Part 1: Getting Started

Starting up a new group or formalising the work of an existing one can be both exciting AND daunting. In this short guide we hope to demystify the process and help you get off to a flying start. 

Shared vision

If you start out with a clear focus it can make life a lot easier. But to do that you need to talk about your idea, write it down and share it with others. Our top tip when starting out is to think in detail about what it is you want to change. Examples could include:

  • Wanting young people in your community to have more opportunities
  • Improving the appearance of your neighbourhood
  • Addressing negative attitudes about asylum seekers and refugees
  • Wanting to refurbish a community facility

It is important to discuss your idea with people around you to see if they feel the same way. You don’t need all the answers at this stage, just a sense that others share your concern and are willing to work with you. 


The structure of a group or organisation is important. Having the right structure is about how you make decisions, how you protect those involved from risk and – if you need funding – showing funders that as a group you operate in the right way. Many groups get bogged down in structures, or rush into choosing something that turns out to be wrong for them. Our advice is to take your time and speak to us about the many options out there. Often just to get started, the simplest form a group can take is that of an unincorporated voluntary association. There are model rules here

Do you know what is expected of a Chair, Secretary or Treasurer?

Committee skills

Doesn’t sound very exciting does it!? But many groups struggle because they don’t get this right. As you get your new group going it will be worth thinking about key roles and learning how to do these well. Do you know what is expected of a Chair, Secretary or Treasurer? As a group you will need to think about your training needs. The good news is that there is lots of guidance out there. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is a good starting point, with advice on legal and regulatory expectations. Groups can read more about them here

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account for your group can be a frustrating and bureaucratic process! If you are lucky enough to still have a branch near you, this might be a good starting point. Ask for a Treasurer Account. There are an increasing number of ethical banking options now too. If you want more advice on this get, in touch with us at MVA


Sometimes your activities may incur a risk, particularly for unincorporated groups where trustees holding positions on the board may be personally liable for claims against them. Because of this, you may need to research public liability (and other) forms of insurance. SCVO provide guidance and can be contacted for assistance on the types of insurance needed.

Vulnerable groups

One last thing to consider when starting out is whether your activities are going to involve children or vulnerable adults. If the answer to this question is yes, Disclosure Scotland should be contacted for information about the level and type of disclosures needed for staff and volunteers. Information about Disclosure and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme for volunteers can be found on Volunteer Scotland’s website.

As you can probably see, setting up a new group or organisation can be quite an involved process, if it is to be done well! It’s important to know that others have done this before you and you can speak to them through many of the events and activities we run as part of Midlothian TSI. So please, get in touch with us at any stage. We love hearing about new ideas to improve life for people in Midlothian.