If you are thinking about setting up a local group, or you are looking to reinstate an older group, this guide is here to encourage you to do so and to make it easy. If you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com.
Starting a group is quite simple, just follow the steps below. If you have any questions or concerns at any stage, please feel free to contact the BHA at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first things to consider are where the group will be based and what it will be called.
If you have done the above and still wish to set up a group, you should read through the rest of this guide as well as the other guides on the 'Setting a Group up' section of this Hub.
Per the Partnership Agreement, the standard structure for names of local groups is "Location" Humanists. The 'Location' can be a town (such as 'Plymouth Humanists'), county or area (such as 'Essex Humanists' 'West Wales Humanists') or a combination of the two (such as 'Hull and East Riding Humanists'). The naming convention is in line with the international Humanist movement. Try to keep you name short, concise, and memorable.
Creating a dedicated e-mail account for the group is important because:
A BHA email account
If you are a new Partner Group, the BHA can provide you with an email address which can be accessed through gmail. It will follow the 'email@example.com' format (firstname.lastname@example.org for example). More information about email accounts can be found on the Hub IT Guide and you can contact the Group, Sections, and Membership Coordinator on email@example.com.
There are other free ways of setting up an email account. Two of the most popular providers are Google Mail and Hotmail, all you have to do is click on the links and follow the instructions. Remember to choose a logical name: if your group is called Cardiff Humanists, your email should be something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are particularly technologically advanced you might want to set up dedicated domains so that they can have things like 'email@example.com' or 'firstname.lastname@example.org' - but this is beyond the scope of this guidance.
Having a ‘web presence’ is crucial because it will be the main way that people find out about your group and its activities. It can also be used for other important functions, such as:
Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Meetup all provide free accounts and are very useful for local groups wishing to promote themselves. Facebook and Meetup are especially useful for promoting your first event. See Promotion and Publicity to find out more.
In the long term, you should aim to set up a Website for the group. The BHA can help with this, including providing you with a .humansistgroups.org.uk web address (see the IT Guide for advice on this).
Having an event to put on your group’s first promotional material is a good way to grab people’s attention. It will be an opportunity to launch the group and to find other people in your area willing to help out. When arranging your first event, consider the following:
A section of, or room in, a quiet pub may be suitable; or a room in a local business or institution (e.g. a cafe that would normally be shut that might stay open for you).
Venues used by local groups have included -
Try to avoid meeting in someone's house, as this can be intimidating for new members. You should let the BHA know of the venue you choose as they can record this on your group's record and it will be used for your group's marker on the BHA's groups map.
You could also think about inviting a guest speaker for your first meeting. See the 'Speakers' page to find or recommend speakers.
It is now time to tell people that your group is holding it's inaugural event . If you have set up a Facebook or Meetup account, you should set an event page. This will give you a link you can share as you promote your event.
In relation to the first event you may want to e-mail the organisations below and ask them to inform their members and contacts about your group and its first event.
These are some of the things that you may decide to do or say at your first event:
Once you have held your inaugural meeting, you should use any momentum and ideas you have arranging and promoting future meetings.
During the initial stages of setting a group up it is quite acceptable for the people doing all the work to be self appointed, but you will need to formalise and democratise the structure of the group at some stage within the first six months or so. The first step is to elect a committee, which consists of the officers who will run the group. See Committees and Officers to find out about the officers and their responsibilities.
Your group will need to a constitution, and there are certain clauses that it should contain. See Constitutions for details and for a model constitution that you can use as a template for your group.
It is important that groups define what a member is. Is it anyone who attends an event or signs up to a list? Is it anyone who has paid a membership fee? Some groups distinguish between members and supporters, where the former have the right to vote at general meetings and to stand for election to the committee, and the latter do not.
Group membership fees/subscriptions
It is up to groups to decide whether or not to charge a membership fee. Fees can be used to pay for any legitimate group-related activities (such as the hiring of rooms, providing refreshments, and paying the group’s annual fee to the BHA). Some groups choose to not charge a fee and raise fund by, for example. asking for voluntary donations from attendees at each event.
There are two common models:
Groups without membership fees - In this model, members of the BHA are considered ‘group members’ and have voting and election rights. BHA Members can confirm this status using a BHA Memberships card. Non-BHA members are considered ‘group supporters’ and can be anyone who attends an event or is on the group’s mailing list, or similar arrangement. Group income can be raised through voluntary contributions at each event and at fund-raising events. This is an open and flexible model, and allows people to feel free to turn up without having to commit to paying a fee. It also provides a regular income throughout the year.
Groups with membership fees - Only group members have voting and election rights, and are those people who have paid the fees. Group supporters are anyone else who attends events or is signed up to mailing lists. There might be restrictions on which events supporters can attend for free. BHA membership status is irrelevant in this model.
The goal of this process is for your group to become a fully signed up Partner Group of the BHA. The minimum criteria for Partnership Status is outlined in the Partnership Agreement -
Once a new group is established and has met the minimum criteria, the groups chair or president should sign the Partnership Agreement on behalf of the group. This outlines what the relationship between the BHA and the Group. For more information, see the 'Becoming a BHA Partner'.
By the time your group has become a Partner, you should be well established with a regular membership and a programme of events,. The BHA has produced a number of guides that can help in Running a local group. These include -
Setting a group Up >