Chapter 14

Stewardship of our material resources

Introduction

14.01

A fundamental principle of this part of our church governance is corporate integrity. All Friends share responsibility for upholding this principle. At every level Friends, personally and corporately, must be seen to be above reproach in our handling of finance and property.

Chapter 14 deals with the general issues of stewardship of all our assets which are held in trust, by all Friends, for now and for the future. How we handle them is an important part of our religious witness.

During Friends’ service as trustees they hold additional specific and personal responsibilities; these are described in chapter 15.

Finance

General

14.02

I have learned … that stewardship of our financial re­sources demands not only meticulous accounting skills but also knowledge of what our money does, and imagination in devising what it can do…

Christine A M Davis, 2008

14.03

Friends should be aware of the financial consequences of Quaker concerns. Treasurers inform themselves of the needs of Britain Yearly Meeting and of local and area meetings and make sure that information is shared. We are all responsible for enabling the work to be carried out.

The reports and accounts of Britain Yearly Meeting and area meetings record in detail at the end of each year the activities, the income from all sources and how money has been spent. Friends are encouraged to read and discuss these annual reports to understand how we fund the work we ask to be done in our name.

14.04

Whilst the work of area meetings may vary, our assets are used for:

  1. strengthening the life and witness of our local meetings;
  2. spreading the message of Friends and interpreting and developing the thought and practice of the Religious Society of Friends;
  3. undertaking our service for the relief of suffering at home and abroad;
  4. funding the concerns of Friends that our meetings have adopted or agreed to support;
  5. providing for the pastoral care of individual Friends, including assistance to those in need and for education;
  6. maintaining and developing our meeting houses as places in which to worship and from which to carry our witness into the world;
  7. administering and maintaining the organisation of Britain Yearly Meeting.

Spending on our responsibilities and concerns

14.05

The area meeting, where our membership is held, seeks to carry out the concerns and witness of Quakers in that area, and also has other responsibilities for the area meeting and its constituent local meetings. It is laid upon us to help our own area and local meetings to fulfil these tasks through our regular financial support in accordance with our means.

14.06

Britain Yearly Meeting carries out work centrally on behalf of all area and local meetings across the activities listed in 14.04. Much of it arises from concerns brought forward by area meetings and adopted on behalf of the yearly meeting. The work may need staff and a permanent organisation.

Commitments once started must be funded and carried through to a proper conclusion. This too requires our regular financial support.

14.07

All of us have a part to play in the processes of discernment leading to decisions on spending money on the work to be undertaken. In making decisions about spending, meetings should seek to find the right balance between current and future needs. Reserves may be needed in order to meet future obligations to maintain buildings and to complete projects. However, meetings should not hold substantial reserves if no need for them is foreseen and the money could be better put to use in the world to further Quaker concerns, including assisting meetings with fewer resources to maintain their Quaker life and witness. All Quaker bodies with reserves should have a written reserves policy.

14.08

Our meetings may spend only on the charitable purposes described in our governing documents (15.1515.16) or, in the absence of such a document, on the purposes listed in 14.04. The people and organisations to which meetings pay money need not themselves be charities, provided that they are doing something that furthers our charitable purposes.

From time to time Friends may wish support to be given to causes which are not covered by our charitable purposes. The meeting may not use its charitable funds for these causes, but Friends may give as individuals on their own personal behalf as they feel led. If the meeting wishes to make a special collection amongst individual Friends for one of these causes, it will be acting as an agent for the beneficiary, and the money collected should be kept separate and passed expeditiously to the beneficiary. The same applies when any donations are given to the meeting for the sole purpose of passing on to another organisation.

How we pay for our concerns

14.09

Our work is carried out with money received from several sources: the most important, for it represents all Friends as individuals, is contributions to Britain Yearly Meeting, area meetings, local meetings and Quaker-related organisations. Annual appeals invite contributions, allowing us to express our preferences for the use of our gift. Treasurers of local meetings may consult overseers for advice on which members and attenders should receive contribution schedules. Some meetings have found it more convenient for the treasurer to appoint an assistant or collector to prepare schedules and send them out, and to manage the contributions.

14.10

Since all meetings within Britain Yearly Meeting are charities, whether registered or not, they are entitled to use schemes such as Gift Aid, by which governments encourage donations to charity and add a contribution where the donor is also a taxpayer. Treasurers should make use of the Gift Aid scheme, after obtaining a declaration from donors that this is their wish.

14.11

Legacies to Britain Yearly Meeting, or to area or local meetings, form an important part of our income and Friends are urged to bear this in mind when making a will. It is most helpful if the legacy, whether to Britain Yearly Meeting or an area meeting, is left to be used as needed. Friends may wish to support particular concerns or a particular local meeting, but needs and circumstances can change and more detailed preferences are best expressed in an accompanying letter, to be complied with if possible, but not to be legally binding. The administration of all legacies to area and local meetings is a legal responsibility of area meeting trustees.

Advice about the wording of charitable bequests may be obtained from the Communication & Services Department to ensure that bequests, either a specific sum or a proportion of the residuary estate, will be received free of taxes as intended.

14.12

Some meetings have other income, from let properties, from the hire of meeting house rooms, from investments and deposit interest. If trustees do not have the expertise to manage property and investments, they should seek professional advice. It is preferable for the role of the treasurer to be restricted to financial oversight of the income from these assets and not extend to the management of properties and other investments.

Bookkeeping and accounts

14.13

The books of account are maintained by the treasurer but trustees carry the responsibility for them and for providing practical support and assistance; all Friends in the meeting share in providing spiritual support. Advice is available from the Treasurers’ handbook and from Charity Commission publications; legal requirements are set out in the area meeting’s governing document. If no Friend with the necessary skill is available, the meeting should consider engaging professional bookkeeping help.

14.14

The area meeting is responsible for all the property and funds of its constituent meetings and other bodies subordinate to the area meeting. The area meeting trustees determine with each local meeting how the duties delegated to that local meeting are to be financed. The area meeting treasurer will agree with the local meeting how the funds are to be received, maintained and reported. Local meetings, with agreed delegated responsibility from their area meeting for a specific concern, may raise and retain funds for this concern. Such funds are part of the resources of the area meeting and are to be included in its annual accounts.

14.15

Meetings should ensure that there are appropriate checks and controls over the meeting’s funds. The regular involvement of authorised, responsible Friends in cheque signing and banking is one way of supporting the treasurer. For ex­ample, cheque signing, withdrawal authority and bank accounts held should be reviewed annually by trustees. The Friend who authorises an item of expenditure should not be the sole signatory to the cheque for it. All accounts should be either independently examined or audited.

14.16

All area meetings should require annual reports and accounts to be presented by their trustees and treasurer. These accounts will disclose all the assets, liabilities and financial activities of the meeting in the previous year. Trusts administered by the meeting or associated with the meeting should be included and identified separately. Whether an area meeting is a registered charity or not, the annual reports and accounts should meet the highest standards and comply with Charity Commission requirements. The treasurer and trustees should keep themselves informed about changes to these requirements and should obtain professional advice about this when necessary. Meetings should not consider it profligate to employ a professional accountant to prepare their accounts.

Openness in business is a Quaker tradition arising from our testimony to truth, and it follows that area meeting reports and accounts should be made available to any interested person, whether or not they are a member of that meeting, and whether or not they are Friends. In any case, charities are legally obliged to provide this information to any member of the public on request.

14.17

Treasurers and other Friends particularly involved in the financial administration of their meetings are recommended to make themselves familiar with the detailed advice contained in the Treasurers’ handbook, obtainable from the Communication & Services Department and online at the BYM website (new window). See also 15.11.

Investments

14.18

Administering invested funds requires qualifications and experience which may not be available amongst local Friends: professional advice should be obtained when necessary. For substantial investments a discretionary management service may be appropriate. The investment manager will handle all transactions and report to trustees as required. The advantages of this include continuity through trustee changes, professional external oversight and detailed ethical compliance, and above all the assurance that the investment duty of trustees is supplemented by a specialist organisation.

14.19

Trustees should consider carefully the level of risk involved in investing cash or investing in shares. This should normally be low or low-to-medium risk. If trustees discern that it is right to accept a higher level of risk, their reasons should be recorded by minute. These assets are held for the long-term needs of the meeting as well as for those currently discerned.

14.20

Friends require all investments to be made with ethical considerations in mind. For an area meeting with large funds, details of which ethical issues are deemed important will have been agreed with the professional advisor or discretionary manager, who will recommend suitable investments. Friends may have views on which companies are felt to be ethical or unethical, but in order to form a complete view it is necessary to have access to detailed company information which is available only to specialised research organisations.

14.21

Area meetings with smaller sums to invest should obtain a reasonable spread by investing in one or more of the many ethical collective investment funds. Although information is publicly available on all these funds, advice may still be necessary, and this can be obtained from investment managers or independent advisers. An independent adviser may be paid a fee by the meeting to advise at regular intervals, and this is the recommended arrangement. Alternatively the service may be paid for by commission received by the adviser from the collective investment fund which has been recommended. The trustees of the meeting must bear in mind that they remain responsible. They should scrutinise the recommendations of the adviser and only accept the advice if they understand it and agree with it. Trustees have a continuing duty thereafter for that investment.

14.22

All funds of the meeting that have a common purpose may be invested together. Any trust which has a different purpose, or is an endowment, should be invested in a manner that en-ables its funds to be separately identified at any time.

Property

14.23

Real property – land or buildings – is held in trust by Britain Yearly Meeting, area meetings and their associated charities, to be used for their charitable purposes, either generally or for specific uses as determined by the donor. Real property can be either functional, being held by Friends for their own occupation and use, or investment property to produce income; some properties may serve both purposes. Local meetings and other bodies subordinate to area meetings do not own property themselves (see 14.14). Legal responsibility for the purchase, upkeep, use and disposal of real property rests with the trustees of the relevant meeting even if Friends Trusts Limited (see 14.45) is the custodian trustee, holding trustee or else nominee of the property. The property of area meetings usually consists of meeting houses and burial grounds.

See also 5.09, 15.05f, 15.05g and 15.17

Meeting houses

Certification and registration

14.24

Meeting houses in England and Wales should be certified as places of worship under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. Forms for this can be obtained from the superintendent registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the district in which the meeting house is situated. Such certification will establish the meeting house as a place of worship for the purpose of any legislation where evidence of use of the property is required. Places of public religious worship are exempt from the payment of non-domestic rates and there are significant concessions for other property used for charitable purposes. In order to ensure that the full entitlement is obtained, it is necessary to inform the rates department of the local authority of the nature and purposes of such property. There is no provision for the registration of places of worship in Scotland and liability to or exemption from rates is governed by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1991.

Care of premises

14.25

A meeting house should not be regarded primarily in terms of bricks and mortar, or merely seen in relation to potential site value. Its real value derives from the worship and service of the meeting. Even so, our meeting houses no less than our own homes deserve our care, attention and imaginative thought, so that they may be attractive both to ourselves and to others whilst remaining faithful to our commitment to simplicity, care of the environment and equality. Care of our premises is an important and sometimes exacting responsibility, which should be exercised by or on behalf of the meeting to which it belongs. Area meeting trustees and local premises committees should be vigilant so that small defects do not pass unnoticed and lead in the future to extensive and costly repairs. It is recommended that premises be professionally inspected at regular intervals. For more detailed advice, the Advisory Committee on Property can be approached, and the handbook which they publish consulted, via Quaker Finance & Property Department (and see the BYM website – new window).

New meeting houses

14.26

In the provision of meeting houses, area meetings should, wherever possible, choose sites which allow for the greatest possible use by the whole community. The acquisition of older property for conversion to a meeting house may involve difficulties which should be assessed by a surveyor before the area meeting considers purchase. In contemplating the building of meeting houses, area meetings should have regard to Quaker testimonies and the suitability of the building as a place of worship. Relevant criteria include simplicity of design, soundness of construction, minimising environmental impact, enabling easy access for people with disabilities, and avoiding extravagance.

Loans or grants, or both, may be available in suitable cases to area meetings to meet part of the cost of building new meeting houses; for the purchase and adaptation of properties to make them suitable for use as meeting houses; and for major alterations to existing meeting houses and major repairs to historic meeting houses. Information about the Meeting Houses Funds is obtainable from Quaker Finance & Property (new window) (and see the BYM website – new window).

Use of premises

14.27

Area meetings are advised to permit and encourage the use of their meeting houses for educational and other suitable purposes which serve the needs of the people living in their neighbourhood. Such users should be expected to make an appropriate financial contribution to the running expenses and upkeep. It should be borne in mind that the primary purpose of the meeting house is as a place of public worship.

As premises used by the public, meeting houses must meet certain statutory requirements in respect of fire precautions, safety and hygiene. All premises must be adequately insured, including liability insurance as well as buildings and contents insurance; the Treasurers’ handbook should be consulted for more detailed advice.

In considering the proper use of their meeting houses, area meetings should be sensitive to the feelings of the worshipping community, whose members may object to the introduction of alcoholic drinks onto the premises or to other practices by other users of the meeting house. Hiring policies in respect of particular premises should be agreed between area meetings and local meetings, and conditions made clear to prospective users. The use of Quaker premises by political parties, and by other religious or secular organisations with whose principles or practices Friends might not be in sympathy, will always require careful consideration and full consultation with Friends in the meeting most closely concerned. Particular care must be taken to avoid bookings by ‘front’ organisations with undesirable aims; the bona fides of new users should be checked. In all cases it is important to ensure that any publicity given to meetings held on Quaker premises makes a clear distinction between those organised by a meeting, committee or other Quaker body as such, and those for which others are responsible, in order to avoid confusion in the public mind.

Meetings and committees involved in letting Quaker premises should always bear in mind the need to minimise disturbance to neighbours, hurt to individual Friends, division among the membership, and erosion of our distinctive Quaker identity.

Sale and other disposal of property

14.28

Area meetings or other owning bodies should assess realistically all the circumstances before offering for sale any land or buildings in connection with a meeting house. There have been cases in the past where a small meeting has been revived or one long discontinued has been reopened. It has become increasingly difficult to find suitable sites or buildings for the development of new meeting houses. This may be an additional reason for retaining existing meeting houses in Quaker ownership, in case one day they may be required again, but meetings should not allow themselves to become overly burdened by their property.

In England and Wales, trustees are responsible for the sale, transfer and other disposal of property. Buildings and land held in charitable trusts shall not be mortgaged, sold, leased or otherwise disposed of unless the trustees have first followed the procedure required by law. In Scotland there are no restrictions on the disposal of charity land provided that it does not contravene the terms of the trust. However it is recommended that meetings in Scotland should, as a matter of good practice, follow the same procedure.

See chapter 15 for the responsibilities of trusteeship, and access to advice and support. See also 15.05.g regarding the ultimate responsibility of the meeting. See 14.35 below for the sale and other disposal of burial grounds.

14.29

In England and Wales, the disposal of charity land normally entails obtaining a written report from a qualified surveyor acting exclusively for the charity, advertising the disposal as advised by the surveyor and being satisfied that the terms are the best that can reasonably be obtained. In certain circumstances, such as disposal to a person connected with a charity, it is necessary to obtain an order from the Charity Commission. Selling or leasing land which has been held for a specific purpose, such as a meeting house or burial ground (‘specie’ or ‘designated’ property), may well require the specific authority of the Charity Commission. It is necessary to give public notice of the intention and to consider any representations made about the proposal.

Where Friends Trusts Limited is the custodian trustee, holding trustee or nominee of the property, it is required to seal the conveyance or lease and will do so on receipt of the properly minuted instructions of the trustees of the area meeting (or other owning body). However, the directors will need to be satisfied that the required procedure has been followed and that all costs arising in connection with the disposal will be met by the beneficial owner. In the case of a meeting house or other property which has been used for the purposes of the Society the proceeds of sale may form a permanent endowment, in which case the capital must be retained for similar purposes in the future. Further information on the detailed requirements is available from Friends Trusts Limited.

The prime consideration in the sale or other disposal of property is the best interests of the charity. Charity law does not require a disposal for the best price.

14.30

Scottish meetings are subject to regulation by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, which was established under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. The regulations on trusteeship and accountability are much the same as those which apply in England and Wales. The differences are explained in the Treasurers’ handbook.

Burial grounds

Record of interments

14.31

Area meetings are advised to keep a careful record of their burial grounds and to maintain and regularly review plans of them containing details of the interments (see 4.40.c). The plan of burial plots and record of interments for each burial ground should be cross-referenced, as appropriate, to entries and indexes in the register of burials (see 17.12).

Closed burial grounds

14.32

Area meetings should make a clear distinction between those burial grounds which are available for further burials and those which should be regarded as closed, or available only for the interment of ashes. The scattering of ashes is permitted in closed burial grounds (see 17.1117.13). Advice on the opening and closing of burial grounds may be obtained from the Recording Clerk.

Other burial grounds

14.33

Where a meeting has made special arrangements for Quaker burials and interments in burial grounds not in Friends’ ownership, it is advised to maintain close liaison with the relevant authority.

Gravestones and memorial stones

14.34

As an expression of our testimonies to equality and simplicity, Friends should adopt the use of plain gravestones in any burial grounds. In all cases, they are to be erected under the direction of the area meeting so that, in each particular burial ground, uniformity is preserved in respect of the materials, size, form and wording of the stones, as well as in the mode of placing them.

Sale and other disposal of burial grounds

14.35

Disused burial grounds – especially those where there is no meeting house adjacent – have sometimes proved burdensome to area meetings. In such cases the possibility of sale should be considered, with due regard to the use to which the ground would be put. If the land has no immediately realisable value consideration should be given to a lease, possibly at a peppercorn rent, to some person or body prepared to maintain it in good condition as an open space. Whilst a burial ground remains in the care of the meeting it is important to see that it is properly maintained and that others do not acquire the land through default. A memorandum is available from Friends Trusts Limited about the disposal of burial grounds and the removal of remains.

Stewardship

Quaker Stewardship Committee

14.36

We accept… that a yearly meeting umbrella body be established to support our meetings in their stewardship and to co-ordinate the relationship between the yearly meeting and those administering charity law. This builds on what we already have, extending the mutual support between yearly meeting and area meeting to financial affairs. This also enables us to be clear that our own house is in order.

Britain Yearly Meeting, 2002

14.37

Quaker Stewardship Committee is a standing committee of Britain Yearly Meeting, reporting to Yearly Meeting in session. It supports all constituent meetings and other bodies which collectively form Britain Yearly Meeting. The committee may communicate by minute with all of these meetings and bodies. Advice on whether a body is included may be obtained from the Recording Clerk.

14.38

The aim of Quaker Stewardship Committee is to give help, guidance and active monitoring in order to meet the requirements of charity law in the stewardship of finance and property, encouraging openness, accountability, transparency and integrity in all our affairs.

14.39

The responsibilities of the committee shall be to:

  1. support treasurers and trustees in the service of their meetings through the stewardship of their finance and property;
  2. provide advice and guidance to meetings and other bodies within Britain Yearly Meeting;
  3. ensure that education and training are available to treasurers, trustees, independent examiners of accounts, and other Friends involved in finance and property matters;
  4. help to ensure that every part of Britain Yearly Meeting is producing proper financial accounts and property registers;
  5. certify the fulfilment of d annually to Yearly Meeting;
  6. enable meetings to act within the laws relating to charities and trusts;
  7. disseminate good practice;
  8. liaise with the statutory and other external bodies (e.g. the Charity Commission) on issues that affect all meetings and their associated bodies and recommend to Yearly Meeting any necessary changes in the umbrella arrangement or other matters affecting Friends’ charitable status;
  9. put relevant Quaker views to agencies and government departments, e.g. the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, etc.

Terms of reference for the Quaker Stewardship Committee may be obtained on application to the Recording Clerk.

14.40

Quaker Stewardship Committee shall comprise the following:

  1. nine Friends appointed by Yearly Meeting, from names submitted by Central Nominations Committee (see 6.21), for a three-year period beginning and ending at a Yearly Meeting, three members retiring annually though eligible for reappointment for a second term and exceptionally for a third;
  2. a clerk and assistant clerk appointed by Yearly Meeting annually from names submitted by Central Nominations Committee (see 6.21);

together with the Recording Clerk, ex officio.

In case of a vacancy, Meeting for Sufferings is authorised to make an interim appointment up to the next Yearly Meeting.

14.41

To make the partnership with area meetings and other bodies work, Quaker Stewardship Committee may actively monitor them to identify areas in which help and guidance might be needed. To do this it needs access to certain categories of information, and therefore expects area meetings and other bodies to supply it with relevant financial accounts, property registers and other appropriate information as required.

14.42

These regulations do not affect the general obligation on every area meeting to furnish Yearly Meeting, Meeting for Sufferings and any general meeting or Quaker gathering (see 5.02) to which it belongs with such nominations or information as may from time to time be required.

Annual Conference of Treasurers

14.43

The Annual Conference of Treasurers is held to assist and support Quaker treasurers in the service that they undertake. It also provides an opportunity for reviewing the financial results of Britain Yearly Meeting and for explaining its budgets for the current year. The conference should be informed of the existing and proposed work of Britain Yearly Meeting, the funds available and to be raised, and the methods of fund-raising proposed. The conference is free to consider any aspect of the financing of that work and may send Meeting for Sufferings and/or Britain Yearly Meeting Trustees minutes concerning any matter of finance or fundraising. The conference also has the purpose of enabling treasurers to confer amongst themselves on any issue that interests or concerns them. The conference shall appoint its own arrangements committee with appropriate terms of reference and membership.

14.44

The membership of the conference includes the current treasurer or other appointed representative of each area meeting and of Meeting of Friends in Wales, General Meeting for Scotland and Young Friends General Meeting; members of the conference arrangements committee; and representatives of central and standing committees with appropriate members of Management Meeting in attendance.

Friends Trusts Limited

14.45

Friends Trusts Limited is a company which is limited by guarantee and does not have a share capital. It was incorporated in 1923 and is recognised as the trust corporation for the Religious Society of Friends in Great Britain. It is a registered charity, number 237698. The members of the board of management are appointed by Meeting for Sufferings and are not remunerated. The Yearly Meeting Treasurer is a member of the board ex officio. The registered office of Friends Trusts Limited is at 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ.

Where Friends Trusts Limited is the custodian trustee, holding trustee or nominee of the property, it is required to seal the conveyance or lease and will do so on receipt of the properly minuted instructions of the trustees of the area meeting (or other owning body). However, the directors will need to be satisfied that the required procedure has been followed and that all costs arising in connection with the disposal will be met by the beneficial owner. In the case of a meeting house or other property which has been used for the purposes of the Society the proceeds of sale may form a permanent endowment, in which case the capital must be retained for similar purposes in the future. Further information on the detailed requirements is available from Friends Trusts Limited.

If trustees wish to use a separate nominee to hold investments they should consult Friends Trusts Limited for the procedure to be followed.

For the duties of Friends Trusts Limited in connection with the sale or disposal of meeting houses and other property of which it is custodian trustee see 14.29 & 14.35