The following is a summary of a verbal report given at the AGM. I normally present the Financial Statements and Notes at the AGM, and answer any questions that arise. However, in view of the current financial climate I wanted to put the Statements in context.
You will see from the Statements appended, that at the end of 2008 we made a loss of £2315 after making grants and donations of £2500 during the year.
I am completely comfortable with that. Making grants and donations for projects promoting the objectives of a charity is one of its major responsibilities. In awarding a Research Grant, preference is given to projects that focus on molluscan biogeography, ecology, taxonomy, conservation or palaeontology.
Most applicants for grants are Ph.D. students, but anyone may apply, and details are available from the Hon. General Secretary. Some of you will recall the question that was put a few years ago, ‘Where will the young conchologists of the future come from?’ Well, my answer is ‘From these students and others like them’. They frequently present their work to us in the form of articles in the Journal or Mollusc World, or as talks at our indoor meetings, and sometimes both. It is my belief that we should continue to make grants for as long as we are able. We are not a business that needs to make a profit for its shareholders – we are a charity.
Having said that, we need to examine where the funds come from in order to make the grants.
Fees and subscriptions have fallen by £1594 since 2006, a fall of nearly 12% over 2 years. In 2006 the net loss of members was 40; in 2007 the net loss was 23; in 2008 there has been a net gain of 5.
Income from investments in the same period held steady, and up to February of this year (2009), there has been very little change due to the fact that about half our investment is in Unit Trusts based on bonds, which are at fixed rates. However, I expect to see a marked decrease in the other half, when dividends are declared in May, as those are based on shares.
Legacies and donations amounted to £3,881 from Stella Davies by way of £2000 legacy and the sale of her natural history library and papers. Without such generosity, we would be hard pressed to function.
Let us now look at where the money went.
I have already mentioned the grants and donations.
Publication costs increased by approx. 17% in the year, but these costs do vary from year to year depending on how many parts of the Journal are printed and paid for in the year. Taken over a six-year period, the increase was only 1% above the average.
One new item was the advertisement placed in British Wildlife Magazine in order to raise the Society’s profile and in an effort to recruit new members. That cost £716 including the design (£140). It is difficult to know how effective it was at raising our profile, but we have not seen many new members. Towards the end of 2008, and in the first few months of this year, there has been an apparent increase in the number of subscriptions being paid via PayPal. I do not know whether these are people renewing on the internet because they find it more convenient, or are genuine new members, possibly as a result of the raised profile.
2009 is likely to be a very difficult year for all of us, including the Society. Our main objective must be to recruit and retain members. The best way is ‘word of mouth’. Advertisements, leaflets and posters are all very well in their way. Now that we have them, we need to make use of them at appropriate locations, but we also need to ‘spread the word’ and stress all the benefits of meetings, workshops, talks and publications that membership offers.
For many members outside the southeast of England, the publications are the primary reason for maintaining their membership, apart from wishing to support the Society, particularly if, as they get older, they cannot take as active a part in field meetings as they did previously.