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AGM Presentation

November 22, 2022
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Annual General Meeting

THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED – Report of the Hon. Treasurer for the year 2021-22

This last year for the first time in living memory the Society had to sell part of its investment in its income-generating portfolio

The last six years have seen a considerable reduction in the Society’s capital, close to £900k. The overriding reason for the reduction has been the progressive disinvestment from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Progressive Capital Growth Fund. This fund did not provide the AGS with an income but was used as a ‘sinking fund’ to meet the continuing yearly deficit in the Society’s expenditure running over the last years at up to £150k pa. In mid 2017 the fund stood at close to £800k. By August 2021 it had fallen to £178k, by the end of March 2022 to £89.6k and in July it was closed. This year saw for the first time a need to disinvest from our income-producing capital – £100k.

Income and expenditure

Income: £261,734 Expenditure: £447,143. Thus the Society had a deficit for the year of £185,409

The largest single source of income is from members’ subscriptions, £120,563 which accounted for 46% of total income but covered only 27% of expenditure

The second largest single source of income was from the Society’s investments at £51,961 accounting for 19.9% of income and covering 11.6% of expenditure

The significance and state of the Society’s investments. As of 24 October 2022 the capital value of the Society’s investments stood at £1.612m. At present they are producing a return of around 3-3.5% for the Society in terms of income.

Journal and newsletter. The average annual cost of the journal and newsletter is £121,000: made up of very largely printing, postage, staff. Notice that the figure is almost exactly that of yearly memberships.

Click here to download the 2022 Alpine Garden Society Summarised Accounts.

The Alpine Garden Society is a charity

This status brings with it benefits but also obligations – in terms of having charitable objects. The accounts show that during the year these amounted to close to £260,000, 60% of the Society’s total spending

What now?

For the whole of my time in office I have been telling the Society that it lives beyond its means. Last year I finished my address to you with the words ‘All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its means’. This last year has seen your Board of Trustees begin to create that progress.


AGS members at 2022 AGM

Protecting the future of the AGS – Trustees plan to see us embrace change and thrive for the next 90 years

First – a trip down memory lane…

A Decade in Retrospect – Published in 1961 with a review of the post war 1950’s.

Profound similarities exist between the AGS then and now
  • “Costs were rising but membership was not greatly increasing”
  • “Numerous losses of membership were suffered each year, either through deaths or inability to pay even the modest subscription, this was difficult to replace by new members”
  • “In 1960 the cost of publishing our Bulletin and year book absorbed £2,500 out of a subscription income of £3,400”
Societally they had similar challenges too
  • “As horizons grow wider, gardens grow smaller”
  • “The conclusion is that our societies must, become more catholic and be prepared to embrace plantsmen of the most diverse tastes”
  • “Youth is unfortunately, very much at a premium in the gardening world”
  • “we live in an age of change and our shows should change accordingly”
  • “to counteract increasing costs, economies were necessary by way of reduction in the size of the Bulletin, a reduction in show prizes and omitting the list of members from the year book”
1950’s solutions:
  • Hon. publicity managers to promote the AGS
  • A new seed distribution scheme increasing overseas members
  • Broadened network of local groups
  • An ask for donations to support the Bulletin
  • Changes to show locations to give greater appeal
  • Slide library started up using 31/4” slides but modernised to 35mm as “the use of the 35mm camera had greatly increased in popularity”

Did it work? Change was embraced, the society was modernised and it went on to enjoy its heyday and… “this was a highly satisfactory operation to the treasurer”

Our challenges today:

  • Expenditure has outstripped income for years, running down our financial reserves
  • An ageing and declining membership
  • Covid, Brexit and now inflation are compounding our issues as a society
  • A need to reduce expenditure, increase income and only then, increase membership
  • We do now have a better understanding of our membership and financials
  • An urgent need for significant modernisation in how we do things, remain compliant and operate as a charity


Office hours and staffing
  • Office opening hours will change to Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm, reducing the need to staff the office by 16 hours per week
  • Reduced payroll from January 2023 in line with trading hours reduction
  • Removal of the post of Associate Editor from January 2023 to give a £20,000 contribution to a £30,000 savings target
  • Payroll, editorial and utility savings will achieve an annual consolidated saving of over £30,000
Society Digitalisation
  • The Newsletter will become fully digital from January 2023
  • We will offer all members the option of moving to a paperless subscription from January 2023
  • Move towards electronic correspondence with members to better communicate with them, reduce paper consumption & reduce escalating print and post costs
  • Move towards electronic payment methods reducing transaction costs
  • Digital savings will achieve an annual consolidated saving of over £10,000
AGS Publications Ltd
  • AGS publications Ltd no longer delivers a profit and incurs annual costs to the society
  • We will be closing down the publications limited company during 2023
  • We will still be able to publish books through third parties
  • We will still retail books to our membership
  • AGS publications savings will achieve an annual consolidated saving of £5,000
AGS Journal
  • Reduction of our single biggest expenditure
  • Move to digital by default embracing new technology
  • Retain high quality journal content and imagery
  • Digital platform is indexable, searchable, with added video and linked content
  • Transition period with digital demonstrations
  • Optional, at cost printed high quality biannual for those members wanting paper output
  • From 2024, journal savings will achieve an annual consolidated saving of over £76,000
Our future
  • By the end of 2024 we will be financially balanced and back in the black
  • Reduce our risk to external financial pressures
  • Investments to be used for delivering our charitable purposes
  • Better membership retention
  • Increased donations, legacies and grant income
  • Grow membership from a stable base
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Modern, compliant & more resilient organisation
  • Strong links forged with our partners
  • More empowered membership & local groups supported
  • International membership growth
  • Diverse range of events
  • Well attended shows
  • Inspiring new audiences

“We must always forge ahead with enthusiasm. I feel that great opportunities lie ahead for making our society more international in scope, widening overseas membership and our contacts with similar societies at home and overseas. Finally, may I leave one thought with you all? There are still growers of rock plants who have never heard of the Alpine Garden Society; the only effective way in which we can bring these people into our circle is by personal introduction. If every member were to resolve this year to persuade another keen gardener into membership, how little would the effort be involved – yet how incomparable would be the advantages for the future!” – A Decade of the Alpine Garden Society, C. H. Hammer – AGS President, 1961

Frequently asked questions


Q: Will I still receive my paper journal in 2023?

A: Yes, your journal will be delivered as normal, unless you have chosen to opt for a paperless subscription.

Q: How will I receive the newsletter from 2023?

A: The newsletter will be posted on the AGS website as a pdf file. Members are also invited to check the NEWS section regularly, as this has the most up-to-date details on various AGS news and events. If you have subscribed to our e-Newsletter, you will receive the latest news directly in your inbox. Please subscribe here.

Q: What if I do not use a computer or smart phone?

A: From 2024, the basic AGS membership package will only include a digital version of the Journal, alongside other benefits like free Zoom lectures, free entry to all AGS Shows, free entry to the AGS Library and Garden. We will continue to offer a printed biannual journal to members, this publication however will not be part of the membership package. The printed Journal will need to be purchased separately at a price which will reflect printing and postage costs.

We understand that there are some members who do not wish to or cannot use a computer. We will always try to assist these members, anyone can contact the office and we will always do what we can to help.

Q: Why is the AGS stopping printing journals?

A: Over recent years, paper and postage have become extremely expensive and prices are set to increase further. This, together with the impact on the environment from the production and transport of our Journal made the Board look at how we should protect the AGS for the future.

Q: Will the Society be “dumbing down” the journal?

A: The journal will not be “dumbing down”. In fact, we would like to see more articles from members’ gardens, helpful advice on propagation, endangered alpine environments and travelogues. We are committed to producing a modern, relevant Journal, which will continue to be esteemed by members and non-members alike due to image and article quality.

Q: Who will be writing articles and perform other editorial duties now that the AGS have removed the Associate Editor role?

A: It was decided that the role of Associate Editor should move to a ‘paid for article’ contract, rather than a fixed fee rolling contract. The Editor would like to see more members of the Society write articles for the journal. We have in place an Editorial Committee that includes Diane Clement, Christopher Grey-Wilson and Thomas Freeth, who will be assisting the Editor to ensure that articles and plant names are accurate.

Q: Will the cost of membership increase?

A: We do not plan any large increases in membership fees. To reduce administrative costs, from 2024 we intend to offer just one membership package, regardless of where members reside. This will mean a decrease of costs for overseas members.

Q: How will the changes effect Life Members?

A: Life members will enjoy the same access as other members to the AGS digital content. However, like everyone else, from 2024 Life Members will have to purchase printed copies of the Journal.

Q: Why is manual payment (card) membership more expensive than auto payment membership (Direct Debit)?

A: There is a considerable amount of administrative work involved when processing manual payments. Auto payments require very little staff involvement in processing and therefore are the preferred method of payment. This helps fulfil our commitment to reducing staff costs.

Q: Are these changes expected to save the AGS?

A: These changes alone will not save the AGS but they will go a long way to giving us time to protect the AGS for the future. What happens next is really down to the membership and how everyone embraces the changes we had to make.

future AGS young members

Participants at 2022 AGS Young Person's Weekend