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Step by Step

If you are thinking about setting up a local group, or you are looking to reinstate an older group, this step by step guide is here to encourage you to do so and to make it easy. If you have any questions, please contact Humanists UK at groups@humanists.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. Have a look at the Local Groups Map on the Humanists UK’s Website to see if there is a local group in the area.  
  • Research the local area to make sure the area you would like to cover has reliable and varied transport options, and is in or near a reasonably-sized population centre.
  • Contact Humanists UK to say you are considering setting a group up as staff at Humanists UK can support you with the next steps. The support offered page gives an indication of what we might do.
If you have done the above and still wish to set up a group, move on to step 2.
Step 2 – Name your group

The standard structure for names of local groups should be “Location” Humanists. The ‘Location’ should be a city or town (such as ‘Plymouth Humanists’), however, if there is no obvious city or town, then a county or area (such as ‘Essex Humanists’ or ‘West Wales Humanists’) might be better. The naming convention is in line with the International Humanist movement, so try to keep you name as concise and memorable as possible.

Step 3 – 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 for updates of the group’s events and activities
  • Providing a way for people to contact the group, and for the group to contact its members. 
Social media websites such as FacebookTwitter, 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.
In the long term, you should aim to set up a Website for the group. Humanists UK can help with this, including providing you with a .humansistgroups.org.uk web address when and if you become a partner group.
We also recommend you create a Group e-mail account. This 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 also means people contacting the group will have the same address to email over time, as the address stays the same and does not change when the officers change.

Step 4 – 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 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 – 
  • Function rooms in pub clubs or members clubs  (some pubs offer these for free on weekday nights);
  • Cafes;
  • Meeting rooms in libraries;
  • Rooms in education institutions (Universities/colleges etc).

Do not hold your first event in someone’s house, as this can be intimidating for new members. You should let Humanists UK 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 Humanists UK’s groups map.  

You could also think about inviting a guest speaker for your first event. See the ‘Speakers‘ page to find or recommend speakers.

Step 5 – Promote the group and its first event

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 should ask Humanists UK (by email at groups@humanists.uk) to email local members and supporters and let them know about your first event. We also recommend that you email neighboring humanist groups to ask them to promote your event as well.

Step 6 – Hold your first event

These are some of the things that you may decide 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 humanism. 
  • Find out if there is enough interest to setting up a group.
  • Have a sign-up sheet for people who would like to become members or supporters.
  • Mingle, chat and have fun!

During the evening, you may want to do the following (or follow up with anyone who has given their email address on the sign up sheet):

  • Say what the next steps in establishing the group might be.  This may include electing a committee and organising a programme of activities. 
  • Allow time for questions and say that people are welcome to approach you afterwards when everyone is mingling.
  • Arranged a time, date and venue for a follow up events so you can inform attendees on the first night.

Once you have held your inaugural event, you should use any momentum and ideas you have arranging and promoting future events. Having lots of social and small scale events to build up a base of support before moving on to more formal activities is often a better way to ensure the group is likely to be sustainable.   

Step 7 – Elect a committee and create a constitution 

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 when it grows large enough to warrant it. The first step is to elect a committee, which consists of the main officers who will run the group, mainly the chair, secretary, and treasurer.

Once you have a committee, your group will need to write 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 Humanists UK). 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 Humanists UK are considered ‘group members’ and have voting and election rights. Humanists UK Members can confirm this status using a Humanists UK Memberships card. Non-Humanists UK 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. Humanists UK membership status is irrelevant in this model.

Step 8 – Become a Partner

A goal of this process, we hope, will be for your group to become a fully signed up Partner Group of Humanists UK. The advantages of this are laid out on the ‘Why become a Partner’ page. In order to do this, both organisations sign a Partnership Agreement, which states what each can expect from the other (within the limits of the resources available and considering the capabilities and size of the group). It is not a legally-binding agreement – either side can withdraw from it if and when they want. In practice it is a statement of the way the group and Humanists UK intend to work together. The minimum criteria for Partnership Status is – 

  • Have elected a Committee
  • Have 2 active officers who are also members of Humanists UK
  • 10 group members and/or at least a typical attendance of 6 people at its regular events
  • Sign the Child Safeguarding policy agreement
  • Sign the Data Protection agreement

Once a new group is established and has met the minimum criteria, the groups chair should sign the Partnership Agreement on behalf of the group. 

Once you become a Partner, Humanists UK has produced a number of guides that can help in running a local group. These include promotion and publicity, logos and styles, finances, and campaigning. These are all available on a special Partner Group platform.

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