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14 June 2014 minutes

Final review meeting 14 June 2014 minutes

Secular Hall, Leicester
12.00 – 5.00
Present: Sophie, Cilla, Yula, C, Aderonke (with guest Happiness), Stuart, Linnea, Sami, Isis, Lee, Ian

NB

  • Agreement of a proposal prepared before the meeting

➢ New agreement

1. Membership application process

The 5 proposals prepared before the meeting were agreed:

  • The new statement which explains our more radical values
  • Slight amendment to the three questions we ask people to answer as part of the application process
  • Adding a statement to explain why we’re asking the questions
  • Allowing people to apply to be members over the phone (as we do with funding applications)
  • Continuing with current process where list of member requests are sent to members and if any concerns raised these discussed with the applicant with an aim to coming to a mutual decision

Comments/ concerns:

Many members felt that the new statement would help people decide whether they fit with Edge values so it would become more of a self-selection process. It may also be useful to existing members who perhaps aren’t clear about the values of Edge.

2. Funding application questions

The 2 proposals prepared before the meeting were agreed:

  • What in your view is the root cause, or causes, of the issues you’re working on? (Question 4 of the first application)
  • Who has funded you in the past and how do you currently cover the costs of running your group? Have you experienced any difficulties in applying for funding? (Question 5 of the second application)

We also agreed:

➢ We will add “and how do you address it?” to the first one (as above).

Comments/ concerns:

Often groups try to hide or water down their radical nature so we hope that the new questions about root causes will help encourage them not to do that. We discussed whether it should be “and how does this proposal address it?” but this would conflict with our aims to give flexible funding that’s not restricted to a particular project.

3. Faith criteria

The proposed wording prepared before the meeting was agreed for now, to be reviewed after the next funding round:

  • Individuals and groups who have a religious purpose are welcome to apply but we don’t provide financial support for any activity, initiative or project where the primary aim is to promote religion.

Comments/ concerns:

After some discussion we decided to move on to the next agenda item and come back to this. At which point it was agreed that we would go ahead with this wording but we noted that there was some uncertainty about it and it would need to be reviewed after the next funding round, once we can see what applications have come in as a result, and which have been short-listed.

Some concerns raised were: our approach is to give unrestricted funding, so this wording conflicts with that since we’re saying actually we wouldn’t allow a faith-based group to use the funds as they felt they needed to. Also, could we be sure the group is being honest about how much of their work is promoting their religion?

A point was made that we didn’t want to be anti-religion as this can be an issue with other groups, it is a euro-centric view we should try to avoid. Some felt that we had enough checks in place to ensure that we would not fund groups that conflicted with our values.

4. Member expenses policy

The proposal prepared before the meeting was agreed:

  • We will have a policy to explain that we cover costs of travel, and other costs, where needed but expect members to use cheapest option (eg booking public transport in advance) and that we’d expect them to repay us if we book tickets for them but then they don’t attend the meeting (see full policy wording in proposal doc)

We also agreed:

➢ As well as asking members to use the cheapest travel option, the environmental costs should also be taken into account. Wording will be added to the policy to cover this.

Comments/ concerns:

We talked about having a maximum reimbursement amount but felt this could exclude people. If people want their travel covered they should always let us know in advance rather than just presenting the tickets afterwards.

We don’t currently have a policy on flights. We felt this should be assessed case by case since whilst we appreciate it’s not the best option environmentally there are reasons why people may have to fly rather than travel over land/ sea. Although not relevant in this case, generally, policies against flying can end up discriminating against people who have family overseas.

5. Policy on paying members

The policy prepared before the meeting was agreed:

  • To help overcome any financial barriers to taking part in Edge, we will offer payment to members to do one-off jobs that would take more time than we’d normally expect a member to commit (see full wording of policy in proposal doc).

We also agreed:

➢ We will add a statement to the policy and put together a contract to cover legal requirements of paying people (agreed Lee and Sophie will do this, run past Facilitating Group)
➢ We will write a statement about our aims to overcome barriers to participation; this policy on paying people will aim to achieve that but will not solve the problem by itself (Sami has offered to draft this)

Comments/ concerns:

We don’t currently operate a PAYE system and would prefer to continue as we are. This is not about recruiting people as staff, but an attempt to share out tasks and remove financial barriers to taking part. However, there are legal requirements, tax considerations and possible implications for people receiving benefits. Therefore, we need to protect ourselves and members by having the right paperwork and policies in place.

Whilst this policy will hopefully help some people participate who might currently face some barriers, we will still have an on-going issue that people with more free time are likely to be able to be more involved. Also, people with relevant skills for the tasks that need doing are more likely to already have paid work. This is just one part of a wider strategy. We are planning a session on power and privilege, which will also be part of the strategy.

Whilst we would let all members know about tasks that need doing, we can use information from the member survey about skills and interests to let particular members know if a task has come up that they might be interested in.

6. Budget

The policy prepared before the meeting was agreed:

  • An operating budget of around £145,000 a year, including £120,000 of grants (see full budget in proposals doc). To be reviewed.

We also agreed:

➢ We will do the minimum level of reporting that is required by the Financial Services Authority (who regulate IPSs)
➢ The final accounts should be sent to members and at least 10 members (our quorum) should approve it.
➢ We’ll put together our own report of our first two years.

Comments/ concerns:

We currently don’t have a forecast on income. This is mostly because most of our donations have come as one-off donations and it’s difficult to predict what might happen in future. However, when our first year of accounts are finished this will show the income for that year which can be used as a guide. Linnea has offered to provide a guide on an income statement so we can put that together.

We talked about trying to put a value on the amount of time and own funds members put into Edge. If members could give estimates of this it could be included in the accounts. Although this would create a lot of work, it would be a good way of demonstrating people’s commitment and what the real costs are of operating Edge. Some members felt this wasn’t feasible but a suggestion was made that we add a statement to the accounts, or in a report accompanying the accounts, to explain members’ contributions.

6a. Co-ordinator role

The discussion about the budget led brought up some issues around the role and salary of the co-ordinator position.

We agreed that:

➢ We will write a job description for the co-ordinator role.
➢ The salary, role and performance of the co-ordinator will be reviewed.
➢ We set up a ‘Friendly Committee’ of around three people to work on the above and to offer more personal, friendly but critical support to the co-ordinator.

Comments/ concerns:

The salary has not changed since the £11 per hour rate was agreed over a year ago. The hourly rate was agreed as it was felt that the Living Wage was not enough, but we didn’t want to be paying high salaries. There was a question over whether it would be possible to employ someone new in the role, with the right skill etc, on the current salary we’re paying.

The co-ordinator role has evolved and the membership has grown, which means it requires more skill and more time. Whilst many people in the voluntary sector work over their paid hours, there is a concern that working too many hours could result in burn out. Do we need to pay for more than 3 days a week? Also, that if anything happened to Sophie (current co-ordinator) this would currently be a problem for Edge as we are not well prepared to allow someone else to take over the role.

The Friendly Committee could perhaps be former-FG members, although there may be other members with appropriate skills. The group should change regularly. It was suggested that they should determine their own terms of reference.

7. How much we need in the bank before announcing a funding round

The proposal prepared before the meeting was agreed:

  • We won’t announce a funding around unless we have at least £100,000 in the bank.

We also agreed:

➢ As a slight amendment, we agreed that £100,000 was the minimum before announcing a full round, i.e. of £40,000. We may decide to run a smaller round.
➢ We will write a statement to explain that we don’t want to hoard funds but at the same time have to think about our long-term sustainability (Sami has offered to write this)

Comments/ concerns:

There was a long discussion about this. There was a concern about whether £100,000 was too much and how it would look to the outside if we had e.g. £95,000 in the bank and weren’t giving it out. Also, how would an applicant who has been turned down feel if they saw we had a large amount in the bank? Suggestion were made that we should only keep back around £40,000 – £80,000, perhaps a year’s operating costs or perhaps a round plus a year’s operating costs.

On the other hand, there was concern about our long-term sustainability and the danger of funds running out and us having to fold. We are not yet in a stable position in terms of funding and may not be able to raise funds very quickly so need to be cautious. It’s better to have enough reserves to allow us to keep running rounds.

The standard for charities for reserves is usually between 6 and 12 months operating costs. For us, if we only had operating costs we would not be able to carry out our aims, so we need to have enough funds to enable us to distribute some too.

8. Member recruitment

The proposal prepared before the meeting was agreed:

  • We will focus on recruiting members that will address any under-representation in the membership, although we won’t stop others from also applying.

We also agreed:

➢ We’ll make the stats about our membership available on our website and use this to recruit people to address gaps.
➢ We’ll send the new statement about Edge membership to people whose membership applications have been on hold and ask if they’d still like to apply.
➢ If people have been inactive as a member for a year (e.g. not scored any applications, been to any meetings or been involved in any Working Groups) then we will contact them and ask if they still want to be a member and perhaps suggest they might want to leave. NB Previously (end 2012) we said that people could be removed from the membership by 2/3 majority vote if they had been inactive for a year. This is in the Welcome Pack for new members.

Comments/ concerns:

We had a look at some basic stats from the member survey, of which half the members (63 people) have completed, to get an idea of the make-up of the membership.

We talked about whether we want the Edge membership to reflect the demographic of the area we operate in (Scotland, Wales, England and the whole of Ireland). Some members felt that we actually wanted greater representation of communities with direct life experience of the issues we aim to solve.

We also recognised that there are wealthy people, particularly those who have inherited money, who shared our aims and that we didn’t want to be ‘anti-rich’. It’s more about people’s values than their wealth.

We should look at both members and funded groups in terms of backgrounds/ identities to try to achieve a balance in both.

We should also be cautious about capping the number of members we should have as this could exclude people, but we also don’t want to grow just for the sake of it. We should not worry too much if members want to leave, turnover is natural. We should also bear in mind that there may be reasons why people aren’t participating and we shouldn’t just remove people from the membership without checking about this first.

8a. Ongoing review

As part of the discussion about membership recruitment, a point came up about keeping note of issues arising throughout the review that we need to keep an eye on.

We agreed that:

➢ We will keep a list of unresolved items arising from the review. This could be called a ‘Practice and Procedure’ list. A year on, we can then refer back to this and see what progress we’ve made.

9. Member roles

The proposals prepared before the meeting were agreed:

  • We will have a Treasurer (Ian has offered)
  • We’ll recruit more Facilitating Group members
  • We’ll aim to share out tasks better amongst the membership so that there are more faces/ voices to Edge (at the moment it’s mostly the co-ordinator writing articles, answering emails etc)

We also agreed:

➢ There should be a healthy turnover of people in the Facilitating Group, since there is an issue of power, but we wouldn’t want everyone to leave at the same time as it’s good to have some consistency. Ideally people shouldn’t be in the FG for more than a year, but could stay longer if they wanted. NB We weren’t sure what was previously agreed on this; having checked after the meeting, we had made a similar agreement end 2012 when writing our constitution; we agreed that the entire FG should change over 18 months, with third changing in 6 months after the official start of Edge, third after 12 months and final third after 18 months.
➢ We will have Ambassadors of Edge, who take on a slightly more formal role in promoting Edge than other members. They would be people who know Edge well and would be supported by the co-ordinator if needed in terms of understanding more of the background.
➢ Co-ordinator will notify members when tasks come up that need doing, such as writing articles or attending events. When the Job Description is done we can look at other ways of devolving the co-ordinator tasks.

Comments/ concerns:

We currently have five members of the FG (not including the co-ordinator); Isis, Cilla, Elena, Sami and Rose. Rose would like to step down. Ideally we should have eight FG members so need to recruit more. Some members may want to move around different groups within Edge and there are no restrictions on that, but there is an issue of power with the FG so members need to rotate fairly regularly. Whilst the maximum time on the FG has been agreed as one year people can step down before then if they want and we should try to organise it so that not everyone leaves at the same time, so there’s some consistency. However, there was a concern raised that forcing turnover in the FG may remove skilled people who cannot be replaced.

At the moment, the co-ordinator is the main ‘face’ of Edge Fund. By having Ambassadors we can better reflect the diversity of the membership. It will also mean we can attend more meetings and events rather than relying on the co-ordinator to do that. We will prepare background information and perhaps a Frequently Asked Questions list to support them.

10. Other – Reporting back

A last minute proposal was added just before the meeting. It was agreed:

  • We will give grantees several options for reporting back (e.g. video, written, presentation at Radical Sharing Forum, podcast) and suggest 5 questions they might want to answer. Support will be given when needed, including covering travel costs if they want to present in person.

We also agreed:

➢ Reporting back will not be mandatory.


 

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