For many years now, your Foundation has been collecting the funds from the various stakeholders. The funds come from Waitrose (60%), the UK importers (20%), the South African Exporters (10%) and the South African growers (10%).
Fortunately, the amount of monies raised has risen considerably since the start of the Foundation. At first only the citrus category was generating income. Gradually more Categories have been added, the soft fruit category being the latest. Now there are 8 Categories, with more than 50 farms, spread all over South Africa.
Spending the funds efficiently is and remains the Waitrose Foundation’s big focus. Up to the middle of last year, this was managed (very cost efficiently) by a team of 2 people with the positive effect that a big percentage of the funds available could be distributed to the workers. However, in the course of 2010 and early 2011 it became very clear to the Board that it was virtually impossible for 2 people to manage the funds, the number of projects and the ever increasing number of farms and people involved. Because of commercial developments within the Waitrose supply base, we have seen farms leaving and many new farms coming on board.
The Board feels very strongly that we do have an obligation towards the workers on the exiting farms and is committed for a period of time to continue to support these farms after the exit.The new farms need to be visited and coached. And of course the existing farms need a lot of attention too.
We also support several students. Where-as the financial support is important, it has become clear that the social support is key. Meeting and motivating our students in times of need has proven to be a very important part of our work.
The list goes on.As a result, the work load had grown to an unsustainable level for 2 people only. It therefore had been decided last year that the Foundation team needed strengthening to enable us to continue to do an excellent job. We have been lucky to find the two additional people we needed. Many of you will already have met Raymond and Hilda. They have been a great addition to the already brilliant team, Faith and Anel, we had.
Also the financial controls needed strengthening. The amounts of money going through the books need to properly be accounted for. The Foundation now employs one day a week a fully qualified financial accountant. The accounts are delivered timely and cleanly. We are also in the process of implementing a bespoke financial system to facilitate a more efficient running of the numbers. Giving the Foundation team the info they need to do their jobs.
There are many upsides to these big and important changes. We now talk to and see the farm workers more often. The students get the support they need. The monies are starting to get spent quicker and that we make a greater contribution to the people. From a financial accounting perspective, we now have a solid set of numbers on a regular basis.
As you can imagine and as presented during the AGMthis also has meant that the costs of managing your funds havehad to go up.Without these changes, it would not have been possible to do what the Foundation does for you today and will do for many years to come.
The Board is confident that the costs of running your Foundation are still very competitive and remains committed to continue to minimize costs and to maximize funds available.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to send them to the Foundation. I’ll happily answer any queries you may have.
~ Written by Henri Lambriex, Treasurer, Waitrose Foundation ~