happening, leaving you to wonder about your own spiritual journey and nourishment.

It is very easy to become stressed and to feel as if running the building for the meeting is no longer a service offered with joy, but instead is a headache that you wish would go away.

It is at this time you should remember that Quaker Faith & Practice contains wisdom to cling to in difficult times:

A&Q 23: In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.

Find a way forward that supports you and shares the stress of your trials and tribulations.

  • Join the Wardenship e-list
  • Attend a Wardens’ Talking event organised by Quaker Life
  • Attend a Managing Your Meeting House event at Woodbrooke
  • Set up a chance for all Premises members in your local area to get together to swap stories and best practice.

There is much to be said for the value of a well told story, to a nodding listener who understands the complexities of sharing a beloved building with the public, and that the most difficult users may attend on a Sunday morning…

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

*Messy play lead to messy toilet unblocking – which wasn’t helped by the glitter they’d included in both.

*My favourite of these is the person who was furious to discover that they’d been thinking it was Thursday all day and turned up for their class…. Which wasn’t on – as it was actually Wednesday, and blamed me for this. “You have ruined my evening!” I listened and said I was sorry for their disappointment.

Quaker A-Z: Y is for D.I.Yourself

Urban Greening red paint jobY is for Do it Yourself

Quakers have a long and worthy history of working together to solve large and small problems. Painting parties, working in the garden – even the Quaker Tapestry was done as a group effort.

As mentioned in V is for Volunteers you may get professional people volunteering and you should always ensure that the people you are asking to do the work have the skills necessary – or are paired with those that do.

Of course there will be times when it is best to bring in outside or at least competent people to do the work. In Six Weeks Meeting’s Handbook

Members of Premises Committees or wardens will often be able to undertake small routine maintenance tasks such as changing light bulbs, checking electrical leads, renewing tap washers and minor attention to decorations. In some cases members may be qualified to undertake more major tasks, but Committees must not entrust work to those who,
however keen, are not sufficiently skilful, experienced or qualified to undertake it.
.
The use of inexperienced or unskilled labour can result in expensive damage even with apparently straightforward tasks such as decorating. Safety is paramount for those undertaking voluntary work and it is also essential that there is adequate insurance cover. Friends must ensure that any work they carry out themselves is in accordance with current regulations…

At a Wardens’ Talking event we were asked to write on post-its the most annoying bit of our jobs. One of those read out was, “I feel the I spend my time putting right the efforts of bumbling amateurs.”

Without hesitation I turned to Vincent (my husband and at the time co-warden) and asked, “Yours?”

“Yep!”

Thankfully that wasn’t a common feeling. After that, we continued in that job for more than a decade.

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

Quaker A-Z: X is for eX-hibitions

climb up to the moor flyer3X is for eXhibition

Earlier this week I went into Friends House specifically to visit this exhibition – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Gorgeous colours and textures shown off beautifully in the space, the sound track enhanced the art as you moved around the exhibit.

There were several Ffriendly faces that I recognised, but there were also others who had been tempted into the space because of the art.

I was delighted to see such an event and was glad to hear that it had been busy and attracted people who were in Friends House for other reasons as well as those attracted by the exhibition.

I’ve known several meeting houses hold similar events – ranging from small displays in the lobby to larger installations which fill the entire building. Kingston Quaker Centre, which opened in September 2014, built in picture display rails to the main communal area with the expectation that they will hold exhibitions at some time.

So why hold such an event?

It can be a form of inreach – a way of supporting and encouraging members of the meeting, members of the wider Quaker community (Area Meeting to Yearly Meeting and beyond) who are artists professionally or as a hobby.

It can involve artists in other faith groups who are producing spiritually inspired work on a similar theme, encouraging discussion across boundaries.

It can encourage people to visit the building who wouldn’t otherwise. A form of outreach and marketing – as visitors may remember the venue when they next organise an event.

It can show regular visitors aspects of Quaker beliefs and testimonies in a way that a leaflet rack, no matter how well stocked, cannot.

It can inspire discussion and exploration of the themes within the meeting, with these discussions occurring across ages and involving the whole worshipping community.

It can raise money for a specific cause or for general Quaker work or support the artists who created the work.

It can be fun as the group work together to create something beautiful.

Inspired?

Although the Climb up to the Moor exhibition was also a lot of work, done by a dedicated group from the Quaker Arts Network.

However, you can start smaller – displaying a range of historical peace posters such as those available from the Quaker Book Shop, or a series of prints from the Quaker Tapestry (perhaps linked to one of their Slide Talks?)

  • Have you ever held an exhibition at your building?
  • Have you any hints or tips to help such an event go smoothly?

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

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

2013 06 18 Collection box

W is for Where does the money go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quaker A-Z: V is for Vulnerable Victim

2011 07 28 banking cheques

V is for Vulnerable Victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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