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.

Quaker A-Z: X marks the spot

2014 12 19 tube labyrinth

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

X marks the spot – part one

X marks the spot for signatures. Do you have room hire contracts? Are they for set periods of time or a license for part of the building? Do you have full names and addresses for the people and groups that use your building – especially any that have keys or access codes?

In P is for Premises and Policies and in T is for Terms and Conditions I mentioned the benefit of having time to think through issues and be able to decide on terms, conditions and policies to ensure that levels of service, care and maintenance are standardised, whilst problems can be prevented or considered before they arise.

A well written contract can ensure that problems are dealt with in a measured fashion, and that all hirers are held to the same expectations. The contract can prevent individuals being treated differently – depending on which Quaker they’ve spoken to. Being able to refuse a request or point out a problem with reference to a policy or contract document can make any confrontations easier to handle, and feel less personal to the people involved.

When you produce a contract, it should include the relevant terms and conditions as part of the contract so the hirer can see what they are agreeing to. As I’ve mentioned previously, many samples are available – it isn’t necessary to invent the wheel. Contact me if you would like a sample pack of documents.

X marks the spot – part two

X marks the spots on maps, especially treasure maps. X is often used to mark a specific place.

  • So, could anyone find you on the map?
  • On local tourist or information maps is the Meeting House marked as a place of interest?
  • Are there directions on your website?
  • If you have photos of the building, are they what a visitor would see from the road or the prettier bit around the side?
  • Have you included a map on any marketing or information leaflets that you hand out?

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

Quaker A-Z: M is for Mission and Money (but not Marketing)

Committed to a Mission

Photo by Eric Castro

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

M is for Mission

What is your mission? Not a question that is asked often here in the UK. But one that was a common first question among people meeting in Kenya during the FWCC World Conference in 2012. Instead of the more common ‘what do you do?’ they asked, ‘What is your mission?’ How would you answer such a question?

There is a good summary with links to current Quaker missions on the Quakers in the World site. However – it isn’t mission ‘out there’ I’m talking about, but your own individual mission, or perhaps the mission you support in your local worshipping community.

Perhaps your meeting’s mission is to do no more than fulfil Qf&P 4.33, or perhaps there is a calling to work with refugees, sustainability, social justice or some other cause. Or perhaps, as I heard one Quaker say only partially jokingly, ‘it is to earn money to support other meetings in our Area Meeting’. It can even be to do whatsoever you are called to do next as well as you can.

23.63

The individual and the community

Work and economic affairs

One of the aspects of parenthood which I enjoy most is putting my mind to trying to solve all sorts of problems. I get a big thrill out of designing gadgets which will make life a little more comfortable. I love to get to work on a thoroughly neglected garden or room and put it right again. I find great satisfaction in being consulted about other people’s problems and helping to sort them out. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that this is the area in which I shall both find my main direction and satisfy my needs to be creative, practical and supportive. If, rather than concentrating on one particular job or career, I apply myself to tackling the many problems that come my way, I am sure that my life will be more than adequately filled with work that I ‘most need to do and the world most needs to have done’. Thus I shall have found my vocation or mission. It will not mean that all the problems will get solved, of course, or that those which do will be solved satisfactorily every time, but I am sure that it will mean that my relationships with other people will improve and that both the giving and the taking of love will come easier to me.

Helen Edwards, 1992

Have you ever stopped to think about what your mission is or what you might like it to be?

M is for Money

I’m not talking about ensuring that ‘this community should be able to support itself & its activities‘ as I mentioned in Beacons and Burdens. Nor how to increase lettings, as I did in the how to do Marketing series. Both of which are different aspects of income and outcome.

Instead in this post I’m going to cover Petty Cash and other monies. Such monies aren’t large amounts, but tend to be ones that there is confusion over and often cause upset.

Before we start you might want to think about how does your meeting handle money:

  • Is there a Treasurer or a team of Treasurers?
  • Are they well supported?
  • Are things organized so the person responsible for maintaining any inventory has the ability to easily do so?
  • Do you have separate Premises accounts and general funds or is everything in one pot?
  • Did you know that there are training courses for treasurers and others working with Quaker finances – both on-line and at Woodbrooke?

How are small amounts of supplies purchased?

Warden/Quakers/Another buy with their own funds and claim.

This presumes that person being asked to do the shopping can afford to do this – and puts the onus on them to keep receipts and make an expenses claim. It makes it easy for these small amounts to slip through and be paid for by the individual not the meeting. This isn’t good practice, and it also means that you don’t have an accurate account of how much it takes to keep the building going.

If someone wants to donate in the most tax efficient way, they should claim and donate that amount with gift aid added.

We only have a Petty Cash box/account

Who maintains this and does this mean you are unable to buy on-line or in bulk unless you have someone else pay and reclaim?

We have an account with linked debit card and/or cheque book

This works well for on-line shopping presuming you have accounts and can pay via invoice and cheque book and/or can pay with the debit card. It will mean you are able to buy in bulk. It also means you can pop out with the debit card to cover the last minute pint of milk and a packet of biscuits!

If there are several signatures on this account, including the Treasurer who can both keep an eye on the float level and top it up as necessary, this system can work very well.

We do some combination of the above

This is probably the most practical of options.

Good record keeping and transparent practices are necessary to avoid fraud. Debit cards may make some treasurers nervous as you aren’t able to have two signatures on these, but with a limited account balance this isn’t much risk.

  • How does your meeting deal with these types of transactions?
  • What advice or good practice could you share?

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