ACAT Conference 2019

Faith, Finance and the Future: Enabling Your Mission

This year’s ACAT (Association of Church Accountants and Treasurers) was held at Methodist Central Halls on October 19th. While Westminster was quiet when I arrived at 9:30 it was obviously preparing for the hordes of people expected later on.

I always enjoy these conferences, they are a good reminder of the spiritual aspects to my job. This year was no exception with presentations from the Charity Commission, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) and Christian Aid and others.

Church as an Employer

There was a hands on aspect to this presentation from law firm Anthony Collins which caused a great deal of discussion at my table – and across the room. The challenges of employing people who are also part of the worshipping community, or explaining the worshipping community to those employed goes across all denominations and faiths I’m sure.

How to deal with people who are no longer performing as we’d like as trustees while supporting them as members of the same community is one I’ve come across so many times.

Digital Learning

I found fascinating a glimpse at the new educational platform that the Diocese of Leeds has developed. The Reverend Dr Hayley Matthews is the Digital Learning Platform‘s director and showed how it can create connections across the diocese, empowering people to learn more about their faith, complete necessary courses such as safeguarding, discuss issues and learn about events. It has been designed from the ground up by the Diocese’s digital team and is designed to encourage those using it to take responsibility for discipleship life, enabling and empowering everyone to learn and live faithfully.

Christian Aid: Improving digital giving and the online experience

Christian Aid is perhaps best known for the neighbourhood envelope collections done during Christian Aid week. Falling numbers of donations has caused them to rethink their donation strategy, to reduce the number of programs involved and redesign their website to encourage donations.

Chris Morris whizzed through some ideas that he recommended we try to improve the digital experience of anyone visiting our websites. He also pointed out that for tiny churches that a Facebook page is a good place to start.

Some of the notes I made included such snippets as ‘there is a 70/80% more engagement with a video than a static picture’, but that even a static picture is better than just text.

As a charity you should have a clear way for people to donate, don’t be embarrassed to ask for money, as a charity you need money. Which reminded me of reviewing a new website for a friend running a charity. After reading through the blog posts and watching a couple of project videos I was enthused and excited to support – but there wasn’t any way to give money!

Charity Commission

Jeff Prescott has eleven years as a Senior Accountant at the Charity Commission and assured us that whatever mistakes we make – he has seen others make the same! Rather scarily he told us that even professionals make mistakes when submitting Annual Returns and that about 65% of tiny charities do so when submitting.

While reminding us that we need to get things right, he was challenged from the floor about the difficulties of the on line platform. It was pointed out that if even professionals are making so many mistakes perhaps it was just us but the tools supplied! Jeff agreed with the complexities and assured us that there was a working group looking at ways to simplify this and that it would include the ability to go back and correct entries rather than needing to start over.

He also briefly went into quite technical information about the new SORP which consolidates the existing SORP with updates bulletins 1 & 2 which were released this year, and the results of the consultation which ended earlier this year.

Connecting the Dots between your Faith and your Finance

Janie Oliver is the new director of ECCR, appointed in April and comes from a banking and audit background. Janie’s talk was about her growing awareness of the need to look at all spending and money, quoting Matthew 6:19-21 and that in her studying she’s been startled to discover that Jesus mentions money in eleven of his thirty-eight parables.

Janie challenges us to look at all of the money we hold, save, spend not only as an organisation but with the worshipping community as a whole. Janie pointed out out that a standard church might have 50 households in association with it. If each household earns a £20,000 average income then that church has a combined annual spending power of £1,000,000! The idea to take back to our churches, was to think about what would happen if 10% of all Christians, or those of faith, changed to ethical banking and investments.

ACAT news

ACAT board and employees then talked about the new website, and the redevelopment of the newsletter.

ACAT has always been a training and advice organisation. With their on site training being a core component (I’ve got a place on a course booked for later this month). A small amount of on line training has been created and has had good feedback. They now want to expand their training to help all treasurers/trustees to ‘up their game’. ACAT is also looking into advocacy and campaigning on select issues and will be asking members to give feedback.

It was a long and full day. I have a pile of notes to work through, and I’m sure there will be more blog posts to come from those.

Charity Fraud Awareness Week 21st – 25th October 2019

Money spelled out with scrabble tiles on a bed of notes
Money on a bed of Money by 401K-2012-Money

Fraud is not something that people involved with churches or charities want to think about. After all the people on your committee or board; in your organisation are ‘nice’. They must be – because they’re helping the charity do the work it needs to do.

But even nice people can commit fraud. The number I’ve heard quoted is that 90 – 95% of people would give in to temptation under certain circumstances.

Advices & Queries 37: Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.

On the Quaker.org.uk treasurers page, as well as the information about resources and training available there is a pdf of a report. ‘A vulnerable victim? An account of the theft of an area meeting’s money by their treasurer, including lessons learned (PDF).’ One that I think all treasurers and trustees should read and then evaluate their own organisational practices and procedures. I blogged about it during the Quaker financial A-Z under V.

The Fraud Advisory Panel run a Charity Fraud Awareness Week every year. With resources and case studies available to enable you to help ensure that your organisation doesn’t suffer fraud. Helping you to ensure that your organisation support a culture of openness and transparency.

Why not grab a drink and spend some time browsing through what is on offer?

Sharing generic email accounts

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Generic Email

I recommend generic email addresses to all clients, recommending them for a range of reasons:

  • Correspondence is held in a role specific email box. When a new person starts they can catch up, or search for previous conversations.
  • The generic email box means that when a person leaves the role, or doesn’t want to be working on that role, someone else can be monitoring.
  • For Data Protection a subject access request means that the organisation needs to find all emails and documents.
  • For Charity Governance those involved should be able to show clear communication and records.
  • All of the above is easier if the emails are all in house – and not scattered over a range of personal accounts.

Sharing Email Accounts

However this becomes more complicated if more than one person will be accessing and dealing with messages. If the role is shared then some additional guidelines may be needed.

  • Will one person be primarily dealing with correspondence? If so a regular update to the other members of the team might be useful.
  • Will the email box only be checked occasionally, then an automatic reply saying so can be useful in managing expectations.
  • If more than one person is handling correspondence then there need to be ways to ensure email doesn’t slip through the net, and all team members have the information they need.
  • Adding extra email folders for specific people to look at, or communicating outside of the email are useful.

As for all team projects communication and clear expectations and guidelines help to minimise confusion.

What ways have you found to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening in the email account without duplication of effort?

Trust and Integrity in Business – which questions do we ask? And of whom?

Quakers & Business Annual Conference 2018: Wednesday 5th December 2018, at Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ. 9:30am to 4:30pm.

Please click here for a detailed programme including a description of the stream and speaker options.

Who is this for? Anybody in the world of business, owners, managers, employees, public and third sector, students of the world of business and work, anyone who wishes to apply the principles of trust and integrity to their organisation.

What will you take away? A fresh breath of insight into what you can do individually and collectively to create a better world, one where fear and concern is replaced with inspiration and verve to find out much we can do for the good of all.

Please sign up by visiting https://qandb.org/qbc18
Bursaries are available.

Quaker Leadership – Quaker & Business Gathering ’18

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Quaker & Business

Tickets are now available for the Quaker & Business Gathering 2018.

Date & Time: Saturday 30th June 2018, 9am – 5pm
Location: Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York YO1 9RL

This year’s theme is Quaker Leadership, and as one of the planning committee I’m delighted that we’ve been able to get three really interesting speakers.

A provocative and creative opportunity to explore the links between leadership of organisations and people, and Quaker experience and values of leadership amongst our worshipping communities.

You can see the full programme for the day, and how to buy tickets on the Q&B website.

Bursaries are available – please contact the clerks of Q&B for more details.

Looking forward to this – it will be an interesting day!

Building Peace Together

Building Peace Together a Practical Resource

Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) has produced a useful report with practical resources:

The visibility of violent conflict from all over the world in our daily digest of news and media creates a sense that violence – or the threat of violence – is ever-present, when in fact, it is peace that is the norm. Building Peace Together makes the case for peacebuilding and provides a myriad of tools that can be used by actors across the board.

Download a copy to read, which includes 40 tools and 80 examples of nonviolent peacebuilding, and then try out the resources suggested.

Who are QCEA?

The Quaker Council for European Affairs was founded in 1979 to bring a vision of peace, justice and equality to Europe and its institutions. QCEA advocates for nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution, the intrinsic equality of all people everywhere, and a sustainable way of life for everyone so that the one Earth we share can support us all.

You can find out more at their website: http://www.qcea.org/ They’ve just issued this year’s epistle where they say:

QCEA is working from a vision with specific goals to create change politically and culturally, focusing on the two main programmes of Human Rights and Peace. The reports on child immigration detention, and hate speech in online news comment sections bring ethical substance to debate within the EU. Work in quiet diplomacy, networking, coordinating with other organisations, and cultural activities make QCEA an important player in Brussels. The results of these activities are sometimes difficult to anticipate, but will resonate in the long-term.

I was sorry to see that they are working on a budget deficit at the moment, and hope their appeal for more funds to support this work will raise enough money for their work to continue.

Christian Entrepreneurship

2018 03 11 tree branches b&wA&Q 1 and Christian Entrepreneurship

While I love Advice & Queries 1, “Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.” I had not previously considered it as business advice.

During last week’s Churches & Commerce conference, Richard Frazer, Minister Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh, gave us some thoughts on approaches to a theology for entrepreneurs.

As a Quaker I try hard to remember that all things are equally sacred – work, play, rest, worship… So I was intrigued by Richard’s comments that he thought the first Apostle Andrew was also an entrepreneur in the way he handled his big opportunity (meeting Jesus) by recognising that:

  • it was an opportunity
  • he wasn’t the right person to handle this alone
  • he knew others who needed to be part of this opportunity

Andrew was humble enough to leave Jesus, and go fetch Simon Peter, but also continued to network and bring people he felt would be useful. Andrew found the boy with the loaves and fishes, for example. Of course he was also a fisherman, so would have been used to networking as part of running a small business. Dealing with clients who wanted to buy his fish as well as the others who worked in the family business, other fishermen, etc.

Money Making as Mission

Yesterday, during Meeting for Worship, ministry was shared about how a childhood prayer asking for ‘G*D’s guidance, love and protection‘, took on a new deeper meaning when the speaker twisted from ‘asking’ to ‘being ready to receive by standing in a place of gratitude for the blessings already received’.

This connected with my musings, over the last few days, about the difference between networks and business plans compared to G*D’s community & plans. A concept mirrored by the interconnectedness of the tree branches lining my view from the room.

I’m often asked how I can see running a business, making money, and working with clients to help them do likewise, as a mission. For me, it depends on where you start.

If you are rooted into a firm foundation of G*D’s love and truth, and are looking at these opportunities as ones where you can make a difference by creating or facilitating a profit, network, etc., that then allows you to work from a place of gratitude and thankfulness, with a quiet certainty that you are following the leadings of G*D for you.

This is very different viewpoint and attitude to one that is only in it for the profit, or personal gain, and leads to different choices. But it does require continual awareness and consideration of which state I’ve slipped into, and a regular drawing back to the centre where I can hear those quiet promptings.

Q&B Conference 2017 ‘Seek unity; uphold difference; find wholeness: Exploring decision-making through Quaker Business Method and other models’

The annual conference was held at Friends House, always a pleasure to spend time there.

The day was very full – with more workshops I wanted to attend than I could, which is always a good sign.

You can read the full minute and report on Q&B’s website: http://qandb.org/qbc17

Priming the Brain

My highlights were a workshop with Claire James from Pivotal Moment on Priming the Brain. Claire talked about the new discoveries in neural science are showing how people can consciously shape their thinking environment, and help them make better decisions.

Charity Governance and the Quaker Business Method

Shivaji Shiva from Anthony Collins Solicitors gave a good overview of Charity Governance and the Quaker Business Method. I’ve done several workshop/seminars exploring and explaining Governance, but it was good to have a specific workshop aimed at Quaker Charity Governance.

Including a quote: ‘Recognition of the fact that good charity governance is difficult to achieve is a useful first step.’ Something to keep in mind, as we struggle to be good trustees and committee members.

Lots of notes to work through – and hopefully a couple of blog posts to come.

Setting Up Your Organisation’s Email Part II

Knowledge Sharing by Ewa Rozkosz

Okay, in Part I we covered the concepts behind email, now it’s time for the…

Actions

Create an account for the organisation

This ensures that all the data that belongs to your organisation is under your control.

With the majority of communication taking place via email, the temptation will be to use the email addresses that the individuals involved already have.

Don’t do it!

It may be easier now, but when the role is handed over to someone else the data will almost certainly be lost. In addition, if the data is attached to an individual’s private account it legally belongs to them, not the organisation.

And if the relationship between the organisation and individual in question breaks down, you may as well kiss your data goodbye. Getting it back will almost certainly be very painful, and take more time, money, and lawyers than you have access to.

Services such as Google allow small organisations and charities to do this for free, (Google for Non-Profits) so make use of them. We do not advocate for Google, and other services exist. The choice of which suits you best will be dependent on your organisation & circumstances, but theirs is a good offering.

One reason for this is because they have a suite of integrated services included with the email, notably Google Drive, which lets you store all your data in an easier to use format than just having it in emails. This is something you should consider, and that I will be detailing in a later post.

Whether you use Google or not, sticking to a big-name provider reduces the risk of your service being lost without notice.

  • The administrator user name and password for the account should be available only to recognised office holders. An admin account lets you make whatever changes you want, so if someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing uses it they could do a lot of damage.
  • User names and passwords should be stored in such a way that they can be accessed by other office holders should the nominated person suddenly become unavailable. Shared cloud based password systems are useful for this and other reasons. A personal emergency should never leave your organisation unable to access its own account!
  • Name the account unambiguously. At this point you should seriously consider registering a domain name for your organisation, for the following reasons:
  1. It only costs a few pounds per year.
  2. Your email addresses are those of your organisation and not your service provider (yourorganisation.org.uk rather than yourorganisation.google.co.uk for example).
  3. If you choose to move your service provider you won’t have to change all your email addresses, avoiding the disruption that would entail.
  4. If you don’t do it people will assume that you’re too cheap, technically inept, or simply couldn’t be bothered, and that’s not a good look.
  • You can do this within Google as part of the sign-up process or with a separate domain registrar. Your preferred domain may already be taken so be prepared to try a few variations until you get one that’s available. Your will probably want a .org.uk domain as this signifies that you are a non-commercial organisation in the United Kingdom.

Create mailboxes for roles not individuals

  • For each role, create a mailbox and give the user name and password to the individual performing that role. For example, ‘Treasurer@domainname’ rather than ‘Bob_Example@domainname’. This means that when Bob moves on, you don’t have to create a whole new account or have their replacement constantly explain that they aren’t Bob.
  • Ensure that all electronic communication for a role is performed with that mailbox. Do not use personal accounts, and do not cross-contaminate roles (e.g., dealing with Clerk matters in the Treasurer account). This is especially important if you have someone with access to multiple accounts.
  • The first action performed by anyone taking over a mailbox should be to change the password, to ensure that only they can access it.
  • When setting up a mailbox for the first time, if individuals already have correspondence in their personal mailboxes (and you’re still on good terms) get them to forward the relevant email to the new mailbox.
  • If it becomes necessary to have an individual’s access removed from a mailbox, the account administrator can force a password reset. This should be done as soon as an individual ceases performing a role, as a routine matter of security.
  • On a regular basis (semi-annually or annually) who has access to each mailbox should be reviewed to ensure that it’s correct and up to date.

 

Digital Organization: Let the calendar do the remembering…

2013 10 11 Fri calendar

Calendars are useful – except when the synchronization fails,
although I like the idea of the day above.

Meeting Houses are often run by volunteers. But even if you are a paid member of staff – usually you are fitting managing the maintenance of the building around other more immediate aspects of the work, and it can be hard to ensure nothing slips through the organisational net.

Using a calendar as a planning tool

One way to avoid this happening, is to use a calendar for your reminders.

Create a list of regular to-dos, enter them onto your calendar and (if digital) have a reminder emailed to you. Not only for the task ‘clear gutters’, but for the preparation – ‘get quote’, ‘tell Premises clearing gutters is due’, ‘book window cleaner for gutters’.

If you use a paper calendar you can do a similar thing. But will need to remember to look at the calendar to be reminded, and store the ‘next xxx date’ on a piece of paper added into the back.

You can add in one off tasks as well of course, but the repeating function means you don’t have to wonder when the next PA Testing or roof inspection is due. A quick search and the calendar will tell you, even if that is a couple of years in the future.

Other Benefits

If you use the calendar attached to the generic email, (and hopefully shared booking calendar), that forward planning isn’t lost when the role passes to the next holder.

Share your calendars, so other people can see those reminders as well. This sharing enables you to spread out tasks and responsibilities. Or at least the awareness that these tasks are being dealt with by you.

Creating a Record

When work is done, add a note on the date to create a record.

Search within the calendar for ‘inspection’ or ‘building tour’ and print off the results. This gives an easy report for records – especially useful for Annual or Quinquennial reports.

Once a year’s worth of reminders/work has been completed, why not print off a copy to go in the front of the Minutes book as a visual reminder of the work that will be coming up?

  • What methods do you use to spread out the work, and ensure regular maintenance jobs aren’t forgotten?

You might find these posts useful:

Digital Diaries & Documents

Generic Email Addresses or How to Prevent Memory Loss

K is for Knowledge & Know How