Basic Introduction: Writing a Constitution

What is a constitution?

A constitution sets out the aims of a community group or charity. It makes clear the rules about who can join, how the group will be run and how finances will be managed. It offers a great chance for everyone interested in getting your group up-and-running to have their say on your vision and talk through any potential issues before you get started.

Why bother? Well, there are a few reasons, it can strengthen your group by setting out clear aims that you all work toward. It can prevent any future disagreements by putting set procedures in place from the beginning. A clear constitution can also really help you out when it comes to making bids for funding and a lot of funding bodies ask to see evidence of governing documents before they are willing to proceed with assessing your grant applications.

What should I include?

The following topics tend to be included in a constitution:

  • Name of Organisation
  • Aims/Objectives
  • Powers
  • Membership
  • Meetings
  • Management Committee
  • Finance
  • Alterations to the Constitution
  • Dissolution

Of course, as this document will form the basis of how you govern your organisation, you need to adapt the content to suit your own specific needs. Take a look at examples you find online, see what similar groups or organisations have drafted for their own use and see what clauses might be useful to include in your own document when you come to write it.

Think of it as being a point on a map, you need to include accurate details to show where you are currently and what you have in place to help you remain in this position.  You can’t include every detail and it isn’t necessary to get from A to B, but you need to provide enough information so that anyone could pick up the document and see exactly who you are, how you are formed, who makes the decisions and when they do.

Tips

As we mentioned, check out a few constitutions that other groups with similar aims have drawn up for inspiration BUT don’t be tempted to just cut and paste – your constitution should be written to suit YOUR needs, not THEIRS!

Set aside time to discuss your content and to re-draft the constitution to ensure that everyone gets to have their say.

Formally adopt your constitution at a general meeting so all your members feel involved in the process. You will need two current members to sign and date it.

Constitutions don’t have to be long to be impressive. Try and keep things concise and precise. If you can, avoid any jargon too as it is meant to be a public facing document. Your readers will thank you.

It may seem strange to think about dissolution if you are just starting up your group but it is important that funders know what will happen to your assets should your group disband – and trust us, it can save a lot of arguments further down the road.

Example Constitution

This simple two-page constitution was drafted for a small community association based in Goole and covers all the bases necessary for their needs whilst remaining short and to the point.

mariners-association-constitution-pdf

Active Outcomes have drafted constitutions for a number of groups and organisations and if you feel you’d like to outsource the process we’d be happy to discuss your needs, get in touch via info@activeoutcomes.co.uk.

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