From: Dave Middlemas

Sent: 28 October 2007 21:13
To: Valley Striders (Bob Jackson)
Cc: 'Paul White'
Subject: Constitution (and Committee!)


Sun 28 Oct


Bob/Paul/Sylvia/Geoff – following on from the AGM, please find below my first thoughts on revising the VS constitution (Bob – pls could you forward this message onto Sylvia and Geoff).


Perhaps I should just start by saying that my “qualifications” for commenting on what follows are that my day job is to advise voluntary organizations on issues such as legal/charitable status and governance (indeed some of resources linked to below have been produced by my employer). However, I should emphasise that in my job I can only work with organisations in Bradford, so what follows is being done purely in a voluntary capacity as a member of Valley Striders.


I suppose the first thing to say is that the discussion about revising the constitution prompts a potentially equally extensive discussion about the existing Committee of VS. As mentioned on my original email to Bob, whilst one main reason for working to an updated constitution is to allow all members to have a common understanding of club rules, the other is to clarify exactly who is responsible for what. At present, the “Committee” is the collective name we give to our “club officials”, ie - anyone who has volunteered to be responsible for an area of the club’s activities (or whose regular seat at Leo’s happens to coincide with the location of committee meetings!).


However, my view would be that the roles and responsibilities of a Committee of a voluntary organisation are different and more extensive than our current definition. I’d urge you at this point to have a look through the publication “What Management Committees Need to Know” (see link below – 1). The conventional responsibilities of a Committee are summarised on p.25 as: Direction, Accountability, Personnel Management, Legal Responsibilities, Managing Resources and Managing Itself. In practice this includes:

·         establishing the organisation’s aims and values and ensuring they are kept to

·         planning for the future of the organisation

·         taking into account members’ views

·         liaising with other organisations

·         managing volunteers

·         understanding the organisation’s legal status and liabilities of Committee members (it’s probably worth highlighting at this point that financial liability of an unincorporated association like VS ultimately rests on the individuals on the Committee – Committee members should probably be aware of that!)

·         understanding the organisation’s governing document (constitution) and ensuring that it is kept to

·         policies and procedures, where required

·         being responsible for the finances and any property/equipment

·         managing risks – financial, health and safety, insurance etc

·         ensuring the committee itself functions effectively, eg – holds regular, minuted meetings.


Hope this doesn’t sound too scary (it isn’t meant to), but this list is probably well over and above what members probably think they are taking on when they volunteer to be cross-country rep or whatever!


So, my initial suggestion is that we should make a distinction between our “club officials” and our “Committee” (which at present are the same thing) by electing a new Committee at the same meeting at which we adopt a revised constitution. The new Committee would be made up of members comfortable with taking on a Committee’s full responsibilities and would work to the provisions of the revised constitution.


And so on to the constitution, and please find attached my initial revised draft. I’ve based it on the Bradford CVS model constitution for unincorporated associations (see link – 2) which I’m familiar with and is regularly updated. However, to give it a VS/athletics club “flavour”, I’ve taken various bits from the old VS constitution (see our website) and the UK Athletics model constitution (see link – 3).


Before going into the detail, it’s probably worth emphasising initially that in proposing a revised constitution, I am assuming that we will be retaining our existing legal structure/status, namely that of a simple unincorporated association. There are theoretically several choices of structure/status (such as company, Community Amateur Sports Club, charity etc) that could influence what a constitution looks like. However, my view is that (certainly for the time being, as things can get fiendishly complicated on this subject), we keep things as simple as possible and stay as we are!


Looking at the revised draft, you may want to have a think about the following wording:

·         Name: is it Valley Striders or Valley Striders Athletics Club (or anything else)?

·         Objects: to keep things as simple as possible I have just adapted the wording from the old VS constitution.

·         Should officers (ie – Chair, Secretary, Treasurer) be elected by members (as at present) or by the Committee itself?

·         AGM: appointment of independent examiner, if required (although I’m aware that we don’t have our accounts independently examined, and don’t need them to be, it’s conventional to include this in a constitution in case we ever should).

·         Quorums for general and Committee meetings

·         Officers – in connection with my earlier comments, the constitution assumes that there would only be 3 officer roles on the Committee (Chair, Secretary and Treasurer); the other existing roles (which are better described as volunteer or ceremonial roles) would not be directly connected to being on the Committee.

·         Number on the Committee – I have suggested a minimum of 6 and maximum of 10.

·         Number of Committee meetings – I have suggested at least 3 separate, minuted Committee meetings per year (I am of course assuming that we will continue to have ongoing informal meetings as at present as well).

·         2 cheque signatories – is this as at present?


The final point to make, as alluded to earlier, is that to adopt a revised constitution we would need to call a Special General Meeting, as per the requirements of the constitution (and at the same time, I suggest, elect a new Committee).


I think that’s enough for the moment! Let me know what you think. I appreciate that I am suggesting some relatively major changes here, so we can take this as quickly or slowly as necessary. If we all need to meet up to talk about it let me know.


Hope this is useful.




Links to documents:

1. What Management Committees Need to Know: see under Other Publications on

2. Bradford CVS model constitution for unincorporated associations: see “Model Constitution” under Information Sheets on

3. UK Athletics model constitution: see Sample Constitution – Running Clubs on