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Wednesday 26 November, 1-2pm – Live discussion

Home The Just Act Forum Ask a question… Wednesday 26 November, 1-2pm – Live discussion

This topic contains 22 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Elizabeth Elizabeth 2 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #8457
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    Hi everyone,

    This month’s live discussion will take place from 1-2pm, Wednesday 26 November.

    We’ll be joined by Sarah Bishton, one of Community Matters‘ advisors.

    Sarah will be sharing pearls of wisdom on some of the more ‘technical’ bits of running a community organisation, such as managing buildings and writing constitutions, and pointing you in the right direction to find great tips and advice.

    Join us to ask questions, share your own experience and get some great tips on best practice.

    Looking forward to it – see you then!

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Profile photo of Elizabeth Elizabeth.
    #8810
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    Hello, I’m Sarah Bishton. I’m one of the advisers for Community Matters advice line service. I’m very happy to join you at 1pm for the online forum.

    #8811
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    Hi everyone and welcome to this month’s live chat.

    Here’s a little bit on how it will all work – we’re joined by Sarah from the Community Matters advice team and she’ll be sharing tips and advice.

    I’ll be asking some questions to get us going but if you have any questions of your own, do jump in and ask! We’ll also be asking for your thoughts on these things too, so please be brave and share your own experiences.

    To get us started… Is anyone here who’d like to introduce themselves?

    #8812
    Profile photo of David
    David
    Participant

    Hi David here from Stewkley Enterprise Agency

    #8813
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    Hello Lizzy – I’m online and ready to take questions.

    #8814
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    Hi Sarah! Great to have you here.

    My first question: is there any advice that you give to community projects who are just getting started? Do groups in their early stages tend to have similar questions?

    #8815
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    A large majority of the calls we take on our advice line are about which type of organisation would suit best. We ask groups about their actvities, what they’re set up to achieve, if they’re doing any sort of trading activity – we then take them through the pros and cons of potential organisational structures. For example we recently advised a group who were looking at becoming either a Community Interest Company (social enterprise) or a registered Charity (incorporated). We went through both structures in detail – in the end they decided to go for an incorporated Charity (CIO) structure because mainly 1. their aims / activities were charitable in nature 2. they would receive mandatory rate relief on their community building as a registered Charity. We advise Communinty Groups, Local Authorities and Community / Voluntary Action on setting up community projects / groups. If someone approaches us where what they’re set up to acheive is beyond our areas of expertise, we sign post them to other agenices. For instance we were recently asked to advise an organisation specialising in relieving people with a particular medical condition and we advised them to approach their local Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) for assistance.
    (groups can find their nearest CVS at www. navca.org.uk )
    We provide a range of advice / guidance in this area. As an example I’ve attached one of our guidance notes ‘setting up a community organisation’ which goes through things that groups should consider at the start.

    Attachments:
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    #8817
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    Thanks Sarah – what are the benefits of having a formal, constituted structure for a group?

    Did any groups here struggle when they were trying to decide what kind of organisation to create? How did you overcome this?

    #8818
    Profile photo of David
    David
    Participant

    Hi Lizzy – Hopefully this will submit – David (Stewkley Enterprise Agency)

    #8819
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    being constituted can help in a variety of ways. It gives the organisation a management tool – objectives, furtherance powers, how to operate / make decisions, appoint trustees / committee members are all outlined in the constitution. Some constitutions are more simple / straight forward than others, it really depends on the type of legal structure you want to go for. There’s a variety of templates available – Community Matters provide model governing documents for Community Associations which includes the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), Charitable Company, Charitable Unincorporated Association and a basic constitution for small groups). Other national bodies like the Parent Teachers Association and Pre School Learning Alliance produce their own model constitutions. The Charity Commission provide generic model governing documents for unincorporated associations, Trusts, Charitable Companies and the new CIO structure.
    In my experience, the main driver for most groups who become formally constituted is that grant givers / funding bodies will only consider constituted groups as part of their basic eligibility criteria. I also think being constituted promotes and increases external confidence (e.g. the Local Authority) in the integrity and sustainability of the organisation.

    #8820
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    Some great tips in there Sarah – especially what you said about funders only considering constituted groups.

    In your experience, do you find that groups struggle with legal things like picking an organisation stucture or writing their constitution – when they really want to be focusing on their community? Do you have any tips for making this process easier?

    Groups – does this strike a chord with you? Do you wish you had more time to just focus on your community?

    #8821
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    We’re often approached by individuals who have great ideas about setting up projects or initiatives that benefit their communities. The most common stumbling block is that they don’t have wider support or any knowledge as to what’s involved in setting up an organisation. In some cases, we suggest that they do a mapping exercise of what’s already in existence in their locality in terms of voluntary and community groups, why re-invent the wheel if you they can join forces with something already in existence without the overarching burden of management and administration responsibilities. Another stumbling block can be choosing the right structure from the start – groups often choose structures based on fulfilling criteria for funding applications, tax reliefs, rate relief, potential liabilities, they often don’t consider long term management and regulatory requirements involved with certain structures. the best advice is – really do your research on the advantages and disadvantages of the structures you’re considering, often the guidance in this area can be quite onerous and overcomplicated, Community Matter’s guidance and advice in this area uses plain, practical language.
    In terms of other legal issues / red tape It really all depends on a number of variables e.g. their activities, geographical location etc. For example Local Authorities across the UK take different approaches to ‘Community Asset Transfer’. I’ve worked on asset transfer cases where the Local Authority takes a positive approach offering long term leases (25yr+) on peppercorn rents to community associations. I’ve worked with other Local Authorities where they’ve expected full business planning, an incorporated structure, commercial rents with short terms leases. Red tape and legal issues are usually dependent on the individual circumstances involved. Community groups can struggle with legal issues: Lease negotiation, occupation . management of buildings, employment law, contract law to name a few example areas. Community Matters offers free legal advice to its members on matters such as lease checks. We also work with a law firm Decherts to provide free legal advice, we make referrals on behalf of community groups (placing the case is subject to availability / expertise within the law firm). The partnership service we have with the law firm is open to members and non members. Community Groups can also apply online directly to Law Works for free legal advice at http://www.lawworks.org.uk

    #8822
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    All great advice, Sarah.

    What about forming committees, management boards and recruiting trustees – do you have any tips on how to find the best people for your group? And how to involve people and make the most of their skills?

    #8823
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    If a group is constituted then the constitution should set out how the committee are elected or appointed. the basic considerations to avoid trouble are that there is no majority vote on a committee where the people are connected in some way (e.g. relative), signatories to any bank account are unconnected, any conflict of interests are declared and managed.
    In terms of getting the best out of people – a skills audit of the management committee would enable you to build on and utilise existing strengths but also help identify where your weak areas are. I’ve attached an example skills audit. Recruiting, selecting and inducting new committee members/trustees is key – the Charity Commission produce useful tools in this area e.g. RS1 which is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/trustee-recruitment-selection-and-induction-rs1
    If groups experience difficulties in finding new committee members or volunteers, they can also contact their local volunteering bureau/centre who may be able to help or advise (usually easily found using google).

    Attachments:
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    #8825
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Member

    I was wondering about community buildings – what are the first steps groups should take if they’re thinking about owning or building a premises?

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