Are you thinking about setting up a group in your community to look after a local green space or take action locally to improve the area for nature?
With some careful planning, you can make sure setting up your community group will be a success.
Initially, it’s worth taking some time to think about the activity you are planning to undertake and how you will run it. If you will be part of a small group, consider who will be responsible for what area of activity and document it. Good planning at this stage will save a lot of time and difficulty later on.
If you are planning to start a formal ‘Friends of’ group to carry our activity on an area of council-owned land, then you will need to contact the relevant council about this first.
If the land belongs to Sheffield City Council, you’ll need to contact the Countryside and Parks Service about this first. You can find their contact details and other supporting information here: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/parks-sport-recreation/friends-of-groups
Sheffield City Council have also produced a very helpful document – Starting a Community Group – which includes a great deal of useful information, such as how to create a Management Committee and officer roles, finances, insurance and more. They also provide a web page with lots of useful links for community groups for support, funding and advice: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-city-council/voluntary-community-faith-groups
In Rotherham, it’s worth making enquiries with Rotherham Federation and Voluntary Action Rotherham for initial advice. They can provide you with advice, support and identify suitable funding opportunities. If you’re planning to undertake an activity in a park or green space owned by Rotherham Council, you’ll need to make an enquiry with their Green Spaces team – find out more here: https://www.rotherham.gov.uk/parks-open-spaces/contact-green-spaces. You can also find out more about what’s already happening in your area, with contact details for your local councillors and neighbourhoods teams here: https://www.rotherham.gov.uk/neighbourhoods.
You may have already done a lot of work around setting up your group, but it’s always worth making sure your plans are well thought out. Have a look at the information below which may help your process.
Things to consider
• Working with partners/stakeholders
• Building and maintaining networks
• Engaging community members
• Managing resources
• Generating ideas
• Communicating effectively
• Links to insurance, legal structures, governance etc.
- Decide what type of activity you want to run and whether you need to set up a group.
Firstly, you need to decide what type of activity it is you wish to run and whether you need to set up a group to help you achieve this. If you do decide to set up a group, you need to decide where you want to run it, how often you will need to meet and who else might be involved. It’s worth doing some research into other similar groups or organisations in your area. Could you join an existing group or work together to develop something new, or improve an existing service? Could you share resources, premises and expertise?
- Do you need to get others on board?
Once you have established what type of activity it is you want to run, consider whether you want or need others to help make it happen. If you have the time, expertise, energy and commitment to do everything yourself you can get going. Alternatively, if you need organisers and volunteers you could spread the word through social networking sites or advertise in local newspapers or notice boards in community buildings, local shops, post offices, libraries or surgeries. If you are setting up a group, you might need a committee with someone to chair the
meetings, someone to write down what happens (a secretary) and someone who looks after any money (a treasurer).
- Do you need to create a plan of action?
It helps to be clear about all the jobs that you need to do and who is responsible for what activity, so it may be useful to create a plan of action. Ideally, your plan should explain what you or your group intends to do (otherwise referred to as Aims or Objectives), who you aim to help or serve and how you plan to do that. It may also help you to prioritise what you are doing. Make sure you include:
– what you hope to achieve or change as a result of the activity
– how often your activity will be run
– when and where the activity will be run
– who is involved, their position and what they are responsible for
– what resources you have available (individuals’ time, specialist skills or equipment etc)
– the value of funds you need to find through donations or fundraising to offer your activity
– a timetable showing when you expect to get things done
- Write a constitution.
A constitution is a document that sets out the rules for you or your group to help make it clear to everyone involved what you intend to do. As long as you are not a registered charity or a limited company, there are no legal rules about what your constitution should say. Once you have written and agreed it, it then becomes the ‘governing document’ of your group, and it should set out clearly how you intend to run it. A good constitution can help to resolve disputes and enable new members to fully participate in group activities. If you are going to apply for grant funding, this document will also show potential funders that you are well organised. For groups, it may also be worth documenting the following information in your constitution:
• The person in charge
• A first aider
• A designated person in charge of Health & Safety
• Agree how the committee will work with processes for decision making and resolving disputes
• A note of who the Treasurer and Secretary is
- Agree a name.
There are a number of reasons why it may be useful to give you, your group or activity a name, mainly for legal requirements. That aside, it will be a lot easier to refer to it by name and will make for easier promotion and a more professional approach. If you have been running an informal group you may already have a name. If not, perhaps something obvious springs to mind, deriving from the activity itself or your location. Alternatively, think of something unconventional that will make you stand out from the crowd or convey a message. A key thing you may wish to consider when choosing a name is to avoid duplication with other organisations in your area. As a start, use internet search engines to find out if anyone else is using the name. If they are operating in a different sector and their name is not a registered trademark, you may still be able to use it, but it is best to avoid duplication and potential misunderstandings wherever possible.
- Consider opening a bank account.
You may need to agree and record a way of handling money for the group or activity. As well as protecting the person responsible for holding the money, this will also protect the group money itself. Also, consider opening a separate bank account. Banks have many products and services on offer. It is worth shopping around to find the deal that best suits your needs.
- Get started!
This is not an exhaustive list of things you need to do, but it will help to get you started. If you do need any further information not provided here, contact Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org.