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?

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

ACAT Annual Conference 2016

Responsibility, Impact & Stewardship

This year’s ACAT conference was held Saturday October 15th at Woburn House Conference Centre, London.

Money & Monks, Markets & Monasteries

Our opening address was Br Dr Anthony Purvis, Prior of St Michael’s Priory, Willen, Milton Keynes talking about the relationship between Thomas Merton and Dom James Fox the Abbot of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Stressed at some times as they had very different priorities, while also sharing many similarities – as they joined the same order and lived together for many years.

“What does it mean to live in a world based on money, when you have taken a vow of poverty?”

We were assured that to live in a religious house is not to run away from the world’s problems, but instead to face them in a smaller community. A priory is a place with budget deficits, financial difficulties, problems with contract law etc. It can be hard to deal with such things in association with people only wanting to concentrate on theology.

We must learn to live together or we fail each other. We learn from those we don’t leave.

Money Management

Thomas Merton is often seen as a prophetic voice speaking from the wilderness loved the simplicity of the life he signed up for – sleeping ten to a dorm on straw mattresses, hand cultivating the land, eating very frugally. But he also made a great deal of money for the community – by writing a best seller.

Any money that came in was carefully managed by James Fox (a graduate of the Harvard Business School) to improve the fabric of the building, to mechanise the farming and increase production and to create mail order businesses – diversifying and increasing income streams. Good business sense that enable the religious work to continue and grow – by the time of Thomas Merton’s death new buildings were needed to hold all the incoming monks.

Two very different viewpoints and priorities, but the two were also brothers in spirit. When James Fox became the Abbot he insisted that Thomas Merton heard his confessions and when dying, asked to be buried next to Thomas Merton.

This was an inspiring set of thoughts and several on our table said we were going to do more reading – It reminded me of the Parker J Palmer passage in Qf&P 10.19

In a true community we will not choose our companions, for our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. Instead, our companions will be given to us by grace. Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives!

Parker J Palmer, 1977

Workshops, Advice & AGM

This year’s conference format included a brisk AGM, plus several workshops – separated into large or small church streams.

From the chat around our table and others both streams were well done, with interesting presenters, thoughtful answers and useful tips.

There was advice on employment, financial matters, information about Churches impacting on the community and the setting up of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union, low cost property loans for churches, information on applying for grants – from a list available on parishresources.org.uk or through your local authority community fund, plus stewardship and the raising of funds.

I’ve come away with several pages of notes, some items to do research on and a pack of material to sort through over the next few days. A truly worthwhile day – recommended to any other Treasurer or Trustee concerned with financial management.

QBC’16 – Embodying Equality in Business – Why? & How?

QBC’16 – Embodying Equality in Business – Why? & How?

The ‘Why’ inspires change and the ‘How’ empowers change

Wednesday, 9th November 2016
Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ

9:30am to 10:00am Registration and Networking.
10:00am Meeting for Worship (for ten minutes).
4:30pm Close.

The heartfelt purpose is for those attending the conference to leave with their own personal intent to embody equality in their organisations at a deeper, more profound human level. The participants will leave feeling and knowing the difference these ideas will make for their staff, their customers and for the wider community.

The day will be grounded in Quaker Advice and Queries 22:
“Respect the wide diversity among us in our lives and relationships. Refrain from making prejudiced judgements about the life journeys of others. Do you foster the spirit of mutual understanding and forgiveness which our discipleship asks of us? Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God”

There will be speakers and creative activities during the day; and the flow of our four speakers for the day is:-

  • Gender Equality
  • Sexual Orientation Equality
  • Racial Equality
  • Religious Equality

Satish Kumar, internationally renowned speaker on ecological and spiritual issues will be speaking on Embodying Religious Equality in Business.

Michael Lassman, who has over 30 years’ experience following an equality and diversity agenda, speaking on Embodying Gender Equality in Business. Michael set up Equality Edge at the end of 2006 as a vehicle to deliver innovative workshops, one-to-one or small group coaching and public speaking services. He is speaking at the 2016 Global Equality and Diversity Conference.

You can find the full programme here.

Looks like a full day of inspiration and challenge – I’ve put that in my diary and hope to see you there.

Fire Drills During Meeting for Worship

2013 07 15 fire truck 2Fire!

Fire Alarms and the necessary Fire equipment and signage are all an important part of any building’s safety plan – and we always hope they won’t be needed. However, if the worst happened – would your meeting know how to respond?

Mount Street, Manchester recently held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship. Although there were several mishaps, and originally many people were upset, by the end they had learnt so much it was decided this should be done again.

Have your Premises and Elders sat down to work out an evacuation plan? Appointed marshals to ensure the building is empty, count everyone out and to ring the Fire Brigade?

Consideration of where to meet – and when to reunite children and parents are two important issues.

Are there any people who need special consideration?

  • Is anyone hard of hearing who wouldn’t hear the alarm for example?
  • Is there anyone who would need help in getting out of the building for any reason?
  • Does your Children’s Meeting meet in a different part of the building? If so do the helpers know where to go and have enough people to ensure everyone can leave safely?

We’re not alone in needing to do this – Ship of Fools has a thread about other churches who have done drills during services. One suggestion was to hold the drill at the end of the services so everyone was still there but the evacuation practice was done. Another was to do it at different times of the month to cover any changes to routine.

Reminding us that this risk is real one post commented that there was a priest who started each Sunday service with information about fire exits as their previous church had burned down.

  • Have you ever held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship?
  • Would you consider it? If not – why not?

Managing Meeting Houses Conference 2016

2011 01 Front of building

Managing Meeting Houses

Managing meeting houses can be a lonely job – it is easy to feel that you are alone in dealing with matters. It is equally important to ensure that you don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel.

This annual conference organised jointly by Quaker Life and Woodbrooke is a great chance for new wardens, trustees and premises committee members to learn about their new role. But there is always enough sharing of good practice, tips and tricks for a more experienced person to take away too.

Sessions ranged from those essential nuts and bolts of Employment and Health & Safety to more inspirational – what is special about your Meeting House? We considered them as a place of worship, as part of the local community and as a venue for customers.

Employment Matters

Pensions – especially for smaller meetings with only one worker, or many part time workers were discussed. Friends House recommends The People’s Pension which several participants said had worked well, but we were also encouraged to apply earlier rather than later. There is a worry that these suppliers will fill their quotas of small charities and some meetings may miss out.

Employment – especially ways to decide if someone is actually employed or truly self-employed was a perennial favourite. I’ve discussed this before here – and my favourite definition is from another of these conferences in regards to wardens.

“If your meeting could arrive Sunday morning to find the building locked up tight with a note pinned to the door saying, “I’ve gone to Peru.” And deal with this without any real hassle – then your warden is a volunteer…

If your meeting couldn’t cope then it is more likely that your warden should be an employee.”

The importance of all meeting houses being properly organised – with back up for wardens and resident friends was mentioned several times. Ensuring there are contingency plans in case of sickness and to cover regular days off were both stressed as necessary to prevent burn out and stress.

Laughter greeted the suggestion that members of Premises and Trustees should do any job they were asking someone else to do – to have a more complete idea of the specification they should give as well as some idea of how long the job should take. Several attendees gave examples of how doing this changed their time expectations, and their appreciation for how quickly (and well) a professional can do a job!

Employers’ resources and support

The transfer and rewrite of the new Employers’ & Wardens resources and support pages from the old quaker.org site to the new has been completed. There are newly updated template documents and of course more guidance can be found both here and in chapter 13 of Quaker Faith & Practice.

As always it was a pleasure to stay at Woodbrooke. I made sure to get outside into the gardens, to walk the labyrinth and enjoy catching up with old friends, as well as meeting new people.

If you’ve not been before – or haven’t been for some time do look out for the next in January 2017.

A Living Wage Must Pay Enough To Live On

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The Living Wage Campaign

Lancaster Quaker Meeting are tasked to take the lead nationally within the Society of Friends to promote awareness about the payment of The Living Wage.

As part of their work they have produced an information pack, which can be downloaded from their website, which includes the poster above and others.

Pay Compare is an independent, not-for-profit organisation funded entirely by donations, founded by Stuart Hill, a member of Quakers in Business, who works for Pay Compare on a voluntary basis.

This is what Stuart says about it:

‘We invite business leaders and owners to lead the way towards a fairer, better economy by publishing their organisation’s pay ratios at the website www.paycompare.org.uk for everyone to see and compare. In doing so you receive the Pay Compare Mark which can be proudly displayed to show your commitment to pay transparency – a consideration promoted in Q&B’s Good Business Ethics at Work book. Be in the vanguard of organisations who are empowering citizens and investors in this way, including Triodos, TSB, Charity and Unity Trust Banks, numerous social enterprises and charities, and a growing number of local councils and private companies. Those not active in business can take action as Ratio Requesters by simply visiting www.paycompare.org.uk to tweet, email or write to any employer to ask them to publish their pay ratios at Pay Compare. Together, we can help pay ratio reporting become common practice in the UK so that we can all favour those who pay fair.’

  • Does your business, employer or supplier publish its pay ratios?
  • Find out, and if not suggest they do!

Pay Compare is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England as No. 8974596