Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Explaining finances

Cambridge Evening News came over for a photo-session at the clinic today, with a view to doing a follow-up on the feature they did last month. I think they found my explanation of how our finances work confusing, if not positively evasive, and I'm wondering how it can be made more understandable.

Part of the problem seems to be an assumption that most charities have some kind of regular funding, either from grants or donations, which may dip (if the grant is cut, for example), in which case they then have a fixed sum they need to appeal for in order to fill the gap.

In our case, our regular income is generated by our shops. The good thing about this is that it's possible to increase it by working harder. The downside (and what's confusing) is that shops have running costs, so it's possible to have a very impressive turnover  (money taken) but relatively modest profit (money generated for use by the charity). 

So, for example with our new shop in Newmarket (I've rounded up the figures):

Monthly takings: £6,500
Monthly rent: £2,300
Monthly Wages: £1,000
Rates, heat etc: £300

That still means a net monthly profit over running costs of nearly £3,000 (although you need to bear in mind that we spent money fitting out the shop, so it's not an actual profit until we've fully covered those costs, which we should do in 10 months time). 

This is why the shop takings we need to achieve in order to fund our clinic and the rehoming and emergency veterinary treatment are such a lot larger than the costs of the programs themselves.

Once the shops' fixed running costs have been covered, everything else is a bonus, so if we can generate more sales, increase donations of items we can sell and so on, the percentage profit available to finance animal welfare will increase. More sales mean some extra overheads (for example electricity used to heat water for steam cleaning donations), but they're comparatively minor.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rollercoaster week

After the high of our dog show, I got home to find Bambi hiding under my bed and obviously not well. Taxi to the 24 hour vet and she was put on a drip to support her liver, but sadly further tests and a scan showed that she'd finally gone into liver failure, 3 years after I adopted her, having been signed over to the branch by her previous owners, who couldn't cope with her medical condition.

Fifteen years isn't bad for a cat who developed a chronic condition at twelve, but I'm torn between relief that she had good quality of life right up to the last few days and sadness that it all happened so suddenly. Cycled over to the vet after working in the shop last Sunday and she's now buried in my garden.

As we approach the holidays, schools and youth groups start to think about end of term activities, and it's excellent that the St Matthews school Brownie pack and Barton Primary school were both kind enough to organise fundraising events to support us. Let's hope the children who got involved will be the RSPCA volunteers and trustees of the future.

Saturday was horribly wet, but today we had one of the best Sundays at the Burleigh St. shop for a long time, taking over £250. Very many thanks to all the people who donated so many really attractive items. 

The desperate need to keep funds coming in was made all too clear too, as I had two calls for help with the consultation fee for very sick animals. If we hadn't been here neither of them would have been seen by a vet today. 

This always involves very difficult decisions when we're called outside normal consulting hours, and the animal isn't registered with our clinic, as it's so expensive just to be seen and any help we give would go much further if it could wait until morning. Vets can't always tell whether something really is serious by asking the owner over the phone. 

Occasionally their judgement can be hopelessly wrong, as happened to me some years ago when a vet assured me the owner was just making a fuss, but in fact the cat didn't survive the night. I felt dreadful, and of course the owner blamed the RSPCA for the cat's death.