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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first things to consider are where the group will be based and what it will be called.
Please contact email@example.com and tell us that you are considering setting a group up.
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.
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:
See Promotion and Publicity to find out more.
Creating a dedicated e-mail account for the group is important because:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The more technologically advanced might 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 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 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.
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.
These are the things that you will need to do or say at your first event:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Groups with membership fees
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.
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.
Setting a Group Up >