Setting up organisations

So, you’re thinking about starting up a new group or organisation. Why? Which of the following statements are true for you?

1. A group of individuals have come together and agreed that there is a need which is not being met in our area.

2. We’ve done our research and are sure that there is not an existing group which we could join which is seeking to address this need.

3. Between us, we have the right kind of skills and experience to run this group and we’re prepared to put in the time and resources necessary to make it work.

4. We’re clear about who would benefit from what we want to do and we can provide evidence that these people want or need what the group will do or provide.

5. At least three of us are willing to form the committee we’ll need and commit to meeting regularly.

If all of the statements are true for you, then it might be appropriate to start up a new group. Just to be clear, though:

1. If this is the idea of just one individual, it may not be the right thing to try to form a group. An individual can make things happen by their own individual actions and where one person has to persuade other people to join him/her, things may not work out in the long run.

2. There are thousands of charities, voluntary organisations and community groups already out there. Understandably, the general public and funders will need a lot of convincing that there is a need for yet another one. It may be that there’s an organisation with similar aims to yours, but you don’t like what they’re doing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to join them and influence what they’re doing from the inside, rather than competing for limited resources and beneficiaries?

3. However small the group and however modest its aims, it takes time and resources to make things happen. If you’re a group of like-minded individuals, you may have very similar backgrounds and experiences and may therefore lack certain skills. It’s usually more effective if the people running the group have a range of skills between them – organisational, marketing, finance, fund-raising, communications, creativity and secretarial skills may all be important. What about age? Many people start up groups when they’ve retired and have more time, but organisations can suffer when they’re dependent on an ageing committee which has less energy to carry forward ideas and little input from a younger generation of volunteers.

4. Just because it’s a good idea does not mean that other people will support it. You should be clear about exactly what the need is and what change you want to make. What do you want the outcomes of what your group does to be – what difference will you make to the lives of the people you’re setting out to help? If you get to the point of seeking funding from external sources to enable you to do what you want to do, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate exactly what the need is, what evidence you have that this need is not being met from elsewhere and exactly how the funding will enable your group to achieve positive outcomes and change.

5. People who want to get things done don’t necessarily like attending meetings, believe it or not! If you really want to start a group, rather than just getting on with it as individuals, you’ll need to get organised. This means, like it or not, that you’ll have to form some kind of committee and have regular meetings. It may be that the people who do the hands-on work of the group are not the same people who are on the committee, but it will be the committee who need to make decisions and keep the group on track.

Still thinking about setting up a new group or organisation? If so, the basics you’ll need to get started are:

  • A management committee (although you may just call it the committee at first)
  • A bank account in the name of the group, so the money the group receives and spends is clearly separate from the personal finances of those involved
  • A constitution: this is basically a set of rules, agreed by the committee, which sets out how the group is to be run
  • A plan for future activities, including your aims, objectives, resources and a timetable
  • Funding

If you've got this far, but are not sure what kind of a group you should be, our pages on organisational structures.

For more information contact our Business Support team on 01684 312730 or e-mail: