Facing the financial challenge around COVID-19
Britain Yearly Meeting had a successful year financially in 2019, with exceptionally high legacy income and a strong performance from its conference and hospitality business at Friends House. Without legacies BYM's expenditure would have been more than its income. The public health crisis around COVID-19 now means that 2020 income will be significantly reduced.
Thanks to the strength of 2019, its reserves and the Government's Job Retention Scheme, Britain Yearly Meeting doesn't face an immediate cash challenge in these uncertain times, but the need to match regular income to routine expenditure remains and is made more urgent by the impact of the pandemic.
Speaking at Meeting for Sufferings recently, Linda Batten, Yearly Meeting Treasurer, summed up how Quakers in Britain started 2020 in a very robust situation. However, living off legacies and investments is not sustainable. “We need our Quaker work now, and in the future, to be funded by living Quakers," she said. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the time over which BYM needs to make this change.
Until this year, the strategy, discerned through the work of trustees and Meeting for Sufferings, was to invest over five years in the best ways of working towards 'A simple church supported by a simple charity to reinvigorate Quakerism'. During this period, they planned, with financial confidence, to continue running deficit budgets supported by a strong trading position and steadily drawing down on historic reserves. An annual target of raising £3million from the contributions of Friends continues to be central to the plan.
We need our Quaker work now, and in the future, to be funded by living Quakers.- Linda Batten, Treasurer for BYM
Because of the COVID-19 related costs, BYM now has to plan to make changes over two years rather than five. The adoption of new, effective but lower cost ways of working, to reinvigorate Quakerism, and the pace at which BYM must build income from Friends and other funders, will have to be far more rapid. Trustees hope that Friends will be willing to increase their giving.
Read more in the annual review 2019: Our faith our work (PDF).
Caroline Nursey, clerk of BYM Trustees, reflected that one positive consequence of the pandemic is that “we have rapidly developed ways of working that are – in some cases − more effective and more efficient than we were doing before. Local Development Workers are proving their value in helping colleagues within BYM better understand the needs of Friends locally and staff of Woodbrooke are working closely with BYM staff."