Mid year sees the AGM, an event that affords us the opportunity to engage with our principal stakeholders in the form of our membership, coming together with staff and Trustees. I wanted to share that experience this year.

At the AGM we wanted to take our members on a journey from last year, to the present day, and also canvas their views on what comes next? As I am finding, members are a broad church of people, some new, some very longstanding and some members from before I was born. All are passionate, but views of course vary. What everyone can agree on, is the strengthening of the investment in the investigators since this time last year. This, in addition to a more focused deployment via a more precise and joined up targeting mechanism has enhanced their already good effect. The very last of the ‘Save Our Investigators’ T Shirt could be thrown back to the floor; we won’t be needing any more of them!

So what else did we do? Well, our Constitution needs updating, and we will be reviewing it this year to make it more flexible and to give members more of a voice. We also devoted well over half the time for member breakout sessions with senior staff and Trustees. These were based on the areas we hope to develop most over the next year. We outlined plans for our Education Programme, which we will aim to fund next year, enabling us to bring respect for and knowledge of wildlife into the school curriculum. We hope to tie this work into our sanctuary in Baronsdown, providing school children the opportunity to appreciate what they learn in the wild as it were. Planned improvement to Supporter Communications was announced, trebling the staff resource we put into this and hopefully, growing our support base exponentially. We must do this is if we are going to be the loud and enduring voice for animals in the future. To that end, our approach to Regional Campaigning was discussed, including our ambition to build on the current pilot programme and take our three Regional Campaign managers on permanently. Members also had the chance to Meet the Investigators, listening to how they go about their investigations and how they are faring. Lastly, along with the Chair, I ran the ‘Our Voice for Animals’ breakout; a lively session where the future of the League and how we are going about building it featured strongly. We are growing our finances, spending more wisely and rapidly reducing our deficit, focusing resources on outcomes and increasing our influence in the media and at national and devolved government level. We are relatively small in number, but by expanding our supporters and working in partnership with management and Trustees, we are becoming much more formidable.

For most members, the AGM proved an invigorating experience and we received some heart warming feedback which means so much to staff. I see the effort they put in to the AGM and all our work. They so richly deserve our collective respect and admiration. Alas, there is a tiny minority of members that feel at liberty to openly abuse them. Challenging views will build a stronger League; personal abuse will not and we will now call time on the latter. During the AGM and since, I have been inundated with members calling on me to do exactly that. They want their voices heard too.

Lastly, five of our nine trustees have retired, including our former Chair Iain Blake-Lawson and we wish them all well. Andrew Wood has replaced Iain as Chair and he brings a wealth of managerial and government experience with him, as well as an ambition to grow the charity – something I also believe is critical if we are to do what we promise. Having worked with Andrew for 6 months, I am certain he has the character and skill to pen the next chapter in our history.

We will do that together, collectively and united.

I for one am raring to get going.

Andy Knott MBE

Interim CEO