Trust issues: AM treasurers and trustees finally get (online) together. Fred Ashmore reports

‘We have had many months without much interchange.’

‘The rooms were hard to stop once trustees got going.’ | Photo: by Compare Fibre on Unsplash.

Last month the Training and Support Group of Quaker Stewardship Committee (QSC) organised an online get-together for Area Meeting (AM)trustees and treasurers. Trustees missed out on their conference in March, which had to be cancelled. We thought they might now welcome a chance for conversation and briefing. So it proved.

Over 100 people turned up. Ursula Fuller, the retiring clerk of QSC, opened the meeting by talking through some of the issues facing trustees and treasurers. This included the registration of excepted charities, which we had been told was to be required by March 2021. She commented on the widespread use of ‘phishing’ by online fraudsters and directed us towards the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, which gives guidance. She also mentioned the substantial range of courses offered by the Association of Church Accountants and Treasurers, which may help trustees and others while Woodbrooke develops its offerings. Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission is another topic to which trustees should be sensitive. If in doubt, report; the Charity Commission doesn’t want victims, and knows what matters far better than trustees. The Commission will say if an incident, past or present, is serious or not. Our recording clerk’s office also needs to know, since any serious incident can affect the reputation of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM).

Helen Drewery of South London AM noted that the Commission has extended the deadline to register excepted charities by ten years. After the meeting, recording clerk Paul Parker confirmed that BYM had received notification of this: ‘It’s good that a decision has been taken on when excepted status will finish for the twenty-two AMs in England & Wales not yet required to register their charitable status. However, there is still no clear plan for how this registration will happen, and we deserve a better answer from the Charity Commission than this, so that AM trustees can make plans. All AMs are charities already, of course – this is just about the process of becoming a “registered charity” when the old excepted status comes to an end.’

Participants were randomly sent to breakout rooms for free conversation. Judging from the one I was in, and from other comments, the rooms were a bit slow to start but hard to stop once trustees got going. We have, after all, had many months without much interchange, and with many painful challenges and decisions facing nearly all of us. I got the distinct impression that the conversation in the room I joined could have continued profitably for much longer.

Many excellent observations and suggestions were raised in a plenary afterwards. They have been captured and QSC’s responsible group will think carefully about them. It’s likely that we will recommend some further meetings once the outcomes of this one have been digested.

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