The Board of Trustees appreciate that not all members were able to join us at our Annual General Meeting this year, and wanted to share the Chair’s address.
The majority of income received by the SNU Trust during the year is from sources where the level of income can be reasonably accurately assessed.
• Rental income for our investment properties, as well as from Palmerston Place, is specified in lease agreements
• Management charges to the SNU for accounting work can be predicted
• Assessments on our investment portfolio income is managed by our brokers who provide the Board with projections
• Interest that the charity earns on loans to members represents the smallest aspect of our income, and in 2022 that figure has reduced as churches repay the amounts outstanding and the Trust is happy to see this trend continue!
The overheads of the Trust are carefully managed and remain steady year to year. The vast majority of our expenditure is used on charitable activities, the largest amount being paid back to members who invest with us.
During 2022 the amount of interest paid over to members increased by over 20% and our rates continue to rise during 2023.
As interest rates continue to rise the Trust is working hard to ensure that any cash held by the Trust in bank accounts is regularly reviewed to ensure that we make the most of any accounts on offer. The income earned by the Trust from bank interest in 2022 increased significantly and this trend has continued into 2023.
Over the last couple of years, the SNU Trust has reported surpluses in excess of £95,000 which has come about because expenses faced in preceding years (legal costs of changing the charitable status, cost of building acquisition and repairs, etc…) have not needed to be paid.
However, the Board are conscious that during 2023 there are going to be some significant renovations required at our property in Edinburgh and as such, we already know that our surplus for the current year will fall back. The costs have been factored into our planning for the year and the cash to cover these repairs is held in our reserves.
The Board review the rates paid on accounts at each meeting, and between meeting if necessary, to ensure that the interest we pay to members is as generous as possible.
It is important that a balance is struck to ensure that all members, those lucky enough to be comfortable, those who only have small amounts to invest, and those who have loans with us, are treated as fairly as possible.
Each year the Trust has offered a one-year account to all members paying a very generous rate of interest for investing £1,000 of new money with the Trust. After feedback to our Trustees, the Board have this year altered the account on offer to ensure that even more members can take part.
The accounts are:
5-5-1 this allows churches to invest £500 at 5% for 1 year
1-6-1 this allows churches to invest £1,000 at 6% for 1 year
Members can only open one of the accounts and should therefore select which is best for them. Please remember that this is for new investment into the Trust and money cannot be transferred from accounts already held.
Application forms are available from our website or direct from our office. All members will be sent the details in the next couple of weeks as well.
We understand that church may not feel that it’s the right time to be looking to take out loans from the Trust as most are still recovering from the events of the last few years. However, we are still here to help, and we’re pleased to say that we’re in the process of helping a church in Northern District to plan for the future.
Please be assured that any loan given is carefully considered by the Board and affordability for the church involved is of paramount importance.
We’ve been speaking about Green Loans for some time, and we are now in a position to offer small loans up to £2,000 to members for projects that have a positive impact on the environment. This can be solar panels but equally it can be a new boiler or insulation. If you would like more information then please get in touch trough the normal channels.
The total income for the Trust in 2022 was £481,000 and it is anticipated that this figure could exceed £500,000 during this year. Once that happens the reporting that the Trust is required to do increases and the Board are taking the opportunity to review both the strategy and the Reserves of the charity.
Back in 2019 when the Trust moved from its old Trust status to a charitable limited company, it was hoped to use the change to drive the charity forward. To encourage more SNU churches to become members and to continue the modernisation of the charity. Plans were put in place but unfortunately Covid got in the way.
The Trustees decided to move ahead with our change of logo and last August our new website was launched. A lot of work has taken place both behind the scenes on our processes, and on our reports and our products literature but there’s still more to do.
When speaking to churches who are not members of the SNU Trust, it is apparent that the church committees are looking to the accounts and the service we provide to be comparable with other financial institutions. That’s a fair thing to do and we have been conscious for some time that a lot of the ways in which the Trust operates stems from the old Building Fund Pool of decades ago.
As I’m sure you are all finding within your churches, the demands made on us by banks, auditors, the charity commission, and other bodies are increasing all the time. Some of the changes are there to safeguard us all and this got us thinking.
We needed to put together a document that ensured all churches, members, and non-members, could clearly understand how the Trust is governed, and how your membership with us works. Simple things like keeping contact details up-to-date and what happens if we get something wrong.
We have therefore put together a set of terms and conditions that form a basis on which your membership operates. There’s nothing in there that doesn’t already happen, but it’s time we put it down in writing rather than relying on custom and practice. It’s hoped that it will make life easier for our existing members and possibly even encourage a few new ones!
Again, the document can be accessed from our website and a copy will also be sent to each member in the next few weeks. Copies are also available here this weekend if anyone would like to take a look.
Whilst our primary purpose is based around helping you all with your finances, we are conscious that we also need to pay attention to the world around us.
For those of you that know our office, Burton End Lodge, you will agree that our grounds are not as lovely as those of the college! We were aware that the lawn to the back of the building wasn’t utilised in any meaningful way, and we thought about what we could do.
• Solar panels to power the charity and possibly even pay back into the grid
• Turning the garden into an allotment for community use – too many health and safety issues!
• Bee keeping.
Bee keeping is the idea that has worked, and we now have Phil the Bee Man who is keeping multiple hives on the lawn. Phil is a member of Bishops Stortford Beekeepers Association, and we are happy to have him use the land.
We started with 3 hives, and currently there are 8 although this can change. Phil is working to create more hives to help the bee population, and therefore doesn’t take the honey but leaves it there and splits the hives when required.
To help the bees further, this summer we have let the grass grow up with the hope seeing a wildflower meadow appear. We didn’t quite get that but it as you can see form the photos, it did throw up some surprises including bee orchids. It’s hoped that the flowers and grasses that we left this year will self-seed and provide an even better environment for the bees next year.