Quakers weathering financial challenges
The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) which brings together the Quaker Church, charity and organisation, is becoming clear.
Quiet Company − the Quaker company that runs Friends House in London and Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria− has not been able to operate for much of this year. Trading income from activities like conference room bookings and catering will be much reduced, down by around £3.5m this year.
Without Quiet Company's usual £1m trading profit to help fund the charity, savings have to be made in staffing costs.
BYM values all its staff. It hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies while protecting the services BYM provides to support thriving Quaker communities and work for a sustainable and peaceful world.
We'll be simpler and we'll be more focussed.- Caroline Nursey, clerk of BYM Trustees
This summer, BYM consulted staff on ways to protect jobs while reducing staff costs (that account for more than half of BYM expenditure). Following the consultation, some changes were made to proposed measures. A one-year pay freeze has been agreed.
BYM staff have now been invited to take up such measures as voluntary redundancy, reduced hours, working from home on regional pay scales, unpaid sabbatical and additional leave purchase.
Once the level of staff interest has been assessed, BYM will consider whether compulsory redundancies are needed.
BYM's Trustees have minuted an aspiration to return to a balanced budget by 2023.
Caroline Nursey, clerk to BYM Trustees, spoke of how BYM might emerge from the pandemic. She said: “We see BYM being a more dispersed organisation, with more staff based at home, in Leeds, or elsewhere outside London. Friends House and Swarthmoor will still be important centres for Quaker work, but fewer staff will probably be based there and this gives us an opportunity to think about how the space we've got can be used well to serve the yearly meeting's needs. We'll be simpler and we'll be more focussed on the support meetings need to thrive, and the witness Friends [as Quakers refer to each other] most want to happen in the world as it is now."
Caroline Nursey was speaking at Meeting for Sufferings. This is the standing representative body entrusted with the care of the business of Britain Yearly Meeting through the year. Generally, five times a year, 100 Quakers, from the north of Scotland to west Cornwall, gather in the Quaker central offices in London to discern national Quaker work. Prevented from meeting face-to-face by the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the second online Meeting for Sufferings. In November, Quakers are planning an online meeting for 1,000 Quakers.
Friends and supporters can help sustain Quaker work through making a donation online.