Running a community project will require a range of structures, roles and processes. Having a well run organisation will help in key areas such as recruiting volunteers and securing financial support. However administration and governance can take up a lot of time and so its important to be aware of what is involved beforehand so that sufficient time is given to these tasks in your plans.
Well Run Meetings
Meetings are an essential part of running a community energy project and it is worth getting them right. Badly run meetings can rapidly discourage people from participating further while well run meetings will encourage them to bring their friends and help you to achieve your goals more quickly. Essentials of a well run meeting include:
- Giving proper notice to participants including the date, time, location and agenda
- A well structured agenda with set times allocated to each item on the schedule
- Effective chairing of the meeting including strict time management
- Accurate and concise minutes noting attendees, key decisions and agreed actions with defined owners and delivery dates – the minute taker should be separate to the chairperson
Making Use of Volunteers
Volunteers can bring a wealth of skills and experience to your organisation and in return they can gain from personal and professional development and the opportunity to give something back to their community. Recruitment can occur through word of mouth or more formally through your local volunteer centre and organisations like CSV.
Some professional associations encourage volunteering as part of professional development and maybe also able to provide connections. The Volunteer Cornwall website can be accessed here.
Practical things to consider before recruiting volunteers include:
- Clearly define what you want them to do to ensure they can achieve effective results
- Consider how you will manage them: agree a main contact and regular supervision
- Establish an expenses policy to cover common needs like travel, phone calls and childcare
- Define volunteer policies to ensure key issues that may arise have been considered
- Consider Liability Insurance to protect both you and your volunteers
Policies and Procedures
Defined policies and procedures will help to ensure that your project runs smoothly, that you have appropriate protections in place and will help get new people up to speed. Some essential areas to consider include Equal Opportunities, Volunteer Policies, Expenses, Data Protection, Confidentiality and Health and Safety. It is quite possible to cover all essential policies in one simple document.
Guides and model documents are available from a number of sources such as:
It is likely that you will need to deal with income and expenditure at some point during the life of your project. Good Financial Management is important if you want to secure financial support and is a key area of focus for regulators such as Companies House and the Charity Commission.
It’s worth getting good financial systems and practices established early on and the easiest way to do this is to get someone with financial expertise involved with your group. ‘MANGO’ provides a practical guide to financial management here. Voluntary sector organisations such as NCVO and regulatory organisations also provide information and guidance. You may also want to check the HMRC website, as only charities are exempt from tax.
Publicity and Engagement
If you want to get people involved and enthused about your project you will need to tell them about what you are up to!
There are many channels to choose from these days including newsletters websites and social media tools like facebook and twitter. However if you really want to engage with your community you will need to meet them face to face.
Visit local organisations, tell them what you are up to and ask for their help. Host a public meeting or host a regular stall at your local market. There will be many organisations in your area that could be interested to hear from you.