How to set up a new group

Step One – finding potential members

Form a contact list of interested people. Send an email to anyone you know who might be interested and ask them to forward it to their contacts. You could put a poster up somewhere where woody people shop or socialise. Check online on the Coppice Products website or search for coppice related businesses in your area. Check with the NCFed secretary if there have been any other enquiries for your area. Ask related groups if they would promote your new group to their members (Wildlife Trusts, woodworking clubs, forest contracting organisations)

Step Two – choose a model

Invite them to a meeting.

In a pub or hotel, this is usually free as they are glad of the trade. Can be noisy unless they have a separate room and then they may charge. In someone’s house but then you will soon need a teabag and biscuit kitty if it is not going to be a burden.

This can remain informal and totally democratic and based on mutual trust and esteem but if you decide you want to do anything beyond getting together to chat you may find some structure useful.

  • The group will need a named representative who will be the point of contact for all NCFed business and responsible for circulating information on to their members.
  • To affiliate with NCFed all you need is a minimum of 10 named members all paying £2 each to NCFed.
  • Your membership could be 10 scattered coppice workers over the whole of the Highlands, or 10 members of a coppice co – op in a city setting, or 10 people from your county or forest.
  • Decide whether your group will be constituted (see below for guidance) or remain informal.
  • Make sure you register your group with NCFed by contacting the Membership Secretary email……

Who we are

Form a committee

The main issue with groups is Who is going to do the work? A committee can allow a more shared sense of responsibility and a clearly defined way of allocating jobs and not getting stuck with one person doing it for all time. If you have any dealings with money (even just a pot to contribute to for room hire etc.) you will need a Treasurer . Anyone can do this, they just need to have a book to write the ins and outs in and be trusted to keep the cash in a tin. Or perhaps open a bank account which can take weeks to achieve.

The Secretary takes responsibility for letting people know when the meetings are and keeping a track of who is involved. They may send out an agenda if you start to need to be business-like and have a list of topics to stick to. Ideally they take the minutes of the meeting (a written record of what is decided and action points that is circulated and agreed as correct by the committee at the next meeting). Then you will need someone to Chair the group.

The Chair can just do that, chair the meetings and have a casting vote if things get sticky. They can offer some sort of leadership and keep an eye on the bigger picture of where the group is going and what needs doing. They do shoulder the main responsibility for the actions of the group.

Other officers can be appointed as needed such as website coordinator, or events manager or sub-committees formed to work on specific issues.

The ‘rules’ of the group are set out in a constitution or governing document. These can be downloaded or borrowed from a similar group and written to suit yourselves. They get adopted at a meeting and this is minuted so that everyone knows where they stand.

Legal structures

Unincorporated Association

An Unincorporated Association has a basic constitution and a membership. It is easy to set up but with little legal structure to allow for things like land ownership or employment and some restriction on fund raising. No need to report to anyone apart from the membership as per the constitution.
www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au/incorporated-association… (I know it is Australian but seemed really good)

Charitable Trust

One of the more time consuming options, as getting Charity Commission endorsement can take time. Good for fundraising, grant applications but not great in terms of liability of Trustees. It relies on trust that everyone will behave in an honourable way, in the best interests of the Trust (not negligent, or dishonest). Annual reporting to the CC with audited accounts. www.charitycommission.gov.uk/…/model-governing-documents

Not for profit- Company limited by guarantee – (NCFed)

Not difficult to set up as you can download the model documents. You do need to register with Company House and report with audited accounts each year and there is a cost to this. The committee are known as directors and each have a limited liability set in the constitution and usually just £1. Good for land ownership, tenancies, employment or any kind of legal undertaking.

http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/tableA/index.shtml

Community Interest Company

Not simple to set up but good for groups that have a common interest.

https://www.gov.uk/set-up-a-social-enterprise

Co-operatives

As above

Volunteer vs funded workers

Many groups get set up with some sort of seed funding perhaps with a paid post this can be brilliant to get things started but in fact it is very difficult to then become a voluntary organisation. A strong volunteer base with a number of key players sharing the jobs and responsibility is the most sustainable model. You can always pay for some of the less popular jobs to be done if the group becomes more solvent.

What your group may offer its members

Local networking

Meetings, talks, work parties, exhibitions.

Newsletter

Website

Members listings of products and services

Stands at shows/ public awareness

Affiliation with the NCFed – with access to the many perks!