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Money

Page history last edited by Paul Hazelden 3 years ago

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Money

Introduction

This page was initially created from the final two sections of the 'Plan' document already circulated.  The initial suggested timetable has proved to be hopelessly optimistic, but there seems little point in updating the draft dates before we have a good idea of a more realistic timescale.

 

 

Principles

Some basic principles concerning how we handle money.

  • We will ask the members to contribute a monthly membership fee; we will ask (but not require) wealthier members to contribute a higher amount, and we will provide a bursary place for anyone who is genuinely unable to afford it.
  • We will pay our way.  While we expect our members to contribute through their membership fees, we will not expect people or organizations to donate goods or services.  We will, however, gratefully receive any finance, goods or services which are freely offered.
  • We will pay a fair rate for work we ask people to do.  Most of the input from people will be voluntary, but where people are asked to provide a service (such as graphic design or website building), that service will be paid for at a normal commercial rate unless the person or organization concerned offers their time and skills for free or a reduced rate.
  • We will raise funds before we spend them.  We will not take out loans, take on financial obligations without having the necessary resources, or get into debt by any other means.
  • We will operate an open book policy.  All transactions will go through the accounts and the amount, date and party name will be made public for every transaction, except that the name of donors (members or not) will not normally be made public.  The names of donors will only be made public if (a) they request public acknowledgement of the donation, or (b) the amount is greater than a quarter of the total amount donated in the financial year.
  • We will operate a bank account.  We are currently deciding whether payments will require one or two signatures.
  • We will not store cash.  All financial transactions  will go through the bank account; any cash donations (should there be any) will be paid into the bank account at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

Some advantages of this approach.

  • The financial aspect of the project is explicit and addressed up front.
  • There is only one category of membership: nobody can pay for greater access or privilege than anyone else.
  • The project will not be financially supported through advertising, with all the implications of support and endorsement of specific products and services.
  • The membership details will not be sold or otherwise made available to any external body.

 

 

Discussion

The basic financial principle: this project needs to pay its own way, so it needs to generate income.  This is partly because I can’t afford to start another activity which takes time but generates no income, partly because people tend to value things more if they pay for them, and partly to protect the future growth.

 

We could start off on a small basis with free software, but if this does grow, it will require more resources, and it is very hard to introduce money into a successful activity which has always been free.  Many successful ‘hobby’ projects have failed in the end because they became too successful, the creator could not afford to continue to pay for the resources the larger group needed, and you never get enough people responding  to requests for voluntary contributions when they had joined a free service.

 

My current thought is to ask the members for a monthly donation, with £1 a month as the minimum, £5 a month as the request, and invite people to give more if they can afford it.  If anyone cannot afford £1 a month, we will operate a ‘bursary’ and give a free membership to anyone who asks, trusting people not to abuse this.  But all members get the same service, whatever they pay or don’t pay.

 

We need to provide a website which is essentially a combination of articles, blogs and discussion forum, with some way for people to pay their membership fee and donate electronically, although none of that needs to be available on day one for the initial steering group.  The plan is to get a large enough group of people who are committed to this vision to finance the investment which will be needed to develop the website and associate facilities.

 

The website needs to be fully accessible to the public – nothing is hidden – but only members, people who are committed to the vision and values, are allowed to participate.  We cannot provide a safe space if anonymous people can freely insult, criticize and undermine the people who are seeking to explore difficult questions.

 

In keeping with the core vision, I see the finances being operated on an open book basis: one of the key needs to be addressed is how we integrate our spirituality and our handling of money, and we need to model financial integrity, just as we need to model our values in every other area of life.

 

By ‘open book’, I mean that all transactions will go through the accounts and the amount, date and party name will be made public for every transaction, except that the name of donors (members or not) will not be made public.

 

This should be sufficient if all the funding comes from many small donations.  If we ever attract a sponsor who offers to make one or more substantial donations, we may have to review this policy to ensure adequate transparency and assure the members that that no influence has been obtained through the donation.

 

 

Money – Practicalities

After the first or second meeting of the steering group, we will have a name.  This will enable us to open a bank account, assuming one other person is prepared to be a signatory alongside me.  There is a good range of possible banks offering free banking to non-profit organizations with a turnover under £50k or £100k pa, and after that we probably won’t mind paying some bank charges.

 

I intend for all money to go through the bank account, so we need to set up the account and pay money in before we can spend anything.

 

A guess: roughly 1 in 5 people will ask for a free membership and 1 in 5 will opt for the £1 rather than £5 membership.  And I assume very few people will choose to pay more than the suggested £5.  So we might expect 5 members to generate £16 per month, 10 members £32 and 100 members £320.  It will be interesting to see how close that is.  But we need to make some assumptions when looking at the finances, so let’s start there.

 

If we get £16 in March, that will enable us to buy the domain.

 

In subsequent months, we may need around £20 for the website.  If we get 20 people in March, that means around £64 income in June, so we can hope to be saving maybe £44 a month in April, May and June.  £132 is not enough to pay a designer: they are more likely to be around £500, so perhaps we can arrange to pay then £100 a month for 5 months?

 

If we get another 20 people in June, that brings the income after website fees to around £100 a month from July, which would enable us to pay the designer each month and finish paying for that work around October – sooner if the numbers build after going public in July.  After that, I hope to start being paid for maybe half a day a week, as the money allows; I anticipate needing to spend at least that amount of time on the project.

 

It probably goes without saying that until we are big enough to justify formal incorporation, all paid work will be done by self-employed contractors who will deliver a service for a set fee.

 

 

Bank Account

We need to set up a bank account to handle the membership fees and expenses.  We are looking for a club / society / non-profit account with online banking, no fees and no overdraft facility.

 

These websites list a number of potential options:

 

 

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