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, many groups have set up a membership whereby people sign up as ‘members’ of their charity and, in some instances, pay an annual membership fee.
If you want to set up a membership scheme for your group, there are different ways to approach it. You could set up a membership scheme that people have to sign up to and renew periodically, and maybe pay a fee. This does require someone to administer it, and it can be quite onerous.
Suggested simple approach to ‘membership’
Rather than setting up a membership scheme, you could change your group’s constitution to include a definition of who is automatically classed as a member of your group. This simple approach was suggested by the Friends of Felixstowe Library, and is a logical way of creating a ‘membership’ without having to actually run a membership scheme. So, for example, you could define a member as a ‘regular customer of [name of library] who holds a valid Suffolk Libraries card’. You could include a tighter definition if you want by, for example, stipulating what you regard as a regular customer – perhaps a person who uses [name of library] at least 4 times per year. By doing this, there’s no need to hold any membership list, administer renewals or chase people for their annual membership fee. All you need to do is ensure that, if there’s the need for a vote on any formal business at any group meetings, the people voting meet the membership criteria outlined in your constitution. It’s very rare that any group ever needs to carry out a formal vote of their membership, and most of the people attending a formal meeting of the group would meet any membership criteria – therefore this is unlikely to present a challenge.