The Quaker Business Method: How It Works Is Why It Works

At last year’s Quakers & Business Conference Peter Cheng gave some very well received talks on his research into the Quaker Business Method and Cognitive Science.

The talks led to another event held in Birmingham, sponsored by the Quakers and Business Group and hosted by Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP.

The videos are now available and can be watched on the Q&B You Tube channel, or on the Q&B site resources page.

Society of Virtual Assistants Survey 2018

2015 07 17 Colourful pencil sharpeningsVirtual Assistant

I’m often asked by clients, where do I get my information about rates and other virtual assistants? One of the biggest answers is from here: The Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA) 9th annual survey. To read about how I define VA, read the home page, and if you are wondering how it all works – I have a page for that too!

The research was released last week and copies of the report are now available to buy from this link.

SVA Survey v9

To make it statistically valid, they needed at least 10% of the industry surveyed – which they calculated as 2,333 VAs working in the UK. However, it can be hard to calculate the total number of VAs in the UK. So many are classified as separate industries such as secretary, bookkeeper, marketing consultant – or even charity management consultants such as myself!

To quote the SVA’s blurb:

SVA’s annual survey designed to take a snapshot of the UK VA industry answering business critical questions like: How much can I charge? What will I earn as a VA? What are the most effective marketing strategies? What services are most popular? Which training programmes deliver the best value for money?

So, if you have ever wondered about using a VA, or what a VA could help you with – have a look at the survey, or at the SVA website. It was good to see that I’m not alone in having worked as a VA for over five years, and have no plans to stop any time soon.

(Facts taken from the survey linked above)

Fire Alarm – Do Not Touch!

2018 03 fire alarm - do not touch

Photo taken by Dana Rancette, used with permission


Fire is a serious risk. However, even if the equipment can be tempting to small people, I don’t recommend telling them taping the control panel shut, or posting signs telling people not to touch the fire alarm.

I suspect those intent on fiddling will ignore the sign. While you definitely don’t want to confuse someone in an emergency situation where they *should* sound the alarm.

Instead have regular fire alarm drills. Give training to your volunteers or employees. Suggest training for anyone else who use your building. You might be able to combine groups and provide training to everyone.

These combined with clear signage, plus the use of appropriate equipment coverings to prevent accidental usage or damage will mean fewer false alarms and give everyone involved more confidence that they know what they are doing if an emergency occurs.

You might also want to read:

Quaker Leadership Course

2016-06-28 Woodbrooke labyrinthQuaker Leadership

How does leadership work in our non-hierarchical Society of Friends, and what does it mean to take a lead when working in relationship with others?


Start Date: 23rd April 2018 12:00 am
End Date:13th May 2018 11:59 pm
Cost: £38.00
Delighted to see this – it will fit into my current exploration of leadership in a Quaker context, good to see more on line courses being offered which fit into so many people’s busy lives.

HeartsEdge Conference: Churches & Commerce

HE Churches commerce flyer - finalI’m delighted to be speaking on Outsourcing, at the HeartsEdge Churches & Commerce conference.

It looks like an interesting day, Jonathan Evens explained, ‘The reason for organising this event is that many churches struggle to cover the costs of their buildings and the ministry needed in their area. Finding other sources of income in addition to congregational giving can help significantly and can also extend the church’s engagement in God’s mission. This event enables participants to hear from people for whom commercial activities, including social enterprises, are making a real difference, not only to their church finances but also to their wider mission. We hope that ‘Churches & Commerce’ will be a day for anyone interested in making churches sustainable in their mission.’

If you’re interested – contact Jonathan at the information above. Hope to see some of you there!



Radical Spirituality


Lancaster University are running a free on line course exploring how/why Quakers formed and grew into the radical group they are today.

” Together, we will explore the beginnings of Quakerism and this critical piece of religious history of a group who gathered around a radical and outspoken spiritual message that was to change the face of 1650s England, and has since remained a distinctive part of the religious landscape.”

Click here to join now – it starts October 3rd.

I’m looking forward to it!

Pension advice for small charities

2015 05 01 Clerks Reference booksPension Advice

There was a time when the only reference books found in a meeting house were similar to those seen at the Clerks’ table at Yearly Meeting. Over the years, as many Area Meetings have registered as charities, this has changed and now legal advice is as necessary as spiritual. While pensions are mentioned in the bible, it doesn’t qualify as helpful advice.

At the Managing Meeting Houses course last month there were several anxious questions about pensions.

  1. Do they apply to all employees?
  2. Do we have to set one up for our volunteer wardens?
  3. What about ‘flexible’ employees with limited contracts – often known as zero-hour contracts?

Obviously, I’d recommend seeking professional advice if you have any concerns. The guidance given here is a summary of what I’ve found useful, and supplied to my clients on request.

  1. Yes – every employer with at least one eligible member of staff must enrol them onto a workplace pension scheme, and then contribute towards it.
  2. Volunteer wardens aren’t employees and so don’t qualify for auto enrolment. You aren’t able (as a meeting) to contribute into a pension for them as this is seen as payment in kind. That creates problems for their employment status. From the very helpful website: Workers employed and paid by the charity for the work they do are eligible for pensions if they:
    • earn more than the current minimum wage
    • are aged between 22 and the state pension age
    • work in the UK

    ‘Workers’ include contractors and agency staff, as well as people working under an apprenticeship. Volunteers and unpaid staff are not eligible.

  3. Contractors who are on zero hour contracts and work in other places may not qualify for pensions. You may need to take legal advice regarding the contracts you use and your employment and recruitment policies.

The Charity Finance Group (CFG) has produced a useful guide to pensions – downloadable from that link. The publication hopes to provide some guidance for the 22,000+ charities, each with less than 25 members of staff, who are due to be auto-enrolling their staff between 1st January 2016 and 1st April 2017.

The guide is easy to read with advice on how to prepare, implement, and build the necessary processes. It urges you to plan early and budget for additional costs created by auto-enrolment.

Quaker A-Z: L is for Lead & Lighting

2011 01 Front of buildingThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

L is for Lead

Many meeting houses have lead on their roofs or windows – even those who have a tiled or thatch roof may have flashing as can be seen on the porch above. Sadly this has become a target for thieves as the price of lead has continued to grow and the demand is likely to continue.
Most meeting houses can not afford to install complex security systems. However there some straightforward ways to protect your building and your lead from both theft and any damage done not only during the thieving, but after if the loss isn’t spotted immediately – giving time for water and other things to gain entry to the building.
  • Contact your local crime prevention team and ensure they are aware of the building and the value of any metals on the site. Check whether or not the area is a metal theft hotspot.
  • Keep gates locked and restrict vehicle access. Consider installing telescopic bollards, or similar devices. Remove any easy means of transporting stolen metal, such as wheelbarrows and wheelie bins, to a secure storage area.
  • Consider installing lighting. Any lights fitted should be weather proof, inaccessible and/or vandal resistant. However avoid lighting areas that are secluded as this might make it easier for thieves to operate. See below for more information
  • Consider installing LeadLok or similar fixings to prevent easy removal of the lead.
  • Encourage neighbours to keep an eye on the building and to report any suspicious activity to the police (particularly the unexpected arrival of workmen).
  • Maximise surveillance levels, for example by cutting back tall and overhanging trees.
  • Removing any means of access for thieves to roofs, such as water butts, waste bins and tall trees located in close proximity to the building and ensure ladders are stored in a secure place.
  • Consider planting beds of dense prickly bushes or trees, for example to reinforce existing boundaries. Use wide, low beds where it is important to retain good views. There is a list of plants available from the Crime Prevention website. Many of these can be attractive to humans and wildlife as well as a deterrent.
  • Conduct regular checks of roofs so that lead theft plus any damage, is detected at the earliest opportunity rather than when rainwater enters the building causing further losses.
  • Apply anti-climb paint to drain pipes and roof guttering to restrict access to roofing. The paint should not be applied below a height of 2m, and warning notices should be displayed.
  • Apply a traceable liquid such as SmartWater which can be painted onto the lead. This leaves a signature behind which can be read by reputable metal merchants using a UV light. Installation can be done during roof work or in some cases by anyone with a long ladder such as window cleaners. You need to register your bottle to ensure the signature can be connected to you.

L is for Lighting

Lighting is an essential part of modern buildings. Following on from lead I wanted to give some additional details about outside lighting.

Outside lights can be installed for a variety of reasons:

  • Aesthetics to make the building look attractive and welcoming; to highlight a specific feature; to encourage people to come out into the garden or onto a patio.
  • Practicality and safety especially around doorways, stairs and changes of height in pathways.
  • Security in addition to the doorways mentioned above, this might include triggered lights near pathways or places of access.

Each of these requirements should be considered when you are creating a lighting design for an area – you may decide that security lighting still needs to be attractive as it is in a very visible area for example.

PIR (passive infrared) detectors are popular and relatively cheap to source and install. They can also have badly defined areas and be set off by animals and weather as well as people. More expensive set ups can collate information from the range of sensors to decide if the trigger is a false positive or should be acted on.

Larger buildings may need a more complicated system or for the lighting to be integrated into other security systems.

However you decide to light your building do consider the environmental aspects too – use timers to reduce the amount of electricity used, LED light bulbs where at all possible, be considerate to neighbours and passer-bys with angles, brightness and length of time the lights are on.

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

Quaker A-Z: J is for Juggling Roles

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

On the Wardenship e-List one of the perennial questions a newly appointed Trustee or member of Premises asks is:

“What does your warden do?”

As with so many things this question has as many different answers as the number of Quakers or Meetings answering!

Some the roles a warden is now fulfilling may have never been on the original job or role description – they may not be written down. Instead the job has grown organically to complement the time and skill set of the existing warden(s).

Often, it is difficult to untangle what was on the original job description and what has been added on — officially or unofficially — since the description was created or since the warden was hired. Such tangling wasn’t intentional, but can lead to amazement at what is no longer being done when the Warden or Resident Friend leaves.

Thankfully, the untangling can start with a simple decision to do so.

  • If there isn’t a clear job description than one should be drawn up.
  • If there is a Warden or Resident Friend ask them to keep a record of their tasks for a week or so.

I use HoursTracker, an app on my mobile phone, to ensure I accurately charge (and I include clients and MBS as categories here).  As I swap tasks I log in and out plus add a brief description of the tasks.

Let’s get back to answering the original question, “What does a warden do?”  My records in HoursTracker enabled me to create a mindmap which includes the following sub headings:

  • Maintenance which included Caretaking and Gardening
  • Hospitality services both for hirers and for the Meeting
  • Marketing and PR
  • Lettings Administration
  • Finance and Bookkeeping
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Website Maintenance
  • Outreach
  • General Quaker Stuff

Other Wardens/Staff responding to the question, mentioned other jobs they were expected to do, too:

  • Living in and maintaining the B&B
  • Looking after rental property including a hostel next door
  • Coordinating teams of volunteers
  • Running the TraidCraft stall every Sunday
  • Making soup for midweek Meeting for Worship

Working out how many different jobs you are are expecting your workers to juggle can help work out problems, find ways of ensuring that their time is being used appropriately and aren’t being asked to do too much.

By being mindful of the time a warden spends on jobs and the different roles in the job description, a Meeting can also create opportunities to bring in other people to help with the juggling if necessary.

Qf&P has a section on employment and ensuring they aren’t overloaded, which can be useful for management of volunteers too.

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

Do you have any more jobs to add to my list of things Wardens have been asked to do?

Quaker A-Z: I is for Inventories, Insurances and Inclusiveness

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

I is for Inventories, Insurances and Inclusiveness

Inventories and Insurances

Inventories and Insurances seem to go together – Inclusiveness perhaps less so.

Insurances are of course another of those matters where I will advise that professional guidance should be sought.


If the Meeting House contains valuable antiques (furniture, books, etc.) make an inventory with photographs to help the police if they go missing; things like TV sets, videos etc. can usefully be marked indelibly with the postcode. Some insurance companies offer lower premiums if specific security precautions are taken: ask for their advice. Know where all your keys are; the police like to have a list of keyholders. Identify any problems of security which may occur when the Meeting House is actually open.
Handbook for the Care of Meeting Houses 1996

Most people when thinking of an inventory will think of a list of the contents in the Meeting House with a monetary value attached. That list of contents often has no use except as mentioned in the quote above in case of problems. That sort of inventory is very useful and should be created and maintained by Premises committees.
However, inventories also give everyone a chance to consider what is currently in the Meeting House and to decide if it meets their requirements. “Is it useful or thought to be beautiful” to paraphrase William Morris.
Clutter isn’t a good thing no matter where it is. It is easy for it to build up in cupboards and rooms and not been seen by the regular users. Digging through the cupboards and creating space may enable the meeting to give away excess to bless someone or somewhere else or inspire an activity to use some of these materials up.
This is also a chance to work out which items/records are not needed any more, should be archived somewhere else or to realise which have been moved somewhere else and either be retrieved or that location noted. For example the discovery that one meeting’s financial records were held in an office where an ex-treasurer’s father-in-law used to work before he retired…
As a warden I more than once decided that I was indirectly decluttering other people’s houses by creating space in the Meeting House. As once shelves were cleared people felt able to bring in more records or files.
Do remember that some files and records should be stored securely without easy public access.


Inclusiveness is another complicated subject – it is important to ensure we remember that each person will have their own requirements and wants when it comes to being included. These wants and needs will change as they go through life, but thankfully so many features put in for one person or group can be used or enhance the usage of the building and grounds by others.

For more spiritual resources I do recommend Qf&P Chapter 10 “Belonging to a Quaker Meeting” especially 10.20 where George Gorman muses about how religion is about relationships between people…

But in this post I’m going to talk about ways to ensure that all members of the Meeting feel valued and included.

Some building changes will be more expensive and time consuming…

You Tube video of sesame steps

But thankfully ensuring the meeting and its building are inclusive to all members doesn’t mean just wheelchair ramps. I mentioned these sorts of things in E is for Equality with concern about the Equality Act for 2010.

To quote the beginning of Advices & Queries 18

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome?

and to paraphrase the meaning of Qf&P 10.10 where Peggy McGeoghegan says “If we take seriously the nurture of our children in the worshipping group, we must start by re-appraising the whole life of the group.”

  • Could someone who is smaller or less able than others open the gate to come into the garden or enter the building?
  • Once inside could they (where it is safe) reach the interior door handles and locks?
  • Do you have appropriate cups, crockery for children and are various dietary requirements considered during your refreshments?
  • Do you have left handed scissors and kitchen tools?
  • Is there a large text version of Qf&P or other leaflets available? Or magnifying sheets?
  • During notices do you ensure that Quaker jargon is clarified?

This can mean ensuring that coat hooks are low enough for children to reach, that foot stools for sinks and hassocks for chairs are available for anyone who needs them; that handles and soap dispensers are easily used by those lacking mobility and of course that signage is good.

Balby Meeting have produced an introductory leaflet which explains in simple language about the meeting, photos and names of its members – including guide dog Cassie. The leaflet also has brief descriptions of what might happen when you visit.

  • Does your meeting consider all members when reappraising both the building and the life of the meeting?
  • What has your meeting done that worked well?

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