To ensure the smooth set-up and operation of your Shed there are some key areas to consider. Again, each Shed is individual so some of these tasks may be more relevant to your journey than others.
Creating a constitution (also known as a ‘governing document’)
In simple terms a constitution is a written agreement of what a group is going to do and how they are going to do it. It sets the aims and purposes of the group which it is bound by. This document is your basic starting point to have a clear idea of what your group is all about and show that you are democratic and accountable. For example, your constitution will be your guide for how you will run all meetings. Most constitutions include:
• Name of organisation
• Purpose of organisation
• Who runs the organisation?
• How meetings are held?
• What rules are in place?
• What happens if the organisation dissolves?
If you decide to gain charity status you will require a constitution. This document also gives funders an assurance that their funds will be spent in line with the aims of the constitution. Similarly, most sources of funding are only available to groups that have a registered bank account, and to get a bank account your group will need a constitution. For more information on how to write a constitution, visit the national voluntary organisation support webpages listed in the resources section at the back of the toolkit. You can also contact your national Men’s Shed Association for useful Shed specific templates.
Getting charity status
You may decide that you would like your Men’s Shed to become a registered charity with a distinctive legal form and a special tax status. It is free to become a registered charity and the benefits of this can include:
• Public recognition and trust
• The locking of assets for charitable/ social use
• Tax benefits and reduced rates
• Being looked on more favourably by funders/ more access to funding
However, there are legal obligations that come with being a charity, for example having a set of charity trustees, providing annual financial reports to charity regulators and creating a constitution. You will also need to decide what legal form your charity will take. There tends to be four main types of charity structure, however this can differ across the UK and Ireland:
• A charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)- Trustees have limited or no liability for charity debts or liabilities. All actions are taken under the charity name as a single entity.
• A charitable company (limited by guarantee)- an incorporated charity that also trades, employs staff, regularly enters contracts etc.
• An unincorporated charitable association- Trustees do have liability for charity debts or liabilities. You can’t employ staff or own premises.
• A charitable trust- a group of people (i.e. trustees) who manage assets such as money, land or buildings under a governing document.
For information on charity structures and how to become a charity please visit your national charity regulator webpages listed in the resources section at the back of the toolkit. You can also contact your national Men’s Shed Association for advice, or speak to other Men’s Sheds who have been through this process.
Creating a business plan
While this may seem a little strange for a voluntary organisation, a business plan can be important to plan for the future, and to be accountable to your members, funders and the public. It will help you to clarify your aims and objectives, identify potential risks and issues, set out goals and strategies and measure your progress. A business plan is also required if you wish to become a charity, and you will likely be asked for a business plan from funders. A typical business plan will include:
• A history or background to your Men’s Shed
• What future activities are planned and how you will achieve this?
• How you will source funding and financially sustain?
• How you will assess/deal with potential risks to your shed?
• How you will measure/ evaluate progress and growth?
• How you will monitor budgets and spending?
It is likely that plans might change as new opportunities or unexpected challenges arise. Similarly, different funders might ask different questions. Therefore, it might not be appropriate to produce a single formal document, but rather to regularly evaluate where your Shed is and what it’s plans are.
The key is to be as honest as possible and not to set unachievable goals. For more information about how to create a business plan please visit the national voluntary organisation support webpages listed in the resources section at the back of the toolkit. You can also contact your national Men’s Shed Association for examples of previous Shed business plans.
Getting a bank account
If you are a constituted group generating funds through memberships or donations you will require a bank account in the Shed name. Accounts are available from most banks for small voluntary organisations/charities so contact your bank to see what they offer. You will need to provide proof of your voluntary or charity status and that you are not a private business (this could be your constitution or charity number).
Up-to-date financial records (or projections if you are a new group) will need to be produced for the following reasons:
• To provide financial transparency to your members and to plan for the future
• To send to the charity regulator (usually annually but can be on request)
• If applying for funding (part of the application process)
• If applying to public authorities for premises (part of the application process)
This might be the job of the treasurer, but other members can also provide help. A financial record may include monthly or annual income and expenditure, records of any funding received, a list of assets, and where you have financial reserves or deficit. The amount of information you are required to offer can depend on how much income your Shed receives and who is asking for the information. For more information on financial reporting visit the national voluntary organisation support webpages listed in the resources section at the back of the toolkit.
Core administration tasks
There are core administration tasks that may also require attention when running your Shed depending on the scale of your activities. Here are some examples of things to consider:
• Membership- recording member contact details (and keeping this up to date), recording who has been trained on machinery, collecting membership fees
• Communication- contacting members and relevant stakeholders via email or telephone, drafting letters, answering enquires, chairing and organising meetings
• Advertisement/ promotion- setting up and running social media accounts, designing and distributing leaflets, organising promotional events, contacting media outlets, engaging with the community
• Funding- searching for funding opportunities, writing applications, organising fundraising activities, coming up with ideas to generate other income (see funding sections in Part 1 and 2).
These tasks may fall to committee members, however, finding others who are willing to help out can be important to ease the workload. The sharing of tasks can also be important to promote group responsibility, and can also provide members with a sense of purpose and routine in their lives where this may have been lost.
Training and knowledge sharing
Whether your Shed offers only a few small activities or a wide range, you will likely require members who can share their knowledge and experiences and train others to use equipment and machinery. Sometimes members may naturally fall into roles based on their expertise. For example, someone with health and safety experience may take charge of doing risk assessments; or an ex-carpenter may want to take charge of overseeing a woodwork area. It can be useful to gather information from new members when they join about the skills they possess. It is also helpful to gauge their willingness to share their skills and knowledge with others as some may not want to take on any responsibility.
Some Sheds may choose to take a more formal route and draw up rotas, workshop manuals and introduce training schedules. This can work well to keep track of who has been trained on particular machinery. An example of a type of training checklist is shown that could be used. There is no one way to organise training and knowledge sharing, it is simply about what works best for your Shed.