member update August 2020

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Welcome to the latest membership update. This update covers the following areas:

  • Thoughts on the summer and the autumn terms

  • An update on finances

  • Strategic changes and proposals from General Council to ensure Woodcraft Folk is fit for the future 

  • Starting to reflect on changes brought about by COVID-19 

This summer

August is traditionally a time for camping and whilst Groups and Districts haven’t been able to go ahead with their usual camps this summer due to COVID-19, many of us have tried or are planning alternative events, including online activities.  Folk Office and GC, for example, have facilitated a virtual international camp; bringing together individuals from across Europe, Africa and South America. 

Whilst the impact of COVID-19 will continue to be felt across our movement for a long time to come, it has been wonderful to see some face-to-face group activities begin after the easing of lockdown in July.

Just a reminder that overnight stays are not yet permitted. 

Looking ahead to the autumn term

As we look ahead to the autumn term, the #DreamBigAtHome team & Folk Office will continue to provide ideas and resources for face-to-face group activities, which you may like to try where safe to do so. We will also continue to provide remote and virtual activities for groups and members to join online

Updated guidance on face to face meetings was circulated to District and Group Contacts earlier this week and can be found at

We do not expect all groups to return to face to face activities in the short-term, but support volunteer teams to review local conditions and make decisions that meet the needs of their local members. Support is available for all group leaders by contacting 

Finance update

I have written to you previously about the financial impact of COVID-19 on Woodcraft Folk. For example, in my email of 13 May 2020 I said that COVID-19 risked undermining the financial sustainability of Groups and bringing about staff redundancies in our Centres and at Folk Office. 


At that time, Groups were not operating (other than some groups meeting online) and Woodcraft Folk’s Centres were closed. As a result of this and other factors (such as Common Ground being delayed), we projected a major drop in normal income sources.

Based on current figures, we are still projecting a drop in our normal income sources, including:

  • A drop in Group Registration

  • A drop in individual membership fees; and

  • A drop in Centres income.

Nevertheless, a number of developments over the past few months have helped to address this projected drop in income. These developments include:

  • Receiving solidarity payments from local Districts and individual donations (from members and non-members) in excess of £45,000 (this includes funds raised through the #DreamBigAtHome campaign);

  • Furloughing most staff to reduce staff costs; 

  • Accessing over £100,000 in COVID-19 related emergency funding and new project funding; 

  • Generating some income at Centres this summer through family and household camping and reducing running costs as Centres (although, based on current figures, income from our Centres is expected to be approximately £100,000 down in 2020); 

  • Negotiating with funders to delay/roll forward projects and to divert funding to COVID-19 related needs; and

  • Carrying forward costs related to the Common Ground international camp, which has been delayed.

Many of you have allowed us to carry forward your Common Ground deposits, which has helped us to address any cashflow challenges.

The above developments have helped to ensure the financial stability of Woodcraft Folk heading into 2021. Nevertheless, to ensure Woodcraft Folk’s medium and long-term financial sustainability,  General Council believes that we need to make a number of strategic changes, which are discussed further below.

Strategic changes to ensure that we’re fit for the future

In February 2020 General Council agreed 11 strategic changes in the areas of ‘Better delivery’, ‘Better governance and finances’ and ‘Better image’. The changes are set out in brief in the attachment.

COVID-19 has underlined the need for Woodcraft Folk to make a number of these strategic changes. In particular, COVID-19 has: 


  • Impacted on Woodcraft Folk’s activity and seen the launch of #DreamBigAtHome 

  • Driven a reduction in the number of Groups and adult members (referred to in the finance section above)

  • Impacted on Woodcraft Folk's finances, especially with regards to Centres -our centres remain closed to groups (also referred to in the finance section above).

  • Changed work practices.

  • Increased the support needs of our volunteers as they adapt to operating within lockdown restrictions and new safety guidelines

At the General Council meeting on 8th August 2020 our trustees agreed a number of changes and proposed changes to systems, structures and staffing to help bring about the aforementioned strategic changes to ensure Woodcraft Folk is fit for the future including being financially sustainable.

Broadly put, General Council’s main proposals are to:

  1. Restructure Woodcraft Folk’s staff team to reduce the total staffing budget, increase administrative efficiency and  to refocus staff roles on ensuring the sustainability of groups, increasing membership and the financial sustainability of the organisation. We have launched a consultation with our staff team about these proposals.

  2. Restructure the management and administration of our network of residential centres including adopting online tools to reduce the administrative burden and increasing the level of collaboration between centres to reduce costs and streamline processes (we are consulting with Centre Committees and, as referred to above, with staff in relation to associated staffing changes)

  3. Moving to the production of regular whole-organisation management accounts

  4. Closing our offices at Crampton Street in London and moving to a cloud-based/home-working model 

  5. Move Woodcraft Folk’s registered office to a building associated with the Co-operative movement in Manchester (Holyoake House)

We ask for your patience and understanding as we conclude these consultations and make these changes over the coming months.

Starting to reflect on changes brought about by COVID-19

As we hope lockdown continues to ease, now is a chance for us as a movement start to reflect on:

  1. What changes caused by COVID-19 we may want to retain in the future

  2. What things stopped by COVID-19 we want to restore

  3. What things we want to reinvent for the future

As for changes to retain, shall we, for example, continue to deliver remote and virtual programme activities through #DreamBigAtHome? Could we build on this platform to encourage more Venturers and DFs to stay involved in Woodcraft Folk? Is there a need for regular adult member online gatherings to offer peer support?

We think there are some really positive things that have come out of Woodcraft Folk’s response to lockdown:

  • The way in which members have embraced new ways of working to support children and young people throughout lockdown

  • Launch of #DreamBigAtHome, which has successfully engaged existing and new families in our educational values

  • Financial support we have received from members, donors, local authorities and government schemes

  • Increased use of technology to deliver training and work remotely

  • Summer holiday and social action club funding, which will test different approaches to delivering our educational values in partnership with the Co-operative Academy Trust

We would welcome your views on this and any of the other matters covered by this update. Please write to 

Finally, I and General Council look forward to seeing you online at the AGM in September.

Debs McCahon

Chief Executive Officer

Annex - strategic changes - summary.pdf45.3 KB