Covid-19 is and remains a unique event in most of our lifetimes and at the time of writing, remains so. We at the AWGB are unable to predict when we are likely to return to any sort of normality and therefore it has been difficult to determine by how much and when to make decisions about subscriptions. We have received queries and requests for refunds for 2020 and reduced fees for 2021 and, over the past few months we have given considerable thought as to how we can address this question.
As we enter the last quarter of the year it is becoming obvious that the vast majority of Branches and Clubs will not be meeting face to face for the remainder of the year and we are now in a position to project our financial position at the end of the year so we consider now is the time to act.
As some of you have quite rightly pointed out, we have made savings this year by having to cancel face to face meetings, the AGM, national shows, club visits and other expenditure. However, the savings are not as significant as some may think. By far our largest single expenditure is the publishing and posting of Revolutions newsletter on a quarterly basis. We consider it an essential item to keep everyone in touch and will continue to publish it. We have tried to keep in touch with membership by offering Zoom chat sessions and free online demonstrations, all of which incurred extra costs.
Overall, we have estimated that the savings amount to approximately £6.00 per member for 2020. Our difficulty has been how we can best return this to our membership. Unfortunately, it’s not just a simple case of sending everyone £6.00 as that would be an administrative nightmare for both us and the affiliated clubs who collect subscriptions on our behalf and we simply don’t have the time or resource to implement it.
Similarly, it would be an equal nightmare to reduce 2021 subscription by £6.00 as many members pay by standing order and they will have to remember to inform their banks to reduce payment to £12.00, then the following year, change it back again to whatever the fee will be in 2022.
Whilst this may initially appear a straightforward solution, previously when AWGB annual subscriptions were increased, we found it took several years for some members to amend their individual standing order payments and this created a great deal of administration effort for us. In addition, to enable refunds to individuals, we would need to hold members bank details, which we currently do not hold and have no desire to hold, for obvious security reasons. As we do not wish to again face the administrative burden and financial issues outlined above we have decided refunding individual members is not a practical option.
The Executive has debated the options at length and has decided that it will not be feasible to make any direct refunds to members. Instead we will set up a ‘Covid Fund’ of approximately £18,000 (our current best estimate of what the end of year surplus will be) which Branches and Clubs can apply for.
Our existing discretionary grants will continue to be available whilst the Covid fund will provide a temporary additional grant opportunity for Branches and Clubs.
The Covid fund will be handled in a similar way to our Discretionary Grant Fund, but in this case, we will consider applications where Covid has caused financial hardship or loss for a Branch or Club or will do so in the coming year. We won’t try to define an exhaustive list of criteria (other than to say that adjustments in club membership subscriptions may be included as a reason) but we are happy to discuss particular circumstances if you are unsure. Each submission will be considered on its merits by the Grant subcommittee and amounts allocated will be made on a case by case basis.
As the Trustees of the AWGB, we believe that those who have been badly affected by the Coronavirus should be the main beneficiaries of our savings. Applications can be made using our existing discretionary grant application form which is available on our website or on request from the secretary. Please mark your application as “Covid fund”.
If you have any queries please get in touch. We will do our best to resolve any questions raised. We take this opportunity to thank you for your co-operation and hope that the vast majority of you will agree with the manner in which we intend to distribute our savings in 2020.