Trustee talk: It's been a time of structural change

David Rose, Rabbi of Edinburgh, tells Emilie Filou about the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association.

I had already been involved in inter-faith projects when I moved to Edinburgh four and a half years ago, so I got involved with the association as soon as I arrived. I have been a trustee for three years now.

Being treasurer is hard work: it's your responsibility more than anyone else's to keep an eye on what's going on and to ask the difficult questions. I'm not a trained accountant, but I have to run checks on everything. It takes a lot of time.

The association has grown tremendously over the past three years: we have more activities and more income, so we decided it was time to reassess our structure. It's been a very interesting process. There were a lot of discussions about our mission statement, how changes would affect the way we do things and so on.

We received advice from a consultant and decided to change our structural organisation. We moved from a complex membership system to the simpler model of a company limited by guarantee with 24 shareholders, three from each of our eight constituent faiths. The advantage of being a company is that trustees are protected. We'll also set up a 'friends of the association' group so that other people can still get involved. The move confirmed our status as an inter-faith organisation, with some of our members being elected by their constituents. It has also promoted intra-faith as well as inter-faith dialogue.

We're now working on a business plan for the next five to 10 years. We had to pass all the changes at our AGM, which was fine. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator now has to approve it. I think I have learnt a lot from this.

The association is one of 30 charities chosen by the OSCR to go through its next stage of the rolling review. It's part of the changes to charity law in Scotland. I am confident we can prove we provide public benefit: we do a lot of work with the Government, the police and the schools.

I don't feel, either as a trustee of the EIFA or as an employee of the synagogue, that religious organisations have to prove more than other charities do. The environment and the rules you have to go by have changed, but that's the same for everyone.

I've got another year to go as treasurer; I don't know yet whether I'll carry on as a trustee, but I can't be treasurer again. It'll have to be something else.

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