We currently have 125 members. Financially, things looked difficult at the beginning of our financial year in August and we decided we needed to devote a lot of effort to getting in subscriptions and donations in early 2012 to reduce the constant outflow of cash. Then, out of the blue, we received a large sum of money from a recently joined member, for which we are eternally grateful. There are so few of us running the group that trying to get in subs and donations is a major task and not something we were looking forward to. This generous donation has given us much-needed breathing space. The accounts show we ended up the year with £2,900 more than we started. During the year we spent £2,100 but we managed to bring in £500 from the sale of cards, subs from new members and donations. A major problem for us, and for other groups, is the sharp rise in the cost of postage, which will hit us hard this year. The only way we can offset this is by persuading more members to receive Outreach as an email attachment. If anybody wants to see the accounts with all the detail, I’m happy to give them a copy. I have also filed them with the Charity Commission so the totals are on the Charity Commission website for anyone to see.
Our biggest single cost item is the newsletter. After two successful years, Jean Higgins decided to step down as editor and we thank her for all her efforts. No one within the membership volunteered to take over but, thankfully, we eventually found Cathy Stillman-Lowe who does not have M.E. (but does have another long-term fluctuating illness). Cathy knows a lot about M.E., has edited a local group newsletter before, and has approached the task with initiative and enthusiasm. Many group members are unable to get to meetings and events, and we know from surveys we’ve done over the years that they regard Outreach as a lifeline. Also we shouldn’t forget the crucial behind-the-scenes work done by Martin on maintaining the membership database and Colin on actually sending the copies out.
Our group website has a public area and a private area that only members can access. Heidi does a valuable job looking after it and has also set up a group Facebook page. Increasingly, new members find us via the internet.
We have held fewer social events than we would have liked this year. However, those that we do hold are clearly appreciated by those members who are well enough to come. The Summer Party went well, as did the party in August at Maggie Fear’s flat. Cath Ross and Colin continue to organise a regular coffee meeting in Chiswick.
We also run a fund for members who need small sums for financial assistance. Janet Battams, the administrator of THAT Fund, as we call it, reports:
“Since the last report, when the Fund was suspended due to financial constraints, we have had a generous donation and are able to offer grants again. During this financial year two grants have been issued and one application for a grant is under consideration at present. We are not inundated with applications and are always willing to consider any queries from members who think a grant would help them.”
We met our local ME/CFS clinic at Hillingdon in December for a useful discussion. We try to keep in contact with them on a regular basis.
Every six months, I chair a meeting of several London ME support groups, called ME London, which we all find valuable in terms of exchanging ideas and talking about issues of mutual interest.
Finally, a few of us do a lot of work to keep this group going and we would welcome help with the running of the group from any member who feels able to contribute.
If anyone has any questions we will do our best to answer them.