The Dystonia Society

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Looking after the group: Organising the group

This briefing paper provides guidance on how a local group might do to organise itself.   It is not a guide on “how to” but some information about how you might do things – as always read through and take ideas that work for you and your group.

Always remember there are lots of people to turn to for help when needed – Group Support & Development, other groups and UK Office – by working together we are stronger.

Does the group need a committee?

We do not expect meetings to be too formal (the only exception is dealing with money, read more… ) but each group should find a way of working that suits them.  Groups are not required to have a committee but it can make decision making easier for larger groups, just ensure the committee reports back to the main group.

We recommend that small groups with only one or two key volunteers make decisions as a whole group.  When this becomes too difficult (usually because the group is too big) or when three or more people take on key volunteer roles we suggest you consider setting up a committee that then reports back to the group as a whole.  It is also okay for the group to agree that a couple of volunteers can go away and organise a meeting or liaise with UK Office without having to consult back with the group on every decision.

How formal?

Agenda/programme: A group may like to prepare an agenda or programme to let people know what will happen at the meeting – will there be a speaker, does the group need to agree the details of an event etc.  The agenda or programme is a welcome to members and explains about the purpose and aims of the group and the meeting.  Some groups may choose to briefly describe the activities of the meeting in a letter or an invite without an agenda and others may not produce anything as the title of the meeting tells the whole story (eg coffee & chat).

Minutes/notes: Groups may find it useful (and in years to come it can be historically interesting) to keep a brief note/record of each meeting – especially if decisions are being taken.  It is essential that groups with financial responsibilities (ie those operating petty cash systems, a bank account or when holding an event involving money) maintain notes/records of their meetings, particularly where financial decisions are being taken. This does not need to be extensive or detailed – a simple note of any financial or important decisions taken, a record of reporting back on financial matters and a record of those present.  Notes/records must be made available to UK Office upon request. 

Decision Making: Decision making should be inclusive of the whole group, including a vote if necessary, and not limited to a few individuals. However, groups can delegate decisions to group volunteers where this is appropriate.  Group volunteers should report back to the group on decisions taken.

Making meetings happens

There are lots of things that need to be done to make sure a meeting happens.  Some jobs need to be done before the meeting and some during the meeting.  It is useful if you can engage others to help you out with this.  Don’t be afraid to ask people to help out, people respond particularly well to being asked to do a specific task.

Pre meeting jobs might include: organising a venue and content for the meeting; sorting out refreshments; and notifying people about the meeting.

At the meeting jobs might include: Setting up the room and clearing up afterwards; putting up a notice to say where the meeting is at the venue; refreshments; meet and greet (especially any new people); introductions (of members and speakers); recording (if necessary); looking after any money.

After the meeting jobs might include: Sending a thank you note to the speaker; following up any issues that arose as appropriate; writing up any notes etc.

Getting others to help out: Ask people to undertake small tasks (eg putting chairs out, organising the refreshments); if someone suggests a meeting idea see if they can help to organise it; ask people about their skills – how could they help the group?

A checklist for jobs you might need to do for a meeting can be found here.

Recording and reporting

It is not strictly necessary, as mentioned above, to keep minutes of meetings, however, the group is expected to report back annually on 3 elements:

Annual Financial Return:  at the end of each financial year all groups are required to provide a summary of their financial transactions (Read more…).

Annual Activity Report:  at the end of each financial year we ask groups to provide a summary of their activities and events for the year.  Groups can either do this from the knowledge held by the group volunteers or they can ask members to contribute their thoughts through discussion at a meeting or by asking them to fill in a questionnaire about the groups activities (an example can be found here).  Groups can either write a brief report or use the standard form (click here for form). This should be submitted to UK office by July each year.  The data will be used to update individual group pages and report on The Society’s activity.

Annual Volunteer Update:  Groups are also asked to update UK Office with details of who is currently volunteering with the group.  The Group Co-ordinator should notify UK Office of any changes during the year but should also provide an update at the end of each financial year.  This should be completed by the end of September each year.

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