EXHIBITION PREVIEW: The A to Z of what's new for charities

JOHN PLUMMER

The Charities Aid Foundation Annual Conference and Exhibition will showcase a range products targeted directly at charities. John Plummer gives a preview of what will be on offer at this year's event.

Want to discover how the Community Fund allocates funds? Or learn all about the new Charity Bank? Or talk to the people who will be managing new common investment funds? You can do all of these and more under one roof at the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Annual Conference and Exhibition in London on 7 November.

Exhibition organiser Julie Davis says: "The beauty of the exhibition is its diversity, unlike many conferences which focus purely on financial services."

Around 6,000 delegates are expected to attend the event, which features around 30 stands with everything from printers and publishing houses to investment managers and community banks. The majority of the exhibitors, however, are from the financial sector.

Among the highlights is an early opportunity to find out all about Charity Bank. Representatives of the bank, launched at Downing Street earlier this month, will be on hand to explain precisely how it works. As the name implies, it's a bank with charitable status, regulated by the Financial Services Authority, whose sole business is making loans for charitable purposes and where all surpluses are used for further charitable purposes.

The idea is to provide a conduit through which everyone can put some of their savings in order to benefit communities.

If you're interested in pensions you may want to visit the Pensions Trust, which will be explaining its new award-winning scheme CARE (Career Average Revalued Earnings) to delegates. Named Best New Scheme at this year's Professional Pensions Awards, CARE bridges the two traditional concepts of final-salary and money-purchase pensions.

Instead of benefits being based on a leaving salary, they are calculated on employees' average earnings over their service with a company, increased annually in line with the Retail Prices Index.

Another pensions company in attendance is FPS Group. It administers pensions of all types for charities but, because of current funding pressures on employers, this year will be highlighting its FlexiPlan centralised trust schemes designed for the charities field.

FlexiPlan pensions provide members with a specified proportion of their final salary at retirement. However, unlike classic final-salary schemes, employers do not have the necessity of trusteeship and are free of minimum funding requirements (MFR) commitments.

Administration, actuarial, trusteeship and fund management responsibility is shifted from the employer to FPS. Essentially a money-purchase pension with final salary characteristics, FlexiPlan has never failed to meet its targets since it was created under special Inland Revenue rules back in 1966.

Triodos Bank will be unveiling the two latest products in its "Take Control" programme, which began earlier this year with the launch of its Charity Save account. Launched earlier this year in conjunction with organisations including Oxfam and Amnesty International, Charity Save enables people to donate a percentage of the interest on their account to whichever cause they support.

Following on from that, Triodos is now using the conference and exhibition to tell people about two new products under the Take Control banner. The Positive Save account and the Positive Cash ISA account are both based on ethical principles. The bank promises to take ethical considerations into account when making business decisions on where to invest your money.

James Niven, spokesman for Triodos, said: "All our accounts offer simple, practical ways of helping people do something with their money and do something to support the charity of their choice."

The Community Fund, which distributes money from the lottery to charities, voluntary and community groups, will be on hand to answer questions and discuss its new strategic plan, which sets out how funding will be focused from now until 2007.

But it isn't all about grants, banks and financial services, the exhibition features a wide range of services. AutoSave returns this year to explain what it offers to charities in the way of discounts on new and used vehicles.

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