Administration issues

Organising your administration and finances

You are sure to find among your volunteers people who have had office and administrative experience. Have these people organise filing systems, methods of handling enquiries, budgeting, handling fees etc. If you are fortunate enough to have obtained "free" office space somewhere (perhaps courtesy of the local Council) that's great, but if not don't worry; many U3As operate quite successfully from the home of a member of the executive until, of course, membership grows so large that it is not possible to do so.

It is important to remember that you must not only do things correctly but must be seen to be doing so. Be meticulous in your dealings with your members and the general public.

Publication: The Newsletter and Programme

Newsletters play an important role in conveying information to your members and at the same time give a sense of belonging. You are sure to have a budding editor (or editors) among your membership! Distribute your Newsletter to all members and those who have expressed interest in joining your U3A. This does not need to be an elaborate publication. Here are some guidelines for the editorial team:

  • Provide information on current courses/activities, and on those planned for the future (perhaps at first it could be a combined Programme/Newsletter).
  • Avoid exploitation of your membership through commercial advertising. In fact, this is an issue you should address when developing your Constitution and policy statement.
  • Do not use material which smacks of ageism, racism, sexism, political/religious bias. Remember, your membership will be drawn from a wide spectrum of the community and will reflect vastly differing opinions/attitudes.
  • Encourage members to contribute; for example, letters suggesting courses/activities, articles reporting on an excursion, an anecdote (preferably amusing) which would be enjoyed by all, contributions from your Writers' Group, etc. etc.
  • Use the Newsletter as a means of recruiting more volunteers; reporting membership counts etc.
  • Be conscious of the requirements of the Copyright Act if you plan to use work already published.
  • When printing, remember those of your members whose eyesight is not quite what it used to be. Use a clear typeface/font which is not too small.
  • You will also need to issue a programme at the commencement of each term/semester. Some U3As combine the Programme with the Newsletter while others issue them separately. Try to obtain copies of a Newsletter/Programme from other U3As.

How do you know where other U3As are, you're asking?

  • Contact your Regional Adviser.
  • If you have access to the Internet, use the U3A Resources website.

Great! You're up and running, thanks to the efforts of the hard-working steering committee and that band of willing volunteers. Now you will need to call a GENERAL MEETING of the membership and call for nominations for executive positions: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and for a number of general Committee members. It is quite likely this Committee will be the same as the existing Steering Committee, but it does not have to be. The important issue here is that it needs to be democratically elected from among the membership.

Operational policies

Members of your Committee and other volunteers ought now to obtain as much information as possible about U3A. Contact an established U3A near you (or your Regional Adviser if you don't know of any) and seek their help. Ask if you can see a copy of their Constitution. Perhaps a member or members of their Committee might be willing to meet with your Committee. Remember that the NSW Council is always willing to help/support or even just lend a sympathetic ear to any problems you may have. We don't claim to have all the answers, but maybe we will know where to look!

Now is the time for you to put together a draft of policy and to establish your Constitution (i.e. set of rules for your organisation). This is essential, as it is surprising how soon the question of "…should we do this or that…?" arises. For example:

  • Should you accept sponsorship from any organisation which is in the business of selling services/products to your membership? While accepting that each U3A is autonomous and has the right to determine its own policy, Council does not recommend such a practice. By its very nature any U3A will contain people with widely varying backgrounds, wishes and opinions, and all of these should be taken into account when policies are formulated.
  • What form will membership fees take?
    • A flat fee which covers all classes. This is the most widely-used in Australia. Average fee is $25 – $35 per year. Sometimes a small additional fee might be charged as required for rental, photocopying etc.
    • Some U3As charge a lower fee (say $10 per year) and charge course fees for individual classes, i.e. a "user pays" system.

What about insurance?

As society becomes increasingly more litigious it is an issue which you need to address quickly. Insurance policies can be very costly. However, the U3A Network has been able to negotiate a Group Insurance Policy for its members and associate members. The policy is very comprehensive in its coverage and the premium is most affordable. For information about the policy, go to the Insurance Page.

Publicity

Publicity is important. Try to find a really enthusiastic volunteer to handle it. If they have contacts with the local newspaper/radio/television station, great! This can very quickly get your U3A known district-wide. Some U3As hold an Open Day on which prospective members can come and see what it's all about. Maybe you can obtain an information stall at the local Seniors or Life-Long Learning Weeks. Leave some leaflets at the local library and other senior citizens groups in your area.  There are more ideas about publicity in the Public Relations Handbook available on this website.  However, the very best form of publicity is "word-of-mouth". Many people have joined U3A because a friend or neighbour told them how much they were enjoying it.

Welcome to the U3A family

While your U3A will be autonomous, completely in control of its own destiny, it will benefit from interaction with other groups. Try to establish regular contact with those nearest to you. If you're lucky this will mean face-to-face contact. While the Australian "tyranny of distance" makes this impractical for some, there's always the telephone, the postal service and that modern marvel, the Internet. But above all, make contact with your Regional Adviser. He/she is eager to help you.

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