What is a community group and how to set one up?
If you’re looking to make a difference in your local community, then setting up a group which does just that, might be a great option for you. Usually, a community group is classed as a team of individuals, who help their local area through a number of different activities. This could be because you’ve noticed something lacking in your community and you want to help make a change to fulfil that need.
Many community groups often become an integral part of local life, especially as they usually offer their services and support for free, allowing local residents to access the group easily. Examples of community groups include youth support clubs, helping the elderly, or community interest projects, such as updating a park or building. If you want to give something back to your community through a group, it’s worthwhile researching what other community groups are out there and whether you can team up with them, or create your own.
You can use Our Lancashire’s website to search for community groups in your area.
A community group is defined by the following points:
- The group is not-for-profit, which means any money raised for or granted to the group must be invested back into the community or the project that your group is working on
- It should have a vested interest in the community benefit, whatever that interest might be, for example, youth services or the arts
- You can apply for funding through your community group, especially if you require equipment for your activities or project
- The group will be self-governed and you should have a management committee to help make decisions. You will find creating a group document useful, as it outlines the aim of the group and what you hope to achieve, giving you something to refer back to.
How to set a community group up
- Think about what you want your community group to do
Before you can get going with your community group, you need to decide on your aims and objectives and what you’re hoping to achieve from the activities and projects you might be undertaking.
Think about the changes you’re looking to make in your community, for example, you might have noticed an increase in young people hanging out on the streets at night, which is causing distress to local residents. Your aim might be to create a safe space for these young people to entertain themselves at night, keeping them off the streets and ensuring the local community feels safe.
This is a broad objective, as it means you’re not limiting yourself in the activities you might try out to achieve this goal. You might even add a date and measurable goal to your proposal, for example, you hope to have decreased the amount of young people, under the age of 18, hanging out on the streets by 20%, by the end of 2021.
Give yourself a few objectives, which all lead to your end goal. They don’t need to be in-depth or overly complicated; just enough that you have a focus and know what you’re setting out to achieve.
A great way to get started on a goal is to think about:
- Is there a target demographic you’re hoping to reach?
- Is there a particular area, neighbourhood, or street that you want to focus on?
- What changes are you going to make to the above?
Once you’ve outlined your goals and objectives, you can start to think about what you might need to reach them, such as volunteers, certain skill sets, and funding.
- Think about how much help you might need from other people
Once you’ve outlined the aim of your community group, think about how much work this might involve and what kind of skills or talents you’ll need to get there. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and you’ll find that lots of people in your local area actively want to help improve it – they just need to know how.
Volunteers and active members are crucial to the success of a community group. Without enthusiastic and involved people, you’ll find it difficult to achieve your goals. If you do have an idea for a community project or group, think about who you’d like to help you, such as friends, family, or work colleagues.
If you’re thinking about creating a committee, you’ll probably want at least three individuals to sit on it. This should include a chairperson, a treasurer, and a secretary – but you don’t have to follow this. It may just help form some kind of structure. Your committee will help ensure that the group is run properly and that your goals will be met. Without this structure in place, you may struggle to achieve what you set out to do. Your committee members should have different skill sets, such as leadership, management, marketing and communications, organisation etc.
It’s also helpful to have someone who has a background in legal matters, as this will be important as your community group grows and you receive more funding. Your group may expand the community group status and perhaps even become a charity or Community Interest Company (CIC), so it’s important to have a working knowledge of this, for when the time comes.
- Think about your plan of action
So what are the next steps? Once you’ve got a committee together, you can start thinking about your plan of action, which may start with researching what type of funding you can receive. This might come from your local authority, the National Lottery, and the government. You can apply for funding for community projects through the government’s website.
You should also create a governing document that outlines your goals and objectives and how you’re going to achieve this.
There are obviously the smaller points to deal with as well, such as setting up a bank account and deciding how often you’re going to meet. These kinds of things should be discussed during your first few meetings, as you can attribute tasks to certain individuals.
How to join one
Not sure you want to create a community group, but really want to make a difference in your local area? Perfect – you’re just want these community groups are looking for. Enthusiastic and engaged in your community, you’re eager to make a difference. Dependent on how involved you’d like to be, think about how much time you’re able to dedicate to the cause. This will probably depend on how much the group’s goals and objectives mean to you. For example, your passions may lie in animal rights or environmental conservation, so it would be preferable for you to find a community group that focuses on this issue.
Think about your skill set too – if you’re a social media guru, you might be asked to run the group’s social media accounts, but bear in mind that this may take up a lot of your spare time. You should make the group aware from the beginning what you think you can offer and how often you might be able to offer it.
To find a community group in your area, use the Our Lancashire group finder or contact us for more information.
For more information on how to start a community group, visit the Resource Centre online.