step 1 - get startedstep 2 - make a planstep 3 - decide on membershipstep 4 - decide on charitable statusstep 5 - consider the risksstep 6 - decide on a structurestep 7 - write your constitutionstep 8 - next steps

Developing a new voluntary organisation will take careful planning to map out your big picture vision and pay attention to all the detail.

Time invested at the planning stages will pay off later as you develop a clear focus for your organisation and make decisions about how you will operate. It will also help you to ensure that everyone on your steering group or committee has a shared understanding of what you are trying to do and how you are trying to achieve it.

Decide on the level of detail

The complexity of your plan will depend on the ambitions of your organisation. If you aim to employ staff and handle significant amounts of money, you are going to need a more detailed and rigorous plan than one required by a group which is happy to stay small, informal and solely volunteer run.

Plan for action

Use your vision, mission and values as a starting place for developing your thinking about your new organisation. Work with your steering group and other volunteers to develop the detailed plan. Then, share out the tasks. Planning needs to be co-ordinated, but should never be the responsibility of one person.

The formal business of appointing trustees or committee members and assigning long term roles will follow, once you have decided on the right legal structure for your organisation.

Decide on a structure

You are not required by law to adopt a legal structure unless you aim to be registered as a charity, but there are benefits to any organisation in having a formal structure, particularly when things do not go to plan. It provides a framework and gives your group an identity, continuity, credibility and a means of establishing common objectives.

If you decide to adopt a formal structure you will need to make fundamental decisions about membership, charitable status and incorporation.

Write a business plan

Just as a business plan is an important step when planning a new business, your new organisation can benefit too. Voluntary Organisations need to go through the same rigorous planning process as any other business, thinking about marketing, finance and internal operations. A business plan will provide a solid foundation to build on in the future. Find out more about writing a business plan.