Guide Volunteering with Parks and Gardens & Creating a Friends Group

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6. Running your Friends Group

Running your Friends Group

Your first meeting

Setting up your first meeting can seem daunting if group members have no similar experience, so the notes below may help.

Where should we hold the meeting?

The meeting should be held in a facility that is local to the green space, and as open, accessible and inclusive to as many community members as possible – there may be a range of people attending your meeting, including the elderly, parents of young children and 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, which will give those interested 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, such as late afternoon/evening, to allow community members who work to attend the meetings. Following meetings can then be held at whatever times best suit the majority of your best.

Who should we invite?

As a community group, you will need to involve as many people as possible, which means you should promote/advertise it as much as possible. Some groups also choose to invite their local councillor(s).

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 record the names of the people who have attended, have minutes taken by a nominee to record the discussed themes and mark action points marked against a name. Minutes should also record any apologies sent for the meeting from usual attendees.

How do we make a constitution?

A constitution is a set of rules that defines how the Friends Group is run, what its members do and how they work. A constitution becomes necessary as soon as your group starts to deal with money, such as funding, or starts working with other groups. Writing a constitution gives a group the opportunity to decide which issues are important to the group. Having a constitution is also essential if your group wants to register as a charity with the Charities Commission, which is a requirement for all organisations with a charitable purpose and an annual income of over £5,000.

Your group’s constitution, rather than being complicated, should simply reflect how you wish your group to be managed. The group can adopt and add minor amendments to another group’s constitution, but to do so, the whole group has to agree upon it and the committee has to sign it.

You also need to choose a name for your group – many groups choose ‘Friends of … Park’, which establishes a clear link to the green space and becomes all-encompassing of a supporting, friendly network of people who enjoy the green space and its facilities. One of East Devon’s Friends Groups is named ‘Friends of The Byes’.

What should the constitution cover?
  1. Group name – to highlight the group’s area of influence.
  2. Geographical/Operational Area – the physical boundary of the group’s interest.
  3. Aims – the group’s long-term and the short-term aims.
  4. Powers – to identify how a group can achieve its aims.
  5. Membership – who can join, whether there is a small annual cost and the expectations of members.
  6. Meetings – the arrangements for committee meetings.
  7. Officers – setting out what roles can be held and their purpose.
  8. Executive Committee – the structure of the committee; roles of committee members, conditions that members undertaking these roles may be subject to, and how members will be elected (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 are be recorded/settled and for the purposes funds are 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.