The perfect property arrangement

The sale of its Grade II-listed London property has helped NAFAS reduce its operating costs, finance new initiatives, upgrade its technology and invest in the charity’s future. We spoke to CEO Steven Lane.

21 June 2023

The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS), formed in 1959, is the parent organisation for 950 flower clubs representing approximately 30,000 individual members across the UK. 

The charity’s aims include advancing public education in the art of flower arranging and related subjects, encouraging a love of flowers and demonstrating their decorative value, helping to conserve rare and endangered plant species, organising exhibitions and competitions, and training judges, demonstrators, teachers and speakers.

To sell or not to sell

Prior to mid-2022, NAFAS owned and occupied Osborne House, a Grade II-listed, five-story town house in Devonshire Square in the City of London. While the property was primarily used as offices for the charity’s team of five staff, it was also used for trustee, board and committee meetings, and as an overnight base for members visiting London. 

However, various factors – including the pandemic-fuelled shift toward virtual meetings – meant NAFAS no longer needed such a large property. 

“It’s a beautiful building and integral to our history, but it wasn’t suitable as a modern working office – it was poorly lit, draughty, and difficult to heat. Maintaining an expensive office was no longer necessary or feasible for a small charity likes ours,” explains Steven. “So in 2021 our trustees made the difficult – and emotional – decision to sell the property.” 

The start of a new season

Although Osborne House took 18 months to sell – longer than expected – Steven says it was the right decision for the longer term: “As it sold for over £4million, we suddenly had a sizeable sum with which we could shape NAFAS’ future.” 

After much deliberation and investigation, the trustees decided to invest the bulk of the capital with Rathbones. “The investment generates enough income to cover the rent and running costs of our new, much smaller offices,” explains Steven. “Our current office is modern and fit-for-purpose, so we’re now spending a lot less than previously.”

NAFAS is working towards reducing its annual operating costs and finding new ways to generate more income. It’s also using some of the capital to finance a change in strategic direction. This includes getting its educational courses accredited, and developing its online courses and handbooks. The association has also invested in a central membership database, which will make it easier to communicate with members about promotions, events and educational offerings. 

Plan ahead

If your charity is thinking about selling a property, Steven’s advice is to “make sure you have a post-sale plan. Selling a property tends to generate a significant sum of money, which comes with lots of responsibility. Your organisation’s future could suddenly be sitting in a bank account.” 

Charities also need to be aware of any potential ‘downsides’ and associated administration. For example, the Osborne House sale resulted in an unexpected VAT inspection and extra work for the team.

“We knew we needed to change,” says Steven. “The sale of Osborne House has helped us finance our ideas, update our technology and improve our infrastructure. It was the right option for us at the right time.”