Has something been bugging you? No matter what it is, from a rough patch of grass that you’d like to see covered with flowers, to a passion for looking after old people, there might be a subject that has irritated you for years that you’d love to do something about.
It’s people just like you, who have a passion for a subject, that start, run and grow the thousands of community groups that operate in this country and contribute massively to making it a better place to live in. Don’t wait for someone else to take charge and sort it out, don’t be shy and hang back, because there’s an odds on chance that, without you doing something, ten years down the line you’ll still be grating your teeth!
So, how do you go about creating a group and scratching your itch?
To some extent, what you need to do first depends on what you want to sort out. If you want to start a Neighbourhood Watch for instance you need to contact the police, and you’ll find a separate article on that subject by following this link.
If you want to sort out a green, rough patch of grass, or park, then you need to contact your Council because they are the landowner and you’ll need their permission. Expect a warm welcome, because Councils love people like you who will help them, and they really need community support, so will do what they can to support you on your way.
If you want to provide support for old people or children in your area all that you might need to do in the first instance is gather together a group of mums or neighbours and start on your way.
It’s always a good idea to do some consultation, and find out what people think. Draw up a simple questionnaire, photocopy it and push it through letterboxes in your locality. You’ll be surprised at the response you get, which can vary from lacklustre to overwhelming, and don’t expect everyone to agree with each other or with you! At this stage, you can also call a public meeting because you’ll need a committee and a team of people to work with you to drive your ideas forward.
You can hold your meeting at most of the local libraries without any charge, in a local pub or cafe, or you can meet at a public building like Cleveleys Community Centre on Beach Road (where you will have to pay a small fee to hire a room). At your first meeting you should decide who will be on your committee and who will hold which posts. You’ll need a Chairman (which will probably end up being you!), a Secretary who takes the minutes, keeps records and handles the paperwork, a Treasurer to manage the money, and about half a dozen other committee members. About a dozen people is ideal, then meetings can still be held with a couple of people missing, and the team is big enough to manage practical projects and fundraising.
At this point you also need to decide some fundamental things. What is your group going to be called, what are you aiming to achieve, how often will you meet, how will you communicate with each other, you’ll need a bank account and to decide who will sign cheques, and other such basic things.
Draw up a meeting schedule and start to think about some milestones and what you would like to do overall – sort of a wishlist. Some of it will be achievable, some of it won’t, but it will give you an overall route to travel.
You can go away from these early meetings with some actions to complete, and report back on them at subsequent meetings, and start to gather some achievements under your belt which will spread the word about your group and make things gather momentum. You should contact your local Councillors too. Not only will they be able to help you with advice, they have access to small pots of money and will be able to help you to apply for some early funds to help you to get started with equipment or other expenses. A number funding streams exist to help small groups with amounts of money usually up to £500 – you’d be surprised at how much is available when you start looking.
There are some other things to consider as you grow and move forward. You should have a Constitution and a set of Objects – which is what the statement of your aims and mission are called. You might want to become a membership group and charge people to join as a way of raising funds to cover your costs. You might need to recruit new volunteers to help. If you are working with vulnerable children and old people outside your family and friends your volunteers might need CRB checking. If you have ambition and one thing leads to another you might want to become a Registered Charity. In that case you’ll have to receive £5000 to your bank account in one year and complete a formal application.
A number of official bodies can help you in your growth and development. Start with your local council who will be able to point you to lots of different sources of advice depending on your issue. You should also contact Wyre and Fylde Together – an organisation which supports community groups in the areas and is a great source of advice.
You’ll find that as your group grows that you will find out new bits of information and sources of advice on an ongoing basis, and down the line you’ll be amazed at what you’ve learned. The important thing is that you have the impetus to start because once you get moving the rest will become clear with time. The sense of achievement of knowing that you’ve made a difference is well worth having, and although there will be tough times and arguments, overall the friends that you make, the community that you grow and the things that you achieve will be well worth the downsides.
Good luck with what you want to do, and remember…
If you want something doing, do it yourself!
From community events, to small community groups. If you’ve got a will, you’ll find a way!