How to set up a community group
Setting up a community group can be an enriching and beneficial experience for all those involved. Being able to come together to do something productive such as help others or provide support is an integral part of community life.
What is a community group?
A community group is an organised collective of people with similar interests or aims. They’re usually started by an individual or group of people who feel there is a lack of something in their community. Here are some examples of such community groups:
- An activity club for young people
- A support group for the elderly
- A project to raise funds for a new park or community garden
How to form a community group
Once you have your vision, there are various factors that need to be considered. Good planning and thorough forethought at the initial stages can save a lot of wasted effort further down the line. Here are some questions to consider if you’re thinking of starting your own community group:
- Does something similar already exist?
- How can I make this group successful?
- What will the group be like?
Do your homework
When setting up a community group, doing your research is key. You’ll need to know if there’s any demand for such a group within your community. One way to find out could be to send out a survey to see who in your community would be interested in joining the group. You might even find someone willing to help you set it up.
Learn from others
Now that you know people want your community group idea to happen, it’s time to start planning how you’ll make it happen. A great way to start is to research any similar groups that existed in the past. What happened to them? Did a lack of interest cause them to trail off, or did they fail for another reason? Find out the pitfalls of other groups and learn from their mistakes.
Set aims and objectives
In order to make a clear and straightforward plan, your community group’s aims and objectives should be defined at the outset. Use SMART methodology to make the most of your goal-setting. SMART goals are:
For example, a poor goal might be ‘I want to set up a support group for the elderly’. A SMART goal could say ‘I want to be providing tea, coffee, cake and conversation to at least three elderly members of the community once a week by the end of the summer.’ If you need assistance with this, contact your local council who should be able to help get you started.
Committee and management roles
Once your community group is up and running, chances are you won’t want to be managing it all on your own. You’ll need a team of committee members with a variety of skills to run the organisation. The key roles are:
As leader of the committee, the chair will oversee the group’s direction and act as a leader. This could include:
- Working with the secretary to prepare meeting agendas
- Leading meetings
- Ensuring actions from previous meetings are completed
- Managing the recruitment and training of committee members
Depending on the size and impact of your community group, you might need a vice chair to take on some of these responsibilities as well.
The secretary’s role is wide-ranging, amounting to ensuring the smooth running of your community group. Their responsibilities might include:
- Preparing meeting minutes
- Taking notes
- Distributing responsibilities
- Keeping member databases updated
Your group’s secretary might also have responsibility for arranging insurance, marketing and events.
The treasurer is responsible for looking after the financial operations of the group. They should:
- Ensure accounting is undertaken correctly
- Budget for the future
- Inform any fundraising efforts
A treasurer should also be aware of what needs to be submitted to the Charity Commission and when. Further details are available on the Charity Commission website.
Do you plan to generate funds through donations at events, membership fees or grants? Cash flow is a significant factor for any charity or non-profit organisation. It’s important to make sure you have enough income to stay afloat, and this can be particularly difficult over the first 12 months.
As a community-based organisation, you may be eligible to apply for funding or a grant.
Your volunteers or staff will likely need training for their roles. Think about whether you have the experience or skills within your group required to run certain activities. If not, you may need some guidance on training volunteers.
If you need access to equipment or outside expertise, consider approaching local organisations. Explain that the group is at a very early stage in its life. They may offer a discount or even provide their services free of charge.
Finding a place to meet
Village halls and community centres may be ideal bases for your group - many are at the heart of the community, accessible and low cost. If you want to lower costs even more, you could consider holding meetings at the homes of group members.
Try to announce meetings well in advance. Even if you meet only once a month, it’s worth setting out a list of meeting dates for the year so that your members can plan ahead.
Do community groups need public liability insurance?
If you are using a third party property to host your meeting, you’ll need to take out public liability insurance. This will cover you if you damage the property in any way during use. In fact, many landlords or local authorities will require this insurance before allowing you to hold any events at their premises.
On the other hand, you’ll need a different form of insurance if your group is going to own its own building. Property damage insurance will protect your premises and their contents against theft, fire, flood and other disasters. If you’re unsure which insurance you’ll need for your community group, read more about community group insurance so you can make the best decision.
How to open a bank account for a community group
Regardless of the aims of your community group, you’ll almost certainly need a bank account. Most high street banks offer accounts for non-profit organisations so you should be able to find one for you. This will allow your group to start depositing funds and authorising signatories who’ll have access to the account.
Give some thought to which provider to go with - as well as ethical considerations, you’ll also want to think about what is local, what is convenient, and what is least costly. An ethical account may be better for your group than a ‘standard’ group account.
Once aims and objectives have been set out and funding and insurance are in place, it’s time to let the public know about your community group. Adverts should include all the important information, such as:
- What your group is about
- Where you’ll be holding meetings
- How often you’ll be meeting
- Contact details or a link to a website if applicable
The type of promotion you use depends heavily on your target audience. If they are active online, consider using social networks such as Facebook and Instagram to spread the word. If they tend not to use the internet or emails, consider flyers, or adverts in a local newspaper.
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