Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Those Bloody TPA Types!

One of my local councillors was meeting with a Senior Officer of a neighbouring authority to discuss joint working. 

As always, the difficulties in balancing the books came up during the discussion. The neighbouring councillor gesticulated towards the "free" coffee machine which dispenses expensive ground coffee for councillors, staff and visitors. 

"Things cannot be that bad here if you can afford to give free coffee away". 

 The Senior Officer shifted uncomfortably. 

"Yes, quite. Well, errr.... we are getting rid of them but we are just running down stocks." 

*For the record, they have been saying this for almost a year now. 

"I don't think Cllr XXXXXXXX will be very impressed. He has been campaigning against these indulgences since he was elected." 

Long pause.... before the Senior Officer replied 

 "I cannot bloody stand these Tax Payers Alliance types." 

 And that is why Local Government cannot balance its books!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Online Payments / PayPal

Yesterday I put onto social media that we had emailed our database ahead of sending out Christmas Raffle reminders, and the initiative had raised £700 (now £800 as more responses today) at no cost whatsoever. I said that Associations who do not use online payments are really losing out.  

This resulted in a number of inquiries from other Associations as how we do this, which in turn encouraged me to write to two blog posts. One on using PayPal, and another, which I will publish later today or tomorrow depending on time, will focus on how we use PayPal to specifically promote draw ticket sales. 

Firstly I acknowledge that some people have had difficulties with PayPal and can be very vocal with their complaints. I can only speak as I find. In three years and over 5,000 individual transactions, we have never had a problem. There are several online payment options, some of which charge less than PayPal. The difference however is marginal and most do not offer the many sales and marketing benefits and "tools" which come free with PayPal. 

First you will need to set-up a PayPal account by visiting their website and clicking "sign up". From memory the application process took about ten minutes. The most difficult part was to link our PayPal account to a bank account. This involved entering the linked bank account details onto the application form. PayPal withdrew a penny from our account using a reference number. I had to ascertain this reference number and enter it onto the system (no doubt to prove I had access to the nominated bank). As I am not a signatory this resulted in the West Kent Treasurer visiting the bank with me to get a print out with the relevant reference number, though once this was obtained the process ran smoothly. 

And contrary to popular belief, you do not need a PayPal account to use PayPal payment services. On every transaction page there is an option to "pay as a guest" in which case the user simply enters their credit/debit card details to pay. There is no need for them to have a PayPal account. 

For most Associations this is all you will need to do. Money from ticket sales, membership renewals and donations will come into your PayPal account and your Treasurer will simply transfer this to the Association's bank account. This is a simple process and takes less than a minute to do (money is transferred within two hours).

If you have more than one Association (as in our case - we have six) it becomes more complicated. We decided to have just one PayPal account which accepts money from all six Associations in West Kent and we have linked each Association's bank account to the same PayPal account. On a weekly basis go through the receipts and allocate the funds to each Association as appropriate. We keep a manual record of what we have transferred and why, and when the bank statement arrives each month we annotate it to enable the Treasurer to allocate the income appropriately. 

For example:  "£175 membership. £260 Annual Dinner.  £125 Tonbridge branch quota."

Considering at any one time we can have payments coming in for 20+ events this takes a lot of managing, but probably no more so than receiving, annotating and banking the same number of cheques each week! 

It is worth noting that around 80% of our ticket sales for events are now done totally online. We circulate the flyer electronically and receive payments via PayPal. This has saved thousands of pounds each year on printing and postage. 

How do we actually use PayPal and what features does it have?

PayPal have a whole page of selling options to help and support their users. Many of these are no use to us, but the ones we tend to use most often are

1. BUY NOW Button: Under the tools section there is an option to create a "Payment Button". The user simply gives the button a name, for example "Christmas Draw" or "Annual Dinner with Rory Stewart MP" and defines the ticket price. This generates a simple block of html code which you copy and paste into your website. Here, for example, is the payment button for our 2017 Christmas Draw (if anyone would like to try it out to see how simple it is..... you are very welcome to do so!)

How many 2017 Christmas tickets would you like?

2. DONATE Button: This is just the same as setting up a "Buy Now" button but it reads "Donate Now" instead. This can be used for fighting fund appeals, random financial appeals for purchasing expensive office equipment etc. This also allows the donor to send a one off donation or to donate a similar amount on a weekly/monthly/quarterly or annual basis. 

3. INVOICING:  This has two options. It can either generate a one-off invoice which is automatically emailed to the recipient (good way to secure payment from people who have won auction lots or similar). Or you can upload multiple names and email addresses and it will generate and send personalised invoices to large numbers of people. The recipient simply clicks on the "pay" button on the electronic invoice and enters their card details.  See sample below. 

Finally...and this is hot off the press.  We have today ordered contactless card readers for use at social events Increasingly we are losing raffle ticket sales as people have no cash. This will no longer be an issue - our raffle ticket sellers will each be issued with a contactless card reader linked by Bluetooth via an App to our PayPal account. Supporters will simply hold their debit card to the reader (as in a shop) and their raffle ticket money will come directly from their bank account and into ours! Kerching!  The card readers from PayPal are just £35 each!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Curse of West Kent

In March 2016 we invited Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP to speak at our Annual Dinner in July.
On 14th July he was sacked by the Prime Minister!

In May 2017 we invited Canterbury MP Julian Brazier to speak at our Annual Garden Party in August.
On Thursday 8 June he lost his seat!

In October 2017 guess who agreed to address our Patrons' Club Winter Dinner?
Yup - you guessed. Priti Patel MP!

I am now looking for a speaker for our Spring Lunch. If there is anyone you would like to see the back of, please let me know and I will invite them to speak.