If you can bring together passionate, like-minded people, you could consider setting up a Charter Branch. Together you can bring the principles of the Charter for Trees, Woods and People to life in your community, shaping local policies to support the role of trees, and helping people understand their value.

Five things to consider before setting up your group

1. What will your group do that others aren’t doing already?

Do some research to see if there are other groups in your area and learn about their focus points – you may be able to join together.

2. Who needs your services and who will use them?

Do some market research. Approach people that could be directly affected by a development on a woodland site and ask what they want and need.

3. What do you need from your supporters and members?

Consider how many people you might need on your committee and what roles need to be filled before you put the word out. Think about the skill sets you might need and ask community members for their help.

4. Do you need funding?

If you are proposing large marketing campaigns and lots of publicity, you might want to apply for some funding.

  • Trusts will often only fund registered charities
  • Some will only support specific causes
  • Others, like the primary care trust or local authority, will need to see evidence of how you can help them meet their targets or priorities before they will consider funding your group
  • Examine the strategic plans for your area to see which statutory targets your proposed activities could meet.

5. Do you need a legal status?

There are many different types of not-for-profit structures - some even allow profit margins. Be aware that with a legal status comes a legal responsibility. Make sure you are absolutely clear what affects your organisation and the people within it.

How to start your local group

Establish a mission and constitution

As well as a set of rules, your group will need to develop appropriate policies in areas such as:

  • child protection
  • health and safety
  • confidentiality
  • equal opportunities.

If you have received public funding you will need to establish procedures to make sure you are spending it in the most effective way.

Continually evaluate your work

Funders will want to see evidence of the value of your work and the results of their investment.

  • Record how many activities or sessions you run and how many people benefit from them
  • Keep a clear profile of your service users, including age, gender and ethnic background, to prove the reach of your group and the effect of your work on the community
  • Take surveys and provide evaluation forms after activities.

All this information will help you to see what works and what doesn’t and will allow you to plan effectively for the future.