Internal Communication - not for publication
MARCH 2011: The meeting was held from 7:30 until 10:37pm. Mike Gibbard and Clive Soper were in attendance to give a presentation on Volunteering. Paul Churchman and Russell Pearce were absent. Jan Kozminski attended as Trust Representative.
Volunteering Presentation: Key problems were communication, as highlighted by the recent complaint, and retaining volunteers. It was estimated there were around 717 volunteers which reduced to 575 when multi-tasking was taken into account. What was not known was how many volunteers each department needed and it was proving difficult to get this information. The Recruitment Team's own estimate was that around 120 new volunteers were needed every year to replace lost volunteers and estimated needs. During 2010 156 new volunteers had joined the railway but only 66 (42/5%) had stayed beyond 3 or 4 visits. Too many were giving up within a month.
There was a need to raise our game and improve volunteering opportunities and put more effort into retaining new recruits and improving their integration into Departments. Mentoring was key to this. The Membership Database needed to be improved so as to keep a better record of who was a volunteer and which departments they worked in. As a start, Trustees were tasked with ensuring that the VR Team had a list of current volunteers in each department and to ensure that each Department had a mentor who could look after new recruits.
The complaint from a potential volunteer who objected to the reception he received was not as clear cut as was reported in January and it would appear that the complainant's attitude was not helpful to his quest to become a volunteer. Mike Gibbard and Clive Soper were thanked for their work and input.
Society Finance: Subscription and donation income for the first two months was £43k (£53k in 2010). New commitments for the Deferred Share Scheme were £6,570, considerably lower than the £52k in the same period last year. The Society Accounts for 2010 were approved and signed.
Membership: Membership total was 10,100 but we were still losing younger members. The costs of overseas postage had risen dramatically with now only two bands: Europe and the Rest of the World. One member in the Middle East had still not received a recent Bluebell News and it was proving expensive to keep sending replacement copies. We may need to introduce an overseas members rate.
Company Finance: We were holding our own but spending constraint was still the order of the day. Day to day fare revenue was lagging, the two week line closure clearly having an affect. Advance bookings were also slow but the recent Branch Line weekend had been a success without the added costs of a visiting engine.
Funding: Donations to mid-March for the Northern Extension Project amounted to £91k. Loans were not being considered because of the need to repay them at some point in the future. It was argued that we needed to get the message across and there was some concern that this was not being done in the Spring Bluebell News. It was made clear that the big push for funding would be made in the Summer issue once the evaluation of the recent extraction exercise was complete.
Funding - the Future: The Committee considered a proposal from the Funding Director for the Society to establish a Fundraising Policy and to concentrate all fundraising activity towards the Extension Project until it was complete. This would require the removal of all collecting boxes that did not meet this objective as they diluted the message. The Policy could be revised each year and only those projects that were approved would be allowed to engage in fundraising activity.
It was argued that this would be counter-productive: there were people who would not support the extension - or other projects - but were prepared to make generous donations to other ongoing projects. If this policy had been in place before, there would be no Cheshams, Pullmans, 9F, wheelsets for 'Fenchurch' or a host of other items that were now seen as valuable assets. At the end of the day, it was all money into the railway. It was also argued that our complex organisation made it tricky to secure donations from grant giving bodies. Most statutory organisations only wanted to deal with the operating company but charities preferred to deal with the Trust.
Mr Kelly's proposals also tied in with another paper looking at the role of the fund raiser and their position within the organisation. The Committee agreed to look at this issue, together with other papers on staffing and governance at a future meeting dedicated to that purpose.
The Committee expressed concern at the various collecting boxes on the bar in the Bessemer Arms raising funds for dogs, cats and other charities but nothing for the railway and the Retail Director was asked to ensure this was corrected.
West Hoathly site: The Committee were reminded that they had previously agreed the plans for building on part of the site and that planning permission had been obtained. It was likely that the site would be sold to raise funds for the extension. Attention was now being turned to the east side and land agents were being consulted as to the best options.
APRIL 2011: The Committee met from 8pm to 10:55pm, with Trustees Tim Baker, Paul Churchman and Charles Hudson absent. Jan Kozminski and Richard Salmon were in attendance as Trust Representatives. Jim Hatfield, Steve Bigg, Steve Tullett, Dave Deekes and Alan Baisden were in attendance for the first item.
C&W Shed Extension Project: On behalf of the project team, Jim Hatfield gave an update on their plans and sought approval to approach the Trust for funding. Additional funding was being sought to take the project forward to planning application stage. Planning application fees had recently increased following the abolition of the £5k ceiling and were likely to be in the region of £45k to £50k. Another critical factor was the existence of Planning Policy HK3 which was very beneficial to the railway but was extremely unlikely to survive the transition to the forthcoming Local Development Framework and District Plan. Detailed discussions had taken place with key stakeholders and the main building had been designed to accommodate their and statutory needs. A separate storage shed would also be provided as part of the project and would sweep away the disparate collection of huts and containers.
Projected costs totalled £1.2m comprising £110k for the storage shed, £580k for main shed extension, £280k for trackwork, £75k for fit-out, £45k for the concrete raft and £53k for rainwater capture and storage. Fund raising was within the HK area, and was being managed by the project team and they had previously secured match funding from the Trust of £15k. They were seeking further match funding of at least £10k to cover the estimated costs of the application.
During subsequent questions, it was argued that this project ought to be considered as part of an overall project for the whole of HK, including restoration of the canopies on Platforms 3/4 and 5. However, it was recognised that time was not on our side and it was critical to submit the planning application as soon as possible. The Committee agreed the proposal with two votes against. The Project Team were thanked for their time and effort.
Society Finance: Subscription/donation income for the first quarter amounted to £53k (£67k in 2010) and new commitments for the Deferred Share Scheme were £9,670.
Membership: Membership numbers were currently 10,191 and there had been an increase in the number of Junior/Student members. Several members were renewing their membership via the shop website without indicating they were existing members and this was causing a few problems. A resolution would be found but it was recognised that some members found it easier to renew in this way.
Company Finance: The trading situation was unchanged from the previous month. The 2010 accounts had been completed showing a loss of £20k which, given the disruption to Santa trains and the resultant £60k in refunds, was a good result.
Funding: Donations towards the NEP so far amounted to £186k and £4k to other projects. All the People's Millions money for 3360 had been spent and the coach was due to be launched into service on 26th May. The Big Lottery Fund require a report in 6 months time showing mileage and usage. The new appeal video sets the Funding Gap at £2m. The summer Bluebell News will have a strong message that NOW is the time to donate if we wish to see the tip removed by April 2012. Paul Leader's contract with the Trust has now ended but he will still have a role in maintaining contact with High Net Worth Individuals. This was Roger Kelly's final meeting as a Trustee and he was thanked for his time and effort.
Strategic Review of Staffing: A paper was tabled which looked at the staffing needs of the railway, recognising the problem of an increasing age profile of our volunteers, a problem shared with other heritage railways. Other railways had a wide range in the number of paid staff with most like us around 30-33% of turnover but one as high as 48%. Placing increasing reliance on more paid staff was not sustainable in the longer term. Other railways had simpler operations with a narrower range of rolling stock - mainly Mark 1's - and it was open to speculation whether our range of vintage stock, which required huge resources and time spans to restore and maintain was sustainable in the longer term. This paper and other strategic issues would be discussed at a future meeting to be arranged after the AGM.
Operation Undercover: Planning permission for the new floor above the workshop had been granted by Lewes District Council and we could now go out to tender for construction of the main shell and new cladding, which will match that on the 'Woodpax' building.
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