Step-by-step

If you are thinking about setting a local group up, or of reviving an old one, this guide is here to encourage you to do so and to make it easy. If you have any questions, please contact us at groups@humanism.org.uk.

Step 1 - First considerations

The first things to consider are where the group will be based and what it will be called.

  • Check that there is not already a group in the area.
    It may not matter if there is one near you, or one that says it covers your area.  For example: Devon Humanists meets in various locations around the county, including Plymouth.  A member of the group who lived there thought the city could sustain an independent group of its own.  After consulting with the Devon group and getting their support, he was able to set one up.
  • Make sure the area you would like to meet in has reliable and varied transport options, and is in or near a reasonably-sized population centre or centres.
  • Chose a short, simple and logical name - it is best to name the group after the town it is based in (e.g. Plymouth Humanists).

Step 2 - Contact the BHA

Please contact groups@humanism.org.uk and tell us that you are considering setting a group up.

Step 3 - Create a logo and style

Create a style (a 'look') for the group's on-line presence and paper-based materials. Once the group is an official BHA Partners and BHA Affiliates it will have the right to state ‘A Partner of the BHA’ or ‘An Affiliate of the BHA’ on its headed paper and other media, such as websites, and may use the relevant ‘Happy Human’ group image.  See Logos and Styles for further information and downloadable logos.

Step 4 - Create a ‘web presence’ 

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:
  • Enabling people to register as a member or supporter of your group;
  • Enabling people to sign-up to the group’s activities;
  • Providing a way for people to contact the group, and for the group to contact its members. 
See Promotion and Publicity to find out more.

Step 5 - Create an e-mail account 

Creating a dedicated e-mail account for the group is important because:

  • It means the group’s electronic correspondence is not connected to the personal account of any one individual.  When the person responsible for the account moves on, their successor can take it over easily.
  • It is better as a means for people contacting the group, as the address stays the same over time and does not have to change every time the officers change.

There are many simple and 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 Newton Humanists, your email should be something like newtonhumanists@gmail.com.  The more technologically advanced might set up dedicated domains so that they can have things like 'info@newtonhumanists.org' or 'chair@newtonhumanists.net' - but this is beyond the scope of this guidance.

Step 6 - Arrange a first event 

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:

  • It should be at a time and place that will allow the most people to come;
  • You will be addressing the attendees for part of it, so think about your choice of venue and what you will want to say;
  • The attendees will need to be somewhere they feel comfortable mingling and chatting;
  • It should be located in easy-reach of good public transport links and be accessible to people with special access needs (such as a wheelchair). 
A section of, or room in, a quiet pub would 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). Avoid meeting in someone's house, as this can be intimidating for new members.

See [Activities and Events] for ideas about different types of activities, and for advice on how to set up and run them.

See Speakers to find or recommend speakers.

Step 7 - Promote the group and its first event

In relation to the first event you should e-mail the organisations below and ask them to inform their members and contacts about your group and its first event. You can find a template for this communication here.
You should also use promote your group and its first event using the same methods as you would for future activities.  See Promotion and Publicity for further details.

Step 8 - Hold your first event

These are the things that you will need to do or say at your first event: 
  • Welcome everyone, thank them for coming, and introduce yourself and the other organisers.
  • Briefly outline the reasons for setting up the group.
  • Give a brief overview of atheism, humanism and secularism. See [Atheism, Humanism and Secularism] for a guide.
  • Say what the next steps in establishing the group will be, including: electing a committee; creating a constitution; and organising a programme of activities (give examples of the types of events that could be held in future).
  • Allow time for questions and say that people are welcome to approach you afterwards when everyone is mingling.
  • Have a sign-up sheet for people who would like to become members or supporters.
  • Tell everyone when the next event is planned or likely to be.
  • Mingle, chat and have fun! 

Step 9 - Elect a committee 

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.

Step 10 - BHA Partners and BHA Affiliates 

Each group is an independent entity, with its own leadership, membership arrangements, governance and financial accountability.  A group is not a branch of the BHA but is associated with it as a partner (all new groups and most existing ones) or, more loosely, as an affiliate (a minority of existing groups).  Each group signs a partnership agreement or an affiliate agreement with the BHA.  These agreements outline what both sides commit to do for it other, within the limits of the resources available, and of the capabilities and size of the group.  It is not a legally-binding document – either side can withdraw from the agreement if or when they want.

New groups

All new groups will become BHA partners.  It would be good to get an overview of the kinds of things that the BHA and a partner group commit to doing for each other, see Becoming a BHA Partner for details.

Existing groups
Existing groups can decide whether to become a BHA partner or a BHA affiliate. See Becoming a BHA Partner or BHA Affiliate group, which explains what this means and compares the differences.  The option you chose might affect your decisions about the group’s constitution and membership fees.  Once you have decided, please inform the BHA.

Step 11 - Create a constitution 

Your group will need to a constitution, and there are certain clauses that it must contain.  See Constitutions for details and for a model constitution.

Step 12 - Members and supporters 

Decide whether your group has a membership fee or not. Not all groups do.  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 without fees ask for voluntary donations from attendees at each event.

Define what a member is. Is it anyone who attends an event or signs up to a list?  Is it anyone who has paid the 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. 

Two common models:

Groups without membership fees
Is this model, members of the BHA are considered ‘group members’ and have voting and election rights. 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. 

Step 13 - Data Protection

To help get your group off the ground, the BHA will inform its members and supporters of the creation of your group. They might contact you directly, but might also give permission for their details to be passed onto you.  In the latter case, you will be able to email them to encourage them to come along and, hopefully, to become members or supporters of your group.  Any data relating to BHA members, however, must be treated in a certain way in order to ensure the proper use of that data, as required by the Data Protection Act.  As part of becoming a Partner of the BHA, your group's Chair or President will need to sign a Data Protection Agreement (which we will send you).  See 'Data Protection' to find out more.

Next steps 

By this stage your group should be well on its way to being up-and-running. Once the BHA has confirmed the arrangements, you should proceed to the next steps: Running a local group.

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