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Home Advice & Services Online Guidance and Toolkits 1. Setting up a community organisation

1. Setting up a community organisation

Interested in setting up a community organisation?

Being part of a community is good for psychological and physical well-being. Creating conditions for people to meet and work together in a productive way is fundamental to Community Life.

Many different types of activities have a place and value.  Examples of activities can include setting up a group to produce a community newspaper, a mother and toddler group, sports for kids, creative writing or the creation of a community business.

Starting off

Projects often start in the form of a vision of an individual person or a small group of people who perceive some particular need and have an idea of how that need might be addressed. For e.g. 'Our young people would benefit from a youth club' or 'There are elderly people who need support'.

Researching the idea

Once the idea is there, it needs further thought. What services already exist to meet the particular need? What are the gaps? Has someone already had this idea already and failed to make it work? If so, what are the lessons that can be learnt from this?

It is important to learn more about the community - what the reality is; what are its actual needs, strengths and weakness - and to allow thinking to be revised in the light of what is learned.

Be realistic

It is important to recognise what can be done in the short term and in order to do this you need to be realistic.

Aims and objectives

Following on from the above, aims and objectives need to be clear, realistic and achievable within a defined time scale. Aims represent the overall purpose of the organisation. Objectives are more specific and should be as precise as possible. They should set out the ways in which the organisation will seek to achieve its aims.

A useful model is to remember that objectives should be SMART – i.e.


Going public/Going ahead

A local audit has been carried out, aims and objectives have been set, support from other local organisations has been gained, the supportive steering group has done its work and funding is now in place. All that is now left to do is bite the bullet and go ahead with announcing it publically!

Publicity is vital for every community and voluntary organisation as without publicity, an organisation cannot recruit members, raise funds or inform people of its aims and objectives. Good publicity helps to project the best possible image to the public and every member of the organisation can help with this task.

Experience and research have shown that direct, individual publicity is likely to be more successful, but good publicity in any form will help to communication information to others, enable it to circulate and penetrate, attract new members, and so develop and strengthen the organisation.

A strategic approach

Before putting communication materials into place, it is vital to ask three questions:
  • Who? Identify the ‘target group’ (or groups). List everyone it is wanted/hoped/necessary to interest – and then choose and design the materials accordingly;
  • What? Be clear what needs to be communicated to these people and what it is hoped they will do in response (come to an event, spend money, approve resolutions … be as explicit as possible);
  • How? Think about how the target group may best be approached. Where or how do they spend their time (libraries, churches, mosques, watching television)? What papers or magazines do they read? What is their age-range? Will they be attracted by the presence of a particular personality at an event?

Creating your image

Reputations and fortunes are made – and as easily destroyed – by careful or careless presentation.
  • Be realistic – recognise your competitors and do not underestimate them (you could try to establish a co-operative working relationship)
  • Use multiple promotion methods – don’t forget friends, funders, members and trustees. Allocate realistic budgets for advertisements, flyers, conferences, website development etc.
  • Use national debates – have a say on relevant national policy formulation. Lobby your MPs and other political representatives
  • Importance of design – good-looking publicity with a consistent “house-style” is hugely valuable but hard to achieve. Develop a good design brief

For more information

If you would like more guidance on the above then all you need to do is select from the links below to download our set of publications.

If you would like to talk to one of our advisers, Submit your enquiry here... or you can call our advice service on 0845 847 4253 from 09.30 to 13.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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