Monday, January 31, 2011

Money, money, money

Stephen Lingwood commented on one of my posts about budgeting last year

... But the key point is that most congregations (need) to increase live giving significantly. Most people are happy to put a few coins in the plate when they're there, but it costs thousands to run a congregation if you have a building and/or a Minister. Why do we expect other people to pay for this?

Members should pledge how much they are going to give, so the leadership can budget accordingly. This process should be as open as possible.

Couldn't agree more! So how do we encourage generous giving?

First I think we need to break down annual figures to monthly or even weekly figures. And then need to divide that by congregation numbers. So for arguments sake if it costs £52,000 p.a. to run a local congregation that's £1,000 per week and if there are 20 people in the congregation that's £50 per week each. These are simple figures but serve to illustrate the point that we all carry a financial commitment and what sort of commitment that might be. You might also do this having taken off all usual income e.g. from investments and rental income. This then gives a figure say £20 per week if investments work and rental income remains constant - and a worse case scenario of £50 if all income ceases.

Most people could not pay £20/week so there would need to be ongoing discussions about how to raise the money - commitment and responsibility are not just about giving money but also about giving time and energy - these too are resources.

All congregations have to have monthly giving directly from people's bank accounts and Gift Aid claims. I wrote this in a fund-raising guide that I wrote when I was on the Funding Development Panel (it may be a bit out of date but if you would like a copy do email me)

Why monthly giving?: Because it is an easy way for people to donate money – many people are used to do this for their favourite charities. An amount like £5 per month might seem a small amount but it amounts to £60 per year. For someone on a reasonable wage £20/month might not seem too bad but ask someone for £240 and they might look a Iittle shocked. It is also a way that people who do not attend services can give on a regular basis e.g. children of congregation members who have grown up and moved away or young families who whilst committed to the chapel have commitments to their children’s sporting activities at weekends. At the end of the day, there’s no harm in asking. Some chapels have been surprised that having instituted monthly giving the amounts received through the collection plate has not reduced by the same amount as some still put money in the plate.

The other benefits of monthly giving are

• Once people start giving they tend not to stop;
• It is relatively easy for people to increase their monthly giving; and
• It provides a steady stream of income rather than peaks and troughs of income. The steady stream tends to match much of a group’s expenditure.

I think that the other thing is how you involve people in the business of the community. Locally we have business meetings every two months after a service - we have increased attendance at business meetings from single figures to about 20 which is most of our regular attendees. This encourages openness and commitment.

And of course there's modelling - we have to act generously. Whilst giving monthly most of us also give to the plate - indeed locally giving to the plate has not reduced in the longer term since monthly giving was introduced. And giving a note rather than change can set a benchmark for expected giving. Although we must always be aware of those with little money to give and reassure them that whatever they give is very welcome and much appreciated. We may need to constantly remind ourselves that money is not the end of our giving - it is just the beginning.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Measuring change

I was reading the notes of the November Executive Committee meeting and came across one of the GA's objectives for the next five years which is to "increase our recorded membership by 20%".

The problem with this is that we don't have recorded membership - we have quota paying numbers but there's a £27 cost to increasing the number of recorded members for each fellowship and congregation. There was a suggestion possibly a year before that the quota fee should be doubled which I thought might have the effect of halving our national membership.

This post is not about the quota payment but about the problems with measuring change. There is an associated issue with measuring things that we, as organisations, have no control over. The General Assembly's own membership is congregations and fellowships rather than individual members (apart from ministers) and therefore has no control over membership numbers - although if it reduced the quota fee it may see a raise in membership numbers - but this would be a recorded increase rather than a real increase. It may be argued that the GA by doing more promotion and marketing helps to increase numbers - it may help to bring people to Unitarianism but I suspect that the impact that the GA has on maintaining people's attendance at their nearest community is small to none.

So how do we set our targets? Indeed should we have targets at all?

I like targets - at a very simple level this can be action plans and budgets for the year ahead. Then it is simple to see if what was set out to be achieved has been achieved. Most of our communities will not get further than this.

For larger organisations there are usually targets which cover

1. Finance, administration & organisational
  • Finance - set income & expenditure targets; decide what to spend any surplus on for example investing in staff training, equipment and/or buildings;
  • Staff & volunteers - ensuring job descriptions are accurate; structures are helpful; staff are adequately trained and work-plans reflect the targets that the organisation wants to achieve; and
  • Organisational development and governance - for example reviewing policies, developing and updating business plans; reviewing efficiency of operations;
2. Core activity

Depends on the object of the organisation - for a local Unitarian community it may be about the variety of worship offered; training opportunities for worship leaders; building improvements; social events; other activities such as walking and craft groups.

3. Communications - both internal and external - who are we trying to communicate with and what it the most effective way? So a target may be about a new campaign aimed at say a local university campus or making links with local websites.

4. Partnerships - exploring the value of partnerships and working on those. No organisation stands alone and a healthy organisation will have links both within the Unitarian community and within the locality. A target may be for example about inter-faith activities or attending voluntary sector meetings.

5. Quality - certainly the public sector is now encouraged to measure the quality of their services and people's satisfaction with that on an annual basis. And I guess that the private sector also does this. How an organisation does this is down to them but it is worth thinking about - negative feedback is often more useful than positive because it usually leads to some change and improvement.

It must be remembered that targets should be for things that an organisation can directly influence; for things which can be fairly accurately measured; and for things that reflect the object of the organisation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The heart of organisational support

Happy New Year!

What is it that I love about organisations and governance? I love helping organisations develop and flourish – which usually means helping people to feel that they are making a difference in an effective and efficient way. Sometimes it’s about reining in people’s enthusiasm and providing a structured approach. Often this isn’t seen as very exciting but the results can be as people take carefully planned steps to the achievement of their goals.

I have done some mentoring in the past, some on governance issues. I was helping to write a tender the other day for some work mentoring chief executives and boards in organisational development and capacity building and one question was about the relationship between mentor and mentee – which I think is the key issue to successful mentoring. I wrote this ..

A mentoring relationship has both personal and professional aspects. The one-to-one nature of mentoring means that there needs to be a good personal relationship but the provision of mentoring to a senior manager must ensure that the time used is productive and positive. Therefore it is key for mentors to establish their professionalism early on and bring a focus to the task of capacity building.

All third sector managers are busy and change management can be daunting – the mentor has to respect the manager and their skills and expertise whilst supporting learning and change. Organisations may ask for support to change but that change is not always welcome by everyone in the organisation. Our mentors are skilled at working towards positive change, clarifying steps to be taken and being supportive to those with the responsibility for change.

Developing a good relationship comes with clarification about the purpose of the relationship; with agreed roles and responsibilities; with setting goals, timescales and milestones; agreeing meeting frequency and communication means: and ensuring that the mentee has access to sufficient support outside of the mentoring relationship.

A mentoring relationship is judged on its usefulness and whether agreed outcomes have been achieved.

Whilst I have skills and experience from a variety of jobs and training, it is often the personal skills and psychological knowledge gained as a social worker and a manager (and a human being, daughter, mother, sister, friend ....) that are most important.

We can give our communities and congregations knowledge but if people are struggling then we also need to provide a relationship which recognises the human needs that will support and hinder change and development.