Membership of library community groups

Membership schemes – things to consider

Each library community group should have a ‘membership’ and that membership has a role to play in the running of the charity, which will be outlined in your group’s constitution. For example, the trustees of the group should be elected by the members, from the members. And, if a group wants to change their constitution, this needs to be voted and agreed by the membership at a meeting of the membership – either the AGM or an ad hoc meeting of the membership.

So, groups should set up some kind of membership scheme enabling people to sign up as ‘members’ of their charity. Many groups will have this up and running. Some may have set it up initially but let it slip. Some may not have set a membership scheme up at all.

If you need to set up a membership scheme, there are different ways to approach it. Do you charge or do you make it free? How long should membership last? The small charities constitution states three years, but groups could adopt a different duration. Who is going to administer the scheme and make sure that renewals are managed properly? What are the benefits of membership?

Suggested simple membership scheme

You may have someone on your group who is keen to administer a membership scheme, including keeping a record of and chasing up renewals and collecting membership fees.
However, if your group does not have a membership scheme and you are looking for a simple way to approach it, you could:

• Make membership free so you don’t have to worry about collecting money from people.
• Make the membership duration indefinite (until the person instructs the group that they want their membership to cease).
• Link membership to a community group e-newsletter

So, you could create a simple membership form which staff could hand out to library customers and frame it by saying something like:

“[name of friends group] is a small charity made up of volunteers who are passionate about helping and supporting [name of library]. You can support us by signing up to our email newsletter about what we’re up to and what’s happening at [name of library]. Subscribers to the newsletter also automatically become a member of the charity which enables you to attend the AGM and other meetings of the membership, and get involved in the charity if you wish.”

We suggest that you collect names and email addresses – nothing else – and just make sure you have some kind of GDPR (data protection) type statement on there that says something like:

“We will only contact you regarding issues relating to [name of library] and the work of [name of friends group] and not about anything else. We will not share your data with any other party. If you wish to be removed from the newsletter and stop being a member of [name of friends group], please email [email address] and we will delete you from our records.”

Of course, you will still need someone to take responsibility for managing the membership list and creating the members newsletter, and they will need to adhere to GDPR (data protection) guidelines in doing so, which you can find here. However, this is probably the easiest way of ensuring that you have a membership as it doesn’t involve collecting money and avoids the work involved in keeping a record of when membership is expiring.

You can find a simple template membership form, based on this model, here. 

Ensure your ‘membership’ is given the opportunity get involved in the charity

It’s important that you remember to invite all of your members to the AGM and, in doing so, invite them to stand as a trustee on the group. If the trustees wish to make changes to the constitution, they should communicate this to the membership and invite them to a meeting at which they will vote on the proposed change. This meeting could be the AGM, but a group could call a special meeting for this purpose. As well as these formal functions, the membership of a group could be a source of volunteers to help with events, activities and initiatives, so it’s worth promoting such opportunities in your communications with the membership.

As always, if you have any questions on this, please contact us.