Writing a Constitution

A Constitution is a set of rules stating what your group wants to achieve and how it will be run.

Why do you need a Constitution?

Some groups feel that they do not want to be so formal as to have a Constitution. There are many groups of friends or acquaintances who meet together informally for years for a specific purpose and who do not have a Constitution and feel they can manage very
well without rules.

However, when a group embarks on certain activities or takes on responsibilities, then more formality is needed. An example of this is raising funds to provide a service to the community, then writing a set of rules would become a priority.

A group would require a Constitution if it wanted to:

  • Open a Bank Account
  • Apply for grants or funding
  • Register as a Charity
  • Provide certain services in the community

Other advantages to having a Constitution:

  • The exercise of drawing up your Constitution allows your group to think carefully about its aims and objectives and its proposed activities.
  • It sets out how your group will run and avoids disagreements in the future.
  • It gives people, such as funders, credibility in your group. They can see you have adequate systems in place such as sound financial management and accountability to your members.
  • People who are joining your group can clearly see what your aims are and can decide whether they support them.

What needs to be in a Constitution?

Name of the Group – Try to choose a name that will reflect your aims.

Aims (or Objects) Clause – This sets out what you want to do and any geographical boundaries within which you want to work. If your group intends to register as a charity then this clause needs to contain aims that are completely charitable. Even if you do not register as a charity, prospective funders (e.g. Community Fund) may consider whether your aims are charitable when deciding whether to make a grant to your organisation.

Powers – This sets out all the things you are going to do to achieve your aims. These are not directly charitable and so need to be kept separate from the Aims. They include such activities as:

  • Raising funds
  • Working with other agencies
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Employing staff
  • Taking out insurances
  • Taking premises on lease

It is also advisable to include a power to ‘do all such other things as will enable the organisation to achieve its Aims’

Membership – Describes who can become a member of your group or organisation; people who want to help achieve the aims.

Management Committee – This is the body responsible for running the group.

Committee Meetings – This clause sets out details of how the Management Committee carries out its business.

General Meetings – Arrangements for Annual General Meetings and other General Meetings should be set out. This will include how much notice members will be given and how they will be advised of general meetings.

Finances – Details should be in the Constitution of how the finances of the group will be handled.

Constitution Changes – It is important to include a Clause about how alterations
can be made to the Constitution; usually requiring a special general meeting.

Further details of the clauses in the Constitution can be found in the How Guide:
HOW - Writing a Constitution  Acrobat document 260Kb

Last Modified: 24 Jun 2013
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