Board Annual Report 2018
FREEGLE LIMITED ANNUAL REPORT FROM SEPTEMBER 2017 – SEPTEMBER 2018
This year we’ve added 11 new Freegle communities, bringing us to 426 across the UK, supported by about 350 volunteers. We have 2,753,649 freeglers, and we added 253,440 (9%) since the last AGM. 535,156 people have been active on Freegle over the last year, saving approximately 3,900 metric tonnes of stuff per year from being burnt, buried or tipped.
Those are numbers. But we have all seen examples of the human stories too. Homeless people in their first flat. Clearing the house of a loved one. Starting again after a breakup. Or just finding a much nicer way of getting rid of stuff, and meeting some neighbours into the process.
A big step forward this year was to bid a fond (or not so fond?) farewell to Yahoo Groups, for our main groups. It’s a credit to Freegle that we did this without having massive arguments and falling out, which...could have happened. We will now be able to start to offer things to freeglers which will make their lives easier, like editing posts.
Over the next year we should also seek a new home for our discussion groups. That will also be tricky, but we’ll do it with cheerfulness, virtual cake, and dreadful puns. We need to provide somewhere that’s a bit more fun than a much-delayed mailing list.
We still struggle for publicity, in a busy world where we compete for attention with people falling over in novel ways or arguing about Yanny/Laurel. We’ve started a project to try to connect more with local councils, so that they can all be as enthusiastic as Essex - who have helped us add new communities, run ad campaigns for us, and are working on a video. And we’ve had our own song gifted to us, along with volunteer-crafted videos for it.
This year we have also finally got to the point where we are financially stable. That’s required some graft and some compromises - we volunteers probably hate ads more than most members do. But along with a stream of donations from our members, they keep us going.
And keeping going is a considerable achievement. Freegle turned 9 this year, and many of us have been involved for almost 15 years. That’s an age in the online world. Many good ideas have come and gone in that time. Aren’t we amazing?
Our financial year ends on 5th April, so this report is split between last financial year (which is now complete) and this financial year (which is about halfway through).
Review of the year ending 5th April 2018
We had a total income of £40,439, of which £37,731 was from individual donations. This included £6,400 from our very generous anonymous sponsor, £1,000 from a group volunteer, a £2,500 anonymous donation, and around £7,000 from being featured on Ebay's 'Give At Checkout' in November 2017. The remainder included £761 from Give As You Live, £1,000 in Waste Prevention Grants from Cumbria County Council, and £947 from advertising.
Our expenditure was £42,366. IT costs were £22,128 and we spent £19,072 on media, publicity, volunteer support and fundraising, £610 on the Cumbria Waste Prevention project, £392 on public liability insurance, and £164 on administration. This resulted in a deficit for the year of £1,927, but we had a surplus brought forward from last year of £30,037 so are left with reserves of £28,110, of which £1,894 are restricted for specific costs, and £26,216 are unrestricted.
Review of the year ending 5th April 2019
This financial year, for the five months to 5th September 2018, we have had income of £28,750. This includes £9,700 of advertising revenue, £13,500 via paypal/paypal giving and £3,000 from our anonymous sponsor. Expenditure for the same period was £22,600 - mainly £11.500 on platform maintenance, development and other IT costs and £9,000 on national media work (incl expenses). This means we have generated a surplus of £6,100 and now have reserves of over £34,000.
Freegle is an Industrial and Provident society, and full details of our registration are at https://mutuals.fsa.gov.uk/SocietyDetails.aspx?Number=32410&Suffix=R. Our Rules are at Rules. Freegle is also registered as a charity with HMRC (ref. XT32865).
We currently have 139 Members, of whom 11 have been added since the last AGM. All volunteers are eligible to become Members, and the Board encourages people to do so. Members are eligible for a free copy of Microsoft Office Professional. More details can be found at here.
The Board has held regular meetings. All minutes can be accessed at: 
Elected directors serving on the Board this year have been:
- Christian Brenninkmeijer
- Jo Fisher
- Cat Fletcher
- Edward Hibbert
- Sheila Little
- Andy Ludlow
- Deborah Moss
- Andrew Trusty
Under rule 56, the Board co-opted David Greenfield, as an independent director, for another term of one year. The Board also co-opted Michael Watts in accordance with Rules 57, to fill a vacancy. Michael resigned before this AGM, and the requirement for a 1/3 of serving elected Directors to stand down for this AGM has been fulfilled by Edward Hibbert, Christian Brenninkmeijer and Andrew Trusty.
Freegle has the following Director roles:
- Chair - Edward Hibbert
- Company Secretary - Andy Ludlow
- Director of Finance - currently vacant
- Health and Safety Officer - currently vacant
- Media Director - Cat Fletcher. Cat is also contracted by Freegle to for national publicity and social media work.*
Chief Technology Officer - Edward Hibbert. Edward is also contracted by Freegle for maintenance and development of our IT platform.
The Board is grateful to people in the following appointed roles:
- Book-keeper - Jane Loveday
- Returning Officers - Alison Redway, Jacky Barrett
- Ombudsman - Kathy Stanley-Quist, Emma Shane
The invaluable work done by local volunteers is supported by a number of national teams. The Board is very grateful to people who volunteer with these teams, and encourages other local volunteers to do so if they are able.
The Freegle Group Affiliation Team (GAT) currently has 5 active members; Alison, Jo, Roger, Saira, Stuart plus Tina (voting member) and Wanda (input and technical support). Christian is our Board Observer.
This year this team has handled 19 cases. Of these 19 cases:
- 1 is with a caseworker
- 11 have been launched
- 7 resulted in no further action.
Of the new groups launched:
- 3 are centrally managed
- 3 were created to replace disaffiliated groups
- 5 were brand new groups
We have ongoing mapping work to:
- Document core areas
- Identify areas not covered by Freegle
We reviewed our processes last year which has benefited us this year but we have still struggled throughout the year with finding time to deal with the workload as promptly as we would like. This is as a result of personal problems, commitment to other Freegle work and the strain of the ongoing nature of our work. Sometimes there are prolonged periods where only one or two people are dealing with the mailbox, casework and launches with mapping being put on hold.
In September we were very pleased to welcome Stuart to our team.
The geeks help keep our system running. Currently we have Edward Hibbert and Chris Cant. This year we have had some input from Nick Sellen, and Alex Hitchins, on improving our development environment. We would very much welcome volunteers with Linux sysadmin experience.
The firstname.lastname@example.org mailbox is looked after by Jacky Barrett and Wanda Hall. They have handled about 770 conversations during this last year - up on the previous year as they conducted the contact group procedure in response to previous AGM resolutions. Their usual work is to field queries from overseas and other organisations, questions about Freegle procedures from volunteers and members, spam and scam reports, and thanking people for donations.
This is daily manned by 3 people - Dee, Jean and Wanda - with assistance from Jacky and Christian.
We received ~2300 individual messages into the mailbox since 30th Sept 2017. Many of these required lots of to and fro emails before being resolved. We were set up to answer queries that previously went directly to Geeks to free them up to do their important geek work.
Our main purpose is to help members and Moderators alike with any problem they have either with using the site, answering any ‘how do I’ queries or those that have spotted potential bugs.
We welcome contact from mods, users, and mods forwarding user queries. We do get some Mods passing queries to us if they are stuck answering a member query, or one of their own, and would encourage any others to do the same as we tend to see most types of problems that can occur so can answer quickly. Where possible groups are copied with our responses
Over the summer months we had a large spurt of members asking to unsubscribe and remove their data. This was partly due to old Yahoo accounts being ‘woken up’ after moving to Native and suddenly receiving mail from Freegle and also down to the publicity everywhere concerning GDPR.
Often the first alert to bugs are raised by members which we can pass on to the Geeks so, this is invaluable to the debugging and fixing quickly process.
We deal with anything from general ‘how to’ queries to complicated techy problems.
We also help groups with local area mapping problems.
Grumpy members use us to sound off and in most of these cases our silver-tongued member Jacky can help diffuse and calm an irate member.
Members occasionally write in with their own evaluations of the site and how it works, often giving very good and structured reports which we evaluate and pass on to Geeks. In some cases changes have been made on the back of the observations. Feedback is always good.
The Wiki has been updated as far as possible by Dee & Jacky to remove references to Yahoo and update the Freegle Direct info. It is an ongoing task as more pages come to light but for the main part has been completed.
Mentors currently have 9 members and 1 Board observer. The Mentor team are: Alison, Christian, Cooky, David, Diz, Jacqui and Jo Sheila Little is the team coordinator, and Wanda is acting co-coordinator. Andy Ludlow is our Board Observer.
Between October of 2017 and September 2018:
- 47 groups are currently being run by caretakers and are looking for new owners
- 219 groups were moved by mentors to native hosting. We also sent moving instructions and gave guidance to many other groups who preferred to do the move to native themselves.
- 7 groups are being helped long term while the owner takes a break
- 8 groups have been found new owners between Oct 17 and Sep 18. Once the native moves are complete we will be recruiting on some of these groups.
- 10 new moderators were shown how to moderate using our test groups and are now efficient in using ModTools
- 3 groups were covered while the owner went on holiday. Modtools has enabled many owners to moderate even while they are away.
Essex council asked for some new groups in the Essex area, so two new groups were created. . We have found a new owner for one of the groups, the other is being cared for by mentors.
The Central Mods team of David and Wanda help keep our main discussion forum running. We are happy to report a quiet year on Central.
There are around 500 members on Central and we had roughly 2400 posts in the last year. Down on previous years but probably due to some using the ModTools chat facility as well as the Yahoo Group.
Approx a third of our members are on individual emails, a third on digest and a third on special notices.
We monitor Central and ModTools chat to see if anyone needs any help Our main role is to guide people in the right direction if none of the other members can help. We also check that new members are indeed Freegle volunteers and make sure any New to Freegle volunteers are invited to the group if they don’t have a Yahoo profile.
Working groups are where we discuss how Freegle should run. We currently have a Funding Group, Development Group and Tech Group. All volunteers are welcome to join these group and their remits are available on the Freegle Wiki.
The Board would like to express its thanks to the people who participate in those groups, and also the coordinators who keep them running.
The Board would also like to thank Andrew Trusty of Trashnothing for providing an alternative interface which is popular with members.
And most importantly, every local volunteer for giving their time, passion and care to their communities to enable freegling throughout the UK.
The Directors declare that they have approved the report above. Signed on behalf of the Directors of Freegle Ltd: