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.

A Living Wage Must Pay Enough To Live On

Living Wage.indd

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

 

ACAT Annual Conference 2015

ACAT wp3fc874a7_06This was my first visit to the ACAT annual conference and AGM, but it won’t be my last. Although it felt slightly odd to be in Bloomsbury and not in Friends House, the Institute of Education was a comfortable venue for the day.

As you might expect from an association with Church or religious connections the day balanced stewardship with time for worship and fellowship. With a buffet lunch, and breakfast, to ensure we had enough caffeine and sugar to make it through to the end of the very full day.

Business wise there was a brief AGM (15 minutes), with a request for anyone tempted by the idea of becoming a trustee contacting the board as they were always looking for new members.

The remainder were talks or introductory samples of the fuller training sessions ACAT offer around the country.

I particularly enjoyed the ‘Balancing Stewardship with mission – Issues for Treasurers and Trustees’ talk given by Canon Dr Christina Baxter CBE where she explored aspects of G-D an Mission, reminding us that mission is now what you live/breathe, living out our beliefs and living so others can hear/see G-D in those actions.

If we allow ourselves to become such living missionaries, people coming to our buildings, events, services should find a taste of heaven. That is people living out their lives faithfully – listening to that divine spark within. “Mission is in the church as fire is in glowing embers” Martin Luther.

One concept I will be thinking more about was, “What we give to the Lord belongs to the Lord – but we don’t give to the Lord was also provided by G-D and however it is used should also glorify G-D”. Money however it is spent is a spiritual issue and part of the role of the Treasurer is to help members of the community to explore how to use those resources to meet their spiritual goals and needs.

With a final quote (with attribution at the moment): “There are lots of parables about growth in the NT (with seeds being sown and growing), a budget which is not a growth budget is not a kingdom budget.”

Plus hearing from Dr James Corah about how CCLA Investments work with Church leaders and other groups to put forward the issues that are important to their customers and change large secular companies policies. Enabling small groups to join together to tackle large issues.

For example before the 2012 Olympics they approached hotel chains regarding human trafficking, with fact and figures from previous Olympics. Originally they had no interest, but then Whitbread asked more questions, realised it did impact their business and put out training for every hotel and staff member.

With regard to the living wage it was through discussions with Glaxo’s CEO Andrew Witty that overturned the original, ‘that’s too expensive’ knee jerk reaction and instead had Glaxo matching the living wage. Resulting in 600 contractors receiving a living wage and Glaxo sponsoring the living wage.

Other talks covered – What is ACAT doing to support its members, Employing People, Keeping on the right side of the Charity Commission and then we split into small or large church groups to work through some issues relating to size. Enjoyable examples of Gift Aid problems and misconceptions.

The day finished at just after 4pm. I took time out before heading to the tube to tidy up my notes and soak up some of the inspiration there within. There is a list of things to research and learn more about too.

I can see why two of my table mates assured us that they came every year. Definitely looking forward to the next event.

Tackling Fraud in the Charity Sector

2013 06 18 Collection box

Are you a Trustee? Or someone who deals with finances for your organisation and is concerned about fraud?

Here is a conference you might be interested in:

https://www.fraudadvisorypanel.org/…/tackling-fraud-in-the…/

Date 30 October 2015
Time 09:00 – 16:30
Location Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE
Costs £25 + VAT charity and not-for-profit sector

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.

Quaker A-Z: Q is for Quantities (and Quality)

2015 07 14 buying in bulk 2This post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

Q is for Quantities (and Quality)

Buying in bulk can save money – whether from a warehouse store as pictured above or elsewhere. As long as you are able to store the resultant quantity and use it up before it can be spoiled. In bulk doesn’t mean having to buy things in hundreds either.

One of the many uses of an inventory

  • is the ability to work out how quickly items are used up.
  • plus as how much space you have to safely store replacement items.

Knowing these two facts can help you set budgets as well as decide when it is worth paying for higher quality items and when cheap and cheerful is more sensible.

It can even lead to reorganising within the building to ensure that there is a safe and suitable space for storage.

Always amazed at how much decluttering is possible is most meeting houses, often because Quakers declutter their own houses and bring things to the meeting house to donate. When sorting at Muswell Hill just after we started I came across a box carefully sealed and labelled, “Unwanted Crockery”. I did check before getting rid of it.

  • Does your Meeting buy supplies in bulk?
  • Do you find that this helps keep costs down?

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

Quaker A-Z: P is for Paxton Accounts

Balancing The Account

Balancing The Account by www.SeniorLiving.Org used with permission.

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

P is for Paxton

Paxton Charities Accounting is now Britain Yearly Meeting’s recommended software for Area Meeting consolidation of accounts.

I went to the Annual Conference of Treasurers, held at Friends House on June 27th and attended a workshop where Averil Armstrong and Fenwick Kirton-Darling both from Northampton AM talked about their experience in using Paxton.

It is not a full accountancy package suitable for use at Local Meeting level, this does mean there is duplication of entries, as any reports sent by local meetings will have to be manually entered into the system. However, in some Area Meetings all inputting is now done at area meeting level with the local meeting sending receipts and reports regularly.

It is a database that adds up all totals of the charity’s constituent parts i.e. local meetings etc. and does not expect any non-donation income. Therefore, If any local meeting hires out rooms, you also need to purchase an additional sales module to allow for sales income to be combined with the main version.

Averil gave an entertaining presentation – she also teaches the Treasurer’s Course at Woodbrooke where I met her earlier this year.

Overview

  • charity accounting: income in funds: designated or restricted
  • income from donors and grants or other (sales module mentioned above or not)
  • donor income can attract gift aid
  • grants may be claimed against spend
  • budgets can be set against income and expenditure within funds
  • It is set up with bank accounts so you need to map out your organisation’s finances before you start to set up the system.

Budgets can be profiled to be even throughout the year or alter it to allow for uneven income – knowing that money comes in at specific times.

Some Area Meetings are combining using this package with the use of a bookkeeper who inputs all data. Either on behalf of the local meetings and reporting to them as well as to the area meeting treasurer or just on behalf of the area meeting.

As it is a database it also handles personal data for all donors and room hirers as well as gift aid. This management is again at area meeting level and when the concept of giving access to each local meeting was mentioned the response from several treasurers present was that this would reduce consistency and complicate matters as people would classify differently.

How does it work in practice?

Many Area Meetings who have started using Paxton have said that they feel it has made things easier for them, and the local meeting treasurers who no longer have to do as much work at year end.

As well as regular reports for Finance Committee or Trustees, each Local Meeting’s end of year accounts including the SOFA, is produced at the press of a button saving many long hours of work as reconciliation and reports have been monthly or quarterly ensuring accuracy and before memories have faded.

One treasurer said that they no longer receive spreadsheets from their local meetings, but instead an annotated bank statement. Another said that their local treasurers now only had a cheque book and a deposit book – all financial management was done at area meeting and trustee level.

Sharing is possible

It is possible though to share the database through on-line services – which also relieves the necessity to choose a platform and can allow access for a short period for example by an examiner or auditor.

Another way to share the package would be to have a computer which was shared by various members of the finance team based in an office in one of the meeting houses.

Of course there are costs

To buy the standard Paxton system you would need to purchase a version that allows for either receipts and payments or accruals, it can also deal with VAT.

The software is available in both Mac and PC versions, prices start from £250 plus VAT and in addition you need to pay an annual fee (£100 to 200) to receive software updates and for access to their telephone help line.

For the on-line hosting version mentioned above the subscription cost for a two person licence is £45 plus VAT per month. That cost does also include the annual fees for support and updates.

There is more information available on BYM’s website (link above) plus on Paxton’s website including a series of demonstrations.

  • Do you use Paxton?
  • Have you used a different finance package?
  • Would you welcome the centralisation of your accounts?

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

Quaker A-Z: 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: 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.