Starting a voluntary organisation

Voluntary organisations serve the community or work to achieve specified aims for a group of people or a cause. Setting up an organisation involves the stages below.

You can get help setting up your group, and support at other times, from the Voluntary Action Organisations in East Sussex:

See the need for a group and research existing provision in area

Once you’ve identified a need or problem within your community and decided to set up a community group or organisation, you need to:

  • check no other group is already doing similar work to what you are proposing
  • consider if there is enough need for your group within the community or, if in response to a problem, whether the group will get enough support from other community members.

Information to check:

Outline the group's aims

Before you start you should try to outline your specific aims:

  • what the group aims to achieve
  • how the group will achieve these aims
  • who will benefit from the group
  • what geographical area the group will cover.

Get members

After you’ve identified exactly what you are aiming to achieve, your initial task is to find people who share this interest to become involved in the group.

Hold your first meeting

Advertise your first meeting with flyers and posters and social media. Choose a time and place to suit people who expressed an interest and also the wider public.

Start to plan

You should work out your priorities for action, the goals to be achieved and the tasks needed to achieve them.

Assign the role of chair, treasurer and secretary

Decide which members of the group are best placed to carry out which responsibilities and who will be on the management committee.

Generally, at least three people are needed – a chairperson, treasurer and a secretary.

Write a constitution

The constitution needs to:

  • outline the group’s aims and objectives
  • how these will be achieved
  • who is responsible for the group
  • rules concerning how new committee members will be elected and volunteers recruited
  • how the money will be managed.

You can ask the Councils for Voluntary Action (at the top of the page) to help you become a properly constituted organisation.

Open a bank account

One of the main criteria for applying for funding is that the bank account requires two signatories.

You should also enable a third person to be a signatory to cover sickness or absences.

Apply for funding or fundraise

Funds may be obtained through fundraising events or applying directly to external funders.

Your ability to secure funding may be helped if the group is accountable and holds regular meetings, including an annual general meeting. For fundraising purposes, usually you should hold general meetings every quarter.

To find sources of funding, see our Funding section.

Start work on your project

Your voluntary organisation is now ready to start work in the community.

It is very important to deliver your project successfully. You need to demonstrate to funders that you can manage a grant and provide what you are funded for effectively. For help with project management, monitoring and evaluation, see our guide Applying for funding.

If you have any questions, please contact our funding team.