Maintaining the database of traders includes encouraging traders to keep within credit and debit limits and adhere to the terms and conditions of trade.
Updating the membership list means managing stale accounts and knowing who the current members are.
We also learnt that we don’t have an easy way to apply a one-off levy to all active members without debiting stale accounts. This is due to the limitations of the CES software.
But debiting stale accounts is false accounting, especially if they’re already in debit. It’s like taxing the dead; they can never earn the credit to pay it.
Maintaining and updating the database membership list is an essential part of funding the organisation. Without it, we can’t properly budget for our expenses.
Most exchanges only have one CES Website Administrator running the whole exchange. But BrisLETS must also have a Management Committee because we’re incorporated.
BrisLETS’ activities are in dollars as well as units. We have a dollar bank account and a Units account. We need a dollar bank account for income and expenses that must be done in dollars, such as paying for things we can’t pay for in Units, such as the annual fee the Office of Fair Trade charges for incorporation, etc.. At present, we have no sustainable source of dollar income (see Funding Model below). The Management Committee, as required in our Constitution includes the President, Secretary and Treasurer. They manage the dollar side of our activities.
The Units side of our activities are managed by the CES Website Administrator, Membership Secretary and Planning & Tech Support – the Management Support Team.
Hiding stale accounts
In the past, stale accounts have been hidden on an ad-hoc basis. (Hiding such accounts prevents them being seen or found by other traders.) This was done to reduce inconvenience to active traders who enquire about offers and don’t get a response.
However, most, if not all, stale accounts have no offers because offers expire after a year. Also, there is no warning at log-in that one’s account is hidden. So a trader who is unaware of this, or has forgotten, could re-engage without realising they’re invisible until someone alerts them.
Hiding accounts also means traders will not be “woken up” by contact from other traders. Hiding accounts is better left to traders themselves when they want to take a break, for example, if they go away on holiday.
T&Cs need urgent review
These issues became apparent to us after we attempted to use the feedback we got from MAD. We soon realised we needed to update the T&Cs to manage these and other issues in a sustainable way, especially if we are to manage larger numbers. The Constitution is also relevant because it refers to membership status and voting rights. The two need to be in alignment.
Back in the day
Some members who are familiar with how BrisLETS has survived for more than 30 years would prefer it to continue as a small group. They enjoyed the simplicity, intimacy and friendliness of it. It’s understandable, but nothing ever stays the same. Like it or not, everything changes and evolves.
BrisLETS – organised as never before
The Management Committee and Management Support Team want the value of Units to increase. We and our supporters are attempting to do what has probably never been done before to a LETS/CES exchange: make it a well-oiled outfit that can rise to the challenge of a large membership of active traders.
To do this, we’re looking for diligent, committed, dependable and skilled people in jobs matched to their skills. We’re aiming for an efficient, budgeted, cost-effective, systematic and member/trader-oriented organization.
Some members are concerned that we’re becoming a business. But we are committed to remaining for all time a non-for-profit aimed at providing a way for the people of Brisbane to trade in mutual credit. This means being ready to absorb wealth from the dollar economy. These commitments are part of the proposed changes to the Terms & Conditions and Constitution.
We can do this AND keep the organisation fun and friendly. It won’t be as intimate or as simple, but it will be a chance for BrisLETS to stretch its wings and see how far it can fly.
Up to now, BrisLETS has been unable to host businesses adequately, inasmuch as we have not considered their needs as well as ours. Also, we haven’t had the confidence to allow business owners to have a company account as well as a personal account. Business owners need to know what’s in it for them. How can they spend their Units? If it’s on employees, those employees need to be interested in joining. As Liz Stanhope pointed out recently, we need to know that the companies that join us are viable, and won’t leave in debit, just as we hope individuals won’t.
How do we stack up?
In preparing the proposed changes to the T&Cs, Andrew and I did some preliminary research and compared other Australian CES T&Cs. We found some interesting points. Tasmania’s CENT and FNQ CES were by far the most impressive.
Some members had expressed an interest in applying the existing, incomplete rules in the T&Cs. The offer to help was appreciated but declined, as this would have made little difference right now―and possibly led to inconsistent treatment of account-holders. An invitation to participate in the research of T&Cs was unfortunately declined.
But this exercise also showed us that this research could be done more methodically and thoroughly with more people. It’s something to consider for the future.
However, we made some progress. We tried to take advantage of the various T&Cs across Australia for our Brisbane context, hoping they would pave the way for a more robust and fair set of rules to protect our exchange, serve the community’s needs and fulfil our mission.
In the document on display to members online and available at the next Q&A we’ve shown, wherever possible, which proposals come from other exchanges.
Members can check the existing T&Cs themselves on the CES website under the Information>Exchange Groups tab and compare them to our proposed T&Cs.
We invite your involvement.
Some people have questioned our funding model. In a nutshell:
- Our dollar accounts and Unit accounts are completely separate. They are funded differently.
- Our regular dollar income comes solely from the joining fee (which is unsustainable) and door donations.
- Units come solely from the 4% transaction fee.
- We have only 130 active members, and only 90 who have traded in the past six months.
Those who want to see BrisLETS get bigger (perhaps not everyone) are hoping the few will carry the burden for a little longer until it can be spread more thinly among a larger membership.
Fortunately, we’re a mutual credit organisation. This means we don’t have to worry about bank loans and interest for Units.
To the best of my knowledge, Admin has never really taken advantage of this unique advantage. Admin account limits are U10,000. Dollars are not something we want to rely on more; we see them only as a means to an end, and would prefer to rely on them less.
However, to achieve more, we need to spend more in the beginning on things that our Units market doesn’t include yet, e.g. marketing material such as teardrop flags and custom-printed marquees, which grants can cover, not members. But we need a member to be a grant writer.
Hence all the changes.