3.7.1 Setting and collecting the annual subscription fee
The Honorary Treasurer brings a recommendation to the May Committee meeting if s/he feels the annual subscription needs to rise. An agreed figure is then notified to the membership with the papers for the AGM. If approved by the AGM, the changed fee is collected the following January and from new members joining thereafter.
When the annual subscription was collected by standing order (and therefore changes were difficult to implement), it was £10 from 1989-1999 and £20 from 2000- 2012. The proposal to increase the annual subscription to £35 was brought to the 2012 AGM and took effect from January 2013.
3.7.2 Reviewing the status of the society
As it stands, the Committee and its members are correctly liable for any debts incurred by the Society. The issue is therefore around assessing the financial risks we all face. Referring to the Q&A section of the Charity Commission document (www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Charity_requirements_guidance/Charity_governance/Good_governance/incqanda.aspx), which covers this issue, section B4 addresses the question “When should a charity consider incorporation as a company?”, for which the short answer is that it may be appropriate to establish a company where some or all of the following apply:
- the charity is or will be quite large – our membership is not that large
- the charity has or will have employees – it does not directly employ anyone: it only contracts services
- the charity does or will deliver charitable services under contractual agreements – we are not under contract for any such services, though we incur financial risk with the ASM
- the charity does or will regularly enter into commercial contracts – we have no contracts beyond publishing abstracts for the ASM which does not incur risk beyond the ASM
- the charity is or will be the owner of freehold or leasehold land or other property – this does not apply.
The only financial risks we face are the cost of the ASM, underwriting other meetings, and contracting clerical support. The worst-case-scenario is that: (a) the ASM is fully booked and does not go ahead – the financial risk could be of the order of £80k (and rising in line with inflation); (b) all potentially incurred financial risks within year are realised for other meetings of the order of £15k (and rising in line with inflation); and (c) we are unable to receive any subscriptions before closing the Society to curtail our liabilities – a further risk, depending upon the income/expenditure cycle of the year, of around £25k (and rising in line with increased subscriptions and expanding membership).
The financial risk to the committee and the membership is therefore approaching £100k though annual insurance is taken out for the ASM and can be extended to cover other meetings. Realistically, therefore, the Society carries negligible risk provided the insurance is in place.
It would, nevertheless, seem sensible to have modest contingency funds of at least£30.
The conclusion was reached in 2012 that we do not need to become a company.