How to: Set up a group part 2

One of the volunteers at Icebreakers Manchester has prepared the following information that everyone should think about when setting up a new group. And believe us, Icebreakers has been there!

Here are some important considerations for you to ponder:

Is there a need: Is there already a group nearby doing the same thing?

Identify your user base: gender, age, sexual orientation, geographical area to be served. Which is it to be?

Advertise for other volunteers: before setting up the group, create a volunteer base. Do not attempt to do it all by yourself. Ask the LGF or your local Community Volunteer Service (CVS, e.g. Voluntary Action Manchester) or even try www.do-it.org.uk a site for connecting volunteers with appropriate groups.

Discuss everything with the other volunteers: keep everyone involved.

What type of group do you want to be: Social, Support, Sport, Transitional or Member based? You decide!

Get advice from an established organisation or group: ask your local CVS or the LGF for assistance.

Possibly link in with another group: Is there a group you could “Buddy” with? Mutual support goes a long way.

Network – LGF, Pride Sports, and any other group or organisation that you think might be able to help you!

Develop a Constitution and an Operating Guide: nearly all funding bodies will require you to have a Constitution. Find one on the web and alter it to suit your group needs. It is always better to establish early on what ‘the Rules’ are. REMEMBER - Constitutions should be fixed. Operating guides develop with time.

What will the setting up and running costs be: think website, room rent, equipment, training, advertising, refreshments, volunteer expenses. And that’s only the beginning!

How will you fund the group: attendance fees, grants, fundraising activities. Which is best?

Set up a contact system: this will be invaluable for future group users to use. Think website, e-mail address, phone number, postal address / P.O. Box.

Find a meeting place: this obviously depends on the type of group you are. Think about the following:

  • Suitability - Is it large enough for future expansion in user numbers? Think also noise levels.
  • Affordability - Is it within budget?
  • Availability - will you always be able to use the space?
  • Dependability - Negotiate a lease or formal agreement to give you ‘security of tenure’.
  • Liability - Does insurance come with the space?
  • Security - Children, Vulnerable Adults, Confidentiality.
  • Accessibility - will any of your group users be disabled? Are there public transport systems nearby? Is it easy to locate?

Bank account: either set up your own or use a 3rd party’s whilst you are establishing your group (a 3rd party can be a Buddy Group’s or your Support Agency’s account). You will need references, 2 signatories at different addresses (who are not in a relationship or related). This can take time. Think months! Most banks do ‘community’ / ‘association’ accounts for free. Remember to explore these.

Accounts system: a simple income and expenditure model is generally acceptable. Check with your local CVS for relevant, and probably free, training courses.

Insurance: will you be covered by the locations insurance? If not, consider getting advice from your Buddy Group or Support Agency. Most ‘activities‘ outside the building will probably need some form of cover. This may cost a few hundred pounds.

Decide if you need CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) Checks: these are essential if working with under 18s and desirable if working with vulnerable adults. Many funders require this. You may have to consider the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

So, you’ve thought everything through and now you’re sure you want to start a group!

Armed with your notes around all of these considerations and your early experiences of starting out, you should be ready to think about how the group is going to work in the long term. Below is a simple process for making sure your group gets up and running in the best way for making it through the long haul!

CONSTITUTION & OPERATING GUIDE

These are essential for almost ALL funders and are needed for the smooth running of most groups.

The Constitution deals with the more ‘legal’ side and must contain details of Governance meetings (board, AGM’s – all of those formal processes), aims, objectives, terms of reference and how the group will be wound up (a MUST for many funders).

The Operating Guide would be where the day to day running of the group is laid out and could include things like code of conduct, diversity statements, volunteer role description, how things should be done and conflict resolution policies.

REMEMBER:

  • Ask other groups and support agencies for ideas or look on the internet (see www.icebreakersmanchester.org.uk).
  • Decide if you need a constitution or operating rules and what type of group you are setting up (e.g. not for profit, unincorporated association, community group. A registered charity is a very different kettle of fish and will need lawyers to help set up).
  • Keep them simple.
  • Constitutions can only be altered at AGM’s whilst Operating Guides can be altered more regularly. The method for doing this can be built into the guide.

How to: Set up a group 2
Click to download a .pdf copy of this information.