an interview with an FFWPU trustee

my recent post about how we develop good governance and make leadership appointments in our movement attracted a lot of debate and interest, which was v helpful for developing my own understanding of things. I thought it would be helpful to share something from the workings of our UK FFWPU charity. Many of our members still know v little about how it all works.

A few years ago I was involved in helping to develop the trustee board of our UK charity to be a hands on body that is pro active in its trustee functions. We created a precedent where we asked the different church leaders and congregations to nominate and suggest candidates for our trustee board.

So for this post I decided that an interview would be a good format to inform people on this topic:

Graham runs his own business, lives with his family in Pinner, and is involved in our North London congregation.

Here is an interview I have done partly through phone, part face to face and part by email with one of our trustees, Graham Simon:

Hi Graham, can you explain to me, what is a charitable trust?

Charity law in Britain is highly developed. In some large measure this is a product of our nation’s Christian heritage.  A charitable trust is a legal organisation, governed by trust deed that sets out the charitable aims of the organisation. To qualify as a charity, the organisation must demonstrate public benefit. Charitable trusts are subject to strict regulation by the UK Charities Commission and are obliged to file annual reports which are open to viewing by the public. Trusts in the UK enjoy significant tax benefits including the recovery of a portion of donations made by tax-paying citizens.

  • What would you say is the role of the Trustee Board of the FFWPU UK?
In a nutshell, it is to ensure that all assets and income of the trust are used in accordance with its charitable aims. In practical terms that means three things.First, we should ensure that the FFWPU UK’s assets of over £20 million and annual income of over £1 million are used for public purpose and not for the private benefit of any individuals or groups of individuals within the movement.
Second, we need to ensure that the assets are managed prudently in order to optimise the income stream they generate for the trust. The current trustees are committed to a long-term view and are highly resistant to liquidating assets to finance current expenditure. Sacrificing the future for the sake of the present is a temptation we wish to avoid!
Lastly, we should ensure that the trust does not wilfully or accidentally expose itself to damaging liabilities. We are rather motivated to do this. Ultimately, it is the trustees’ signatures that go on the bottom of the main contractual agreements and it is the trustees who can be held personally liable for misuse of funds and assets.

 

How and when did you come to be appointed to the board of the FFWPU UK?

In 2009, some of the existing trustees wished to retire and local church leaders were asked to submit suggestions of potential trustees from among their congregation.

In particular, the trustees were looking for people who were financially independent of the movement and who had experience working in a corporate or business environment which they could bring to the trustee board. At that time Colin Turfus and I were invited to join.

 

So, what do you feel you have accomplished in the last three years?

It took Colin and me at least two years to come to grips with what is actually quite a momentous responsibility. We first needed to understand the finances of the trust, the properties, historical and ongoing issues and just how things worked (or didn’t work) generally.

But a major focus of the trustees over the past three years has been in implementing processes and procedures to turn the FFWPU UK into a professionally run organisation embodying clear principles of responsibility, accountability and transparency.

We have worked on improving communications between the leadership and wider membership and implemented policies for proper job specifications for all employees of the trust.

We are working to ensure that all commercial relationships between the FFWPU UK and other parties, members or otherwise, are governed by proper legal contracts.

In consultation with others, we have attempted to clearly define the roles and the processes that govern the activities and relationship between Trustees, the Executive Management and the Finance Committee. This has been enshrined in our roles and processes document: http://www.findfast.info/ffwpu/Roles_and_Processes.pdf . The trustees encourage all members to download and review this document and we welcome any comments.

In addition to these changes, we have worked closely with the Finance Committee which does brilliant work under the chairmanship of Simon Rosselli in managing the finances of the FFWPU UK. Together we have witnessed some notable strides forward in recent months. These include substantial increases in income from the trust’s properties, especially from the lease of farmland at Stanton FitzWarren and the resolution of long running disputes that have been a drain on human and financial resources.

 

To what extent then do you feel the Trustees have a role to play in determining the policy and direction of the FFWPU UK?

I don’t see that as the Trustees’ role at all. That’s the job of the continental, nation and local leaders and the members themselves in their interpretation and fulfilment of the Providence.

Obviously, resources are finite and the Finance Committee, on which some local church leaders sit, try to ensure that budgets are submitted and adhered to and that the trust and the various districts and departments of the FFWPU UK do not spend money we don’t have. But the Trustees’ role is more of that of an umpire or referee, who tries to make sure that the game is played according to the rules and in a fair manner.

Recently the finance committee has advertised a vacant position on the national finance committee, and we have been receiving people’s applications, as we are wanting to develop a culture of engaging the full scope of our membership in the workings of our FFWPU charity. I hear you are looking for new trustees. What sort of qualifications do people need, and what is the current average age of the trustees?

Yes, the average age of the current trustees – Eddie Hartley, June Darby, Colin and I – is over 60 years old! We are keen to bring some fresh wisdom and energy to the trustee board, not least to help share with the growing work load. The role is a voluntary one, but the work itself is its own reward!

We are thinking to expand the board with up to three new trustees. In my view, one or more of these should be a person who is well respected by the second generation and able to represent their views.

Although not mandatory, some skills or experience in specific areas such as law, human resources, education, healthcare, public or social administration would be valuable. Long-time involvement in FFWPU projects would also be a plus.

Importantly though, charity law dictates the trustees should not be “connected persons”. Loosely translated this rules out people who are employees or officers of the charity and those who are contracted to provide services.

In accordance with Charity Commission guidelines, prospective trustees should be nominated and seconded by other members and then interviewed by the current trustees prior to selection. We will be inviting applications shortly.

 

Many thanks Graham for sharing, it was v informative, and for all your hard work as a trustee, God bless you.

 

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7 Responses to an interview with an FFWPU trustee

  1. Colin T February 17, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    As I said on the post about leadership decisions in Europe, the trustees can perform a key role in FFWPU UK to enshrine more accountability and transparency in the way the organisation is run. But as Graham says, it’s not for the trustees to determine the policy and direction of the FFWPU UK: that is for the leaders and members between them to decide.

    However, if the members were to decide they wanted greater accountability and transparency in the organisation and established a “democratic” mandate for some measure to implement that, the trustees could in that situation lend their support.

  2. Profile photo of Robert Haines
    Robert Haines February 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Great interview. I hope we can continue to build on this good structure to develop a movement that is spiritually alive too.

  3. Marianne Ebsworth February 24, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    Thank you very much Graham,

    You have expressed my thoughts/concerns exactly.

    I will contact you at a later date.

    Marianne Ebsworth

  4. Profile photo of George Macdonald
    George Macdonald February 28, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Are the FFWPU’s accounts published for public view ?

    The reason I’m asking is because this interview is the fruit of
    ‘leadership decisions….in Europe’.
    Which in itself suggested that we are led by the least amongst us and that ‘trust’ in those that are in leadership position has soured.
    We all exist for each other.

    • Profile photo of simoncooper
      simoncooper February 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Hi George, Yes, I am sure the accounts are. Our finance committee send out a report more than once a year with quite a comprehensive overview. I didn’t quite get what you meant by the interview being the fruit of leadership decisions in Europe, etc. Can you say a bit more, so I can understand better what you mean, many thanks,

  5. Profile photo of George Macdonald
    George Macdonald February 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Hi Simon, if the accounts are published, where are they published?
    Are they published on the FFWPU’s website for easy access? as we are all scattered far and wide.

    Simon in your introduction you say ‘ . I thought it would be helpful to share something from the workings of our UK FFWPU charity. Many of our members still know v little about how it all works.’
    because your recent post, about how we develop good governance and make leadership appointments in our movement attracted a lot of debate and interest.

    Now to quote the above interview

    quote Simon

    What would you say is the role of the Trustee Board of the FFWPU UK?

    quote Graham

    In a nutshell, it is to ensure that all assets and income of the trust are used in accordance with its charitable aims. In practical terms that means three things.First, we should ensure that the FFWPU UK’s assets of over £20 million and annual income of over £1 million are used for public purpose and not for the private benefit of any individuals or groups of individuals within the movement.
    Second, we need to ensure that the assets are managed prudently in order to optimise the income stream they generate for the trust. The current trustees are committed to a long-term view and are highly resistant to liquidating assets to finance current expenditure. Sacrificing the future for the sake of the present is a temptation we wish to avoid!
    Lastly, we should ensure that the trust does not wilfully or accidentally expose itself to damaging liabilities. We are rather motivated to do this. Ultimately, it is the trustees’ signatures that go on the bottom of the main contractual agreements and it is the trustees who can be held personally liable for misuse of funds and assets.

    As this is money talk, hence my question and conclusion, that it is the fruit of ‘leadership decisions….in Europe’
    Hope this helps, as i feel I need to take up the role of the devils advocate.

  6. Simon (R) February 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    George,

    Accounts can be seen once filed at the Charity Commission website – however I do send out reports of HQ accounts and all the various area’s (Estate, Cleeve House, Livingstone House, Lancaster Gate) on a six month basis.

    I only got the end of year figures at the end of Jan and have now finished the 2012 report. It is with David Franklin ready to be sent out to the Membership but also I guess put up here.

    God Bless

    Simon (R)

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