Your first step will be to hold a public meeting to gauge the interest in your community. Here are some suggested steps:
- A good place to start is at your local Council. Many U3As report success with this approach. Council will often help with publicity and venue. After all, it is positive publicity for them as well!
- We are assuming Council has provided a venue. If not, you must find/book one. Try to have it accessible by public transport.
- Publicise, publicise publicise. Use your local library, local newspapers, radio, television. Persuade friendly local businesses to allow you to place a poster in their premises. Don't forget the local doctors, dentists, health centre.
- Personal contact is invaluable. There is nothing like word-of-mouth promotion. Mention the upcoming meeting to as many people as possible. If you have some influential contacts in the community, by all means use them.
- Make sure that your meeting is well organised and well run, and that you explain clearly exactly what you are seeking to do. Try to have a speaker from a nearby U3A. (A list of member U3As is enclosed with this kit.) Contact the U3A Network to see if a member could attend as speaker.
- Aim to elect a steering committee at this meeting. Have a meeting of this committee shortly after the public meeting and arrange to present a couple of courses as soon as possible. Don't wait to present courses until all the fine detail of administration is in place. If you do this, much of the initial enthusiasm/interest will have been lost.
- At the Public Meeting record the names/addresses of those present who express an interest in joining the new organisation. If you can actually sign up potential members at this meeting you have a flying start. (Membership can be confirmed once your steering committee has set the annual fee.)
As already stated, it is important that your steering committee meets promptly and that you offer courses as soon as practicable. Don't have all the work done by a few people. Enroll as many volunteers from among the membership as you can. As well as getting things done and spreading the workload it will encourage in your members the belief that you get out of U3A what you put in. This attitude will serve your organisation well as years go by.
Another important decision you will need to face at this point is the structure of your U3A. Try and draft a Constitution as soon as you can so everyone knows the Rules and By-laws, so avoiding confusion. Many U3As have already done this, so seek help and advice from a nearby group. Council is always there to help you, but remember it will be YOUR needs and wishes that must be taken into consideration. When coming to these decisions, you will need to decide whether or not to Incorporate your association under the Associations Incorporation Act. This will involve payment of a small fee but it does protect your committee members and your organisation. If you incorporate you will need to appoint a Public Officer and an Honorary Auditor. Details of how to incorporate may be obtained from your nearest office of the Department of Fair Trading (a listing is provided in Section (D) of this kit) or by contacting the Secretary of the U3A Network (NSW) who will provide you with photocopies of the information required.
You now need to set up a programme of courses for your first full term/semester. Some U3As operate on a 3-term year, others on a semester system. You will need to call upon those willing volunteers to sift application forms. If you included on your membership application form questions about interests and skills you will be surprised at the riches you uncover! This information can be used to guide you in your range of courses and to identify those among your membership who may be potential group leaders/tutors. You will need someone to coordinate the programme, someone to produce information about courses available and make this information known to members and someone to handle enrollments. There are several ways to handle these tasks, but it is strongly advised that no matter what strategies you employ you make sure that several members of your steering committee are responsible for implementing them As mentioned previously, many hands make light work.
See the Resources Library and Course Ideas pages for some existing course material provided by other U3a's.