Your first meeting

Setting up your first meeting can seem quite complicated if you have never done anything similar before. Below are some guidelines that should remind you of the small things that it is so easy to forget.

Where should we hold the meeting?

The meeting should be organised in a facility that is local to your park or open space, and as open and accessible to as many community members as possible.

Remember that there will be a range of people attending your meeting including older age people, parents of young children and possibly wheelchair users. Facilities such as schools, churches and community rooms are commonly used as meeting places as they usually offer toilets, parking and easy access to the building.

When should we hold the meeting?

Give yourself at least 3 weeks to organise your first meeting, this will give interested parties the chance to make arrangements so that they can attend. Your meeting should be organised at a time when most people in the community are able to come along, late afternoon/evening meetings are good because they allow community members who work to attend the meetings. Following meetings can be held at whatever times suit the majority of your group best.

Who should we invite?

As a community group, you need to involve as many people as possible, therefore your meeting should be advertised as much as possible. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising; however, posters and leaflets are also beneficial if they are put in the right place. Schools, shops, clubs and the park itself are great places to put advertising for your meeting. Some groups also choose to invite their local councillors.

What do we need to do?

All meetings held by your group should have an agenda (what is to be included in the meeting) and all meetings should be minuted. Minutes do not have to be a complete copy of everything that is said in the meeting, they should reflect the major themes that are discussed in the meetings with any action points marked against a name. Minutes should also record the names of the people who have attended, and any apologies sent for the meeting.

Choosing a constitution

The next step involves choosing a constitution: a set of rules that defines how the group is run, what they do and how they work. The writing of a constitution gives you the chance to decide what things are important to your group. A constitution becomes necessary as soon as your group starts to deal with money issues such as funding or starts working with other groups.

Having a constitution is also essential if your group wants to register as a charity with the Charities Commission. This is a requirement for all organisations with a charitable purpose and an income of over £5,000 per year.

The constitution of your group does not have to be complicated, but it should reflect how you wish your group to be managed. Your group does not have to start from scratch when deciding on a constitution, parts of other groups’ constitutions can be used. Your group will probably have a copy of a constitution they wish to adopt; however, the group need to formally adopt it at the AGM. To adopt the constitution the group has to agree upon it and the committee has to sign it.

You also need to choose a name for your group- many of the groups in our local area choose ‘Friends of … Park’. This establishes a clear link to the park and becomes all-encompassing of a supporting friendly network of people who enjoy the park and its facilities.

What the constitution should cover

  1. Group name – To reflect where the group work.
  2. Geographical/Operational Area – The physical boundary of the group’s interest
  3. Aims – The long term aims and the short-term
  4. Powers – Identifying what a group can do to achieve its aims. These might include:
  5. Membership – Identification of who can join the group and what is expected of members.
  6. Meetings – The arrangements for committee meetings, general meetings, annual general meetings, and extraordinary general meetings. As well as internal group meetings you may decide to run open meetings for the public and other interested parties
  7. Officers – Setting out what roles can be held and their purpose.
  8. Executive Committee – The structure of the committee, roles of committee members, any conditions that members undertaking these roles may be subject to and how members will be elected to, and resign from, committee posts and roles
  9. Declaration of interest –Setting out any conditions where members may not be eligible for officer roles and/or voting.
  10. Expenses of administration and application of funds – Setting out how accounts shall be settled and documented and for what purpose funds may be spent.
  11. Amendments to constitution – Setting out timeframes, support required and conditions for passing any changes.
  12. Winding Up – How and why the group can be dissolved and what happens to any funds.
Model Constitution
An example of a constitution for friends and volunteer groups.