Since 2008 Dancing Mountains sangha has continued
to grow and develop. With the release of this 12th newsletter our
global communications have been enhanced through our Faceboook page
at Dancing Mountains. I wonder what Dogen would have thought about
facing such a wall. Despite being new to Facebook, I have to admit
it’s wonderful to be log on and see updates from San Francisco
Zen Centre about the January Intensive retreat which is currently
ending with the usual one week sesshin led by Reb Anderson Roshi.
I think back to this time last year and my own jukai experience
at Green Gulch, expressing through the bodhisattva vows, my own
commitment to cultivating the bodhisattva way of life, supported
within this sangha in the tradition of our teacher Shunryu Suzuki
Roshi. It is clear to me that we cannot practice in isolation and
that it is necessary to give as well as receive from sangha in order
to live the bodhisattva vows for the benefit and liberation of all
As always, invitation was extended to the whole sangha at the end
of sesshin in August 2010 at Gaia House and discussion took place
in the presence of Reb and Rev. Catherine Gammon. Since then, discussions
have continued within the sangha and a core community has been identified
by behaviours which have evolved from communication within an email
loop, concerned with the organization and further development of
Dancing Mountains. This has been a natural and organic process.
Members of this core community met on 29th November in Cheshire
to practice together and to discuss the need for Dancing Mountains
to be recognized more formally as a charitable organization, guided
by a constitution that informs the general public about our particular
Zen lineage and practice, whilst facilitating further growth as
an ethical and charitable organization that is willing to serve
all beings. Dancing Mountains are deeply grateful to The Community
of Interbeing UK (C.O.I.) who follow the teachings of Zen master
Thich Nhat Hanh. In particular we are grateful for the assistance
over the past five months from C.O.I. trustees Andrew Coleman and
Dene Donalds. We had the good fortune of the helpful presence of
Dene, a lay ordained member of C.O.I. skilfully facilitating this
meeting with D.M. members Francis Checkley, Michael Ellesmere Kath
Bennett, Chris Brown, and Frances Collins. Dancing Mountains offer
deep gratitude to Dene for his generous use of professional business
training and experience as a trustee, in discussion regarding the
formal application to The Charities Commission (C.C.) UK. I aim
to share here the discussions from this meeting enriched by the
open and generous sharing of hard earned lessons of the Community
CHOOSING THE BEST FIT
The first area of concern was to be clear about which type of organizational
structure would allow Dancing Mountains to operate as a charity
whilst evolving into an organization which may express itself through
engaged Buddhist activities. It is clear that the type of income
determines the shape of the organization. The two structures most
relevant to Dancing Mountains are a charitable organization limited
by guarantee or a community interest company (C.I.C.)
The three main advantages identified, of a charitable company limited
by guarantee, are firstly that they are more tax efficient, second
that they can be limited by guarantee and third that access exists
to application for charitable funding. However, the disadvantages
are relevant in that they are limited to charitable funding only
and tighter legislation can be restrictive to growth and applications
for assets such as property. This negatively impacts on rates paid
if property is purchased later. The mandatory quarterly production
of accounts makes an organization limited by guarantee less flexible
than its competition the Community Interest Company.
The Community Interest Company came into existence in 2003 in UK
to allow groups to act not for profit, functioning as a charity,
while also allowing entrepreneurial activities. The advantages identified
for the Community Interest Company include that they can be recognised
as large or small organizations. C.O.I. have found that the larger
structure lends well to a membership basis. Since members drive
the organization this has been experienced by C.O.I. as a good model
for sangha. Not as heavily regulated mandatory production of an
annual report is suffice. As a charitable organization all profits
and dividends cannot be claimed by directors but must be passed
on to other charitable organizations. However, directors can be
paid as a fixed or variable fee or as an individual consultancy
fee which avoids the company having to pay national insurance. No
disadvantages have been raised regarding this model.
A C.I.C. therefore is part charity and part business. It has the
advantages of flexibility and less rigid and timely legislation.
Money may be raised from either external sources such as through
application for charitable funds or generated through related business
activities. Internal sources of income may be from membership e.g.
£20 annual fee with benefits. Funds may also be generated
from voluntary donations from members.
APPLICATION TO CHARITY COMMISSION
The application process consists of submission of appropriate
completed documents to The Charity Commission. For those interested,
the basic information can be found at CC. website at www.charity-commission.gov.uk/
who offer an ‘off the shelf’ Memorandum and Articles
(Mem. & Arts) as the basic legal document requirements of application.
Explicit qualification is important within the mem. and arts. that
profit cannot be taken from the organization so that all profits
to be kept in house. This helps to clarify and prevent any dispute
from the outset.
A constitution is essential in order to make explicit the aims and
objectives of the organization. This needs to be specific to our
particular lineage with attention to our teachers’ instructions
for it to be identifiable as an organization different to other
Buddhist /Zen orgs. e.g. C.O.I. and enclosed with application. The
drafting of a constitution has been initiated but necessarily unfinished
at this point as this process unfolds. Mandatory to the submission
of the application to The Charity Commission is the identification
of two or three trustees. However, the C.O.I. example suggests seven
or eight trustees voted in by the sangha.
The importance of the appropriate choice of trustees was highlighted
by Thich Nhat Hanh in his guidance for sangha in ‘Interbeing’,
by Thay. He instructed the community to identify a core community
based on commitment to practice in C.O.I. tradition. The order of
Interbeing is the core organizing body of COI and consists only
of ordained members.
Important points to consider when appointing trustees were identified.
a skills matrix needs to be considered e.g. I.T, administration,
book keeping, business training; facilitator skills /experience
to name a few. The ability to carry through commitment should be
considered as well as ability to be contacted with ease and the
capacity to deliver the role. A secretary needs to be appointed
but does not have to be a trustee. Company returns is a key role
for the secretary making experience a great advantage for such a
role. Also essential to application are the identification of a
first director, second director and treasurer. Engaging a chartered
accountant comes with the consideration of fees.
ADDITIONAL ROLES TO BE CONSIDERED
Additional roles to be considered were identified as: -
- membership secretary
- retreat co-ordinator
- editor of docs /newsletter
- book service co-ordinator
- national contact – not a trustee
- database of sangha contact list
- sangha representatives to network with other groups ( C.O.I.
use dharma teachers or lay ordained members)
- network of potential dharma teachers
- web master
- other roles as appropriate to DM
COMMITMENT AND SKILLS MATRIX
A most important lesson from experience, Dene stressed the need
to be aware of the time and commitment attached to the role of trustee
before committing. Time and energy is needed to develop and sustain
organization and retreats. For example, The Community of Interbeing
support young sangha members in an initiative called, ‘Shining
the Light’ where core members facilitate /chair youth members
(16yrs – 33 yrs) in discussion, encouraging them to choose
their own direction which is supported by the main sangha. This
is seen to raise energy and hope for the evolution of sangha.
Those committed to the Shining the Light incentive from C.O.I. meet
4 weekends a year plus one week retreat together twice.
BUILDING STRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATION
An annual general meeting is necessary for any organization. Facilitating
discussion, review of existing or formation of potential legal contracts,
it is also an important opportunity to renew or vote in members
into existing or new roles. Planning for the year ahead includes
the potential invitation and transportation of teachers to U.K.
and negotiating potential venues for retreat. The experience of
C.O.I. is that host organizations want to negotiate with organizations
rather than individuals. Discussions may also arise about the organizational
evolution and structure, potential for buying property or application
of grants among other issues.
C.O.I. advise bi- annual meeting after sesshin plus telephone conference
/skype appropriately spaced between face to face meetings to promote
and sustain energy.
HARD EARNED LESSONS
Dancing Mountains are grateful for the lessons from C.O.I. Whilst
there may be a lot to consider, emphasis lies firmly on our need
to prioritize practicing together regularly over business. Organizational
meetings have been found to be most beneficial when tagged on to
the end of retreats. The idea of ‘Scan groups’ within
C.O.I. evolved over time as needs and functions were identified.
The benefit of these has been in sharing the workload of the organization.
Examples of activities that scan groups attend to include sangha
advisory networks, proposal groups as well as regular activities
such as encouraging priests and dharma teachers to visit U.K. Factoring
in the raising of funds from the outset from bursaries for people
who are disadvantaged has been found to be advisable. Addressing
accessibility to potential venues needs to be considered to facilitate
people who have additional needs e.g. C.O.I. have purchased a portable
loop system which is available for hire.
NEXT STAGE - ELECTING AN INTERIM COMMITTEE
A suggestion was received favourably, at this stage of development,
to appoint an Interim Committee. Dene offered the example of ‘Mindfulness
Ireland’ (C.O.I.) which is at the same developmental stage
of this process as D.M. They have chosen to set up an Interim Committee
voted by the sangha to represent decision making until legitimate
organizational status is achieved. Dancing Mountain sangha members
could be voted in to roles at an A.G.M. within a democratic process.
This reduces liability to £1 protection for the future on
a larger scale (for further explanation see documentation and on
C.C. website). For example, an interim committee could be 6 or 7
people who would investigate, discuss and feed back on the best
fit / choice of organization structure for Dancing Mountains. A
Realistic time frame from interim committee to set up has been identified
as 12 months. The experience of C.O.I. has been that problems may
arise when members over commit time and energy or when there is
insufficient capacity or energy to move forward for individuals
or for sangha. Problems have been experienced when organization
has been prioritised over depth of practice.
SUGGESTED NEXT STEPS
Members of Dancing Mountains sangha core group have agreed
that, whilst recognizing the great efforts in its production this
far, it is necessary to review the suggested constitution and make
it more specific to our sangha and lineage. It was agreed that a
short residential approximately three months later could be followed
by a meeting to finalise Dancing Mountains constitution and vote
an interim committee.
This retreat has been organised at Trigonos, Nantle, North
Wales from 29th April to 3rd May 2011. www.trigonos.org.
Any individuals committed to this lineage wishing to attend this
meeting to facilitate the next stage of this process are encouraged
to do so.
To book, please contact Frances Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telephone:- 01829 760 843 / 07786369682.
As a result of this proposed meeting an amended constitution will
be published in the next Mountain Silence newsletter, inviting comment
from the wider sangha.
Ji Den Dai U
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