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An overview of everything you need to think about when starting your own group

There is a lot to consider when setting up a new voluntary or community group from scratch. All sorts of questions will need answering and once your group is up and running it will need to be well managed to continue delivering effectively. Having a plan of action and plenty of guidance and support will help.

1. People

Community groups and voluntary organisations are not ‘one person shows’ – there must be at least three people who are prepared to take on responsibility for the new group or organisation; three people who are prepared to serve on a committee, as trustees of the group.

2. Values

Every group or organisation should have values. They are the principles upon which your organisation will be built and then flourish. Take some time to discuss what the values of your new organisation will be and write them down – keep it simple!

Things you may want to think about are: justice, equality, diversity, empowerment, respect; human rights, disability.

Think about what your group wants to do, and what will influence the ways it does that. For example, a community centre might have values such as:

To treat everyone who uses the centre as equals. To recognise that everyone in the community has a contribution to make. To respect everyone who uses the centre

3. Vision

What kind of world does your group want to see? What will the existence of your group or organisation help to bring about?

Answering these question will help you to define the vision of your organisation.

For example the vision of the British Deaf Association is: “to see a world where deaf people who use sign language enjoy the same rights, responsibilities , opportunities and quality of life as everyone.”

4. Mission

Your mission will sum up in one sentence what your organisation does.

For example: “Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of women and children in poor and marginalised communities.”

5. Objects

Objects are about your purpose; they are your aims and sometimes the formal name used for aims is “objects”.

If you are not sure about your aims are then write downwhatyou intend to do (your activities), then ask yourselfwhyyou want to do that – the ”why” will bring out the object.

For example: An organisation provides information and support to the Eastern European community. Why do they  do this? To reduce isolation in their community; the object therefore is: to reduce social isolation.

Your objects are really important because an organisation is only allowed by law to work within its objects.

6. Area of Benefit

This is an important decision – by law your organisation can only carry out your activities within the area that has been specified (usually in your governing document). So consider the geographical location and intended reach carefully, for example, will you carry out work:

  • Only in your local area or ward?
  • Throughout the City of Leeds?
  • Throughout the Metropolitan District of Leeds – including Otley to the west, Wetherby to the north and Morley to the south?
  • In the whole of West Yorkshire? I.e the districts of: Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.
  • Potentially throughout England and Wales? Or even internationally – if so which countries will you serve?

7. Type of Organisation

It is essential that you seek advice about the type of the organisation that you intend to set up as there are a number of choices and different reasons for each.

The legal structure you choose will determine what kind of organisation you will be and the rules you’ll need to follow.

There is detailed information about types of organisation and how to choose a legal structure to suit your needs here on The Charity Commission website. Your type of organisation will generally be one of the following; Unincorporated Association, Trust, Company, Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), Community Interest Company (CIC) (more info about this type on the .gov website here) or Registered Society (previously known as Industrial and Provident Society) (more info about this type on the FCA website here)

8. Governing Documents

All groups need to write and agree a set of rules outlining exactly what you aim to do and how you intend to do it, this will be your governing document. The legal structure of your organisation will determine which kind of governing document you’ll need to create – the details of what to include and the format varies between different governance documents. 

Your organisation will only have one governing document, the table below specifies which legal structure requires which governing document.

    Legal Structure of Organisation

    Governing Document Required

   Unincorporated Association    Constitution
   Trust    Trust Deed
   Company Limited by Guarantee    Memorandum and Articles of Association
   Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)    Constitution
   Community Interest Company (CIC)    Memorandum and Articles of Association
   Registered Society    Rules

9. Choosing a name

You’ve probably already thought about it at this point but… what is the name of your group or organisation going to be?

To check the rules about naming and to make sure that no other organisation is using a similar one visit The Charity Commission website.

10. Finances

It’s crucial to begin with sound financial systems in place as this will underpin the work of your organisation in the future. There are four financial foundation stones that will help you build a robust organisation, these are:

  1. Planning: looking ahead at anticipated financial activity
  2. Recording: maintaining a structured record of your organisation’s financial transactions
  3. Reporting: informing management committee, members, funders, regulators and other stakeholders about the finances
  4. Procedures: committing to rules to help to prevent error and fraud and keep your finances on track

We cover much more detail about managing finances ​on the Finance page.

Training

Find sessions relating to starting a new group

Regular training courses are scheduled on a range of subjects that would be helpful for people who are in the process of starting a new charitable group, or would like to.

To find out more about upcoming courses and how to book visit the Training page or start your search now.

Here’s a handy checklist to help you consider if you have everything you need in place:

 

The organisation:
People:
  • Legal structure
  • Bank account
  • Policies and procedures
  • Governance
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Action planning and business planning
  • Needs of users
  • Employment policies and procedures
  • Volunteers policies and procedures
  • Safeguarding policies and procedures
The building:

  • Legal matters: ownership, licences, insurance
  • Health and safety including: Risk assessments, Security, Fire and emergency evacuation, First aid, Food hygiene
  • Bills: Rent, Utilities, business tax, heating and lighting, cleaning
  • Furniture and equipment including inventory
  • IT infrastructure
  • Rules

 

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