Advice to Group Conveners

The U3A movement is non-religious and non-political. Each U3A is independent, and largely makes its own rules within these national principles.

The Third Age Principle

Membership of a U3A is open to all in their third age, which is defined not by a particular age but by a period in life in which full time employment has ceased. Members promote the values of lifelong learning and the positive attributes of belonging to a U3A. Members should do all they can to ensure that people wanting to join a U3A can do so.

The Self-help Learning Principle

Members form Interest Groups covering as wide a range of topics and activities as they desire; by the members, for the members. No qualifications are sought or offered. Learning is for its own sake, with enjoyment being the prime motive, not qualifications or awards. There is no distinction between the learners and the teachers; they are all U3A members.

The Mutual Aid Principle

Each U3A is a mutual aid organisation, operationally independent but a member of The Third Age Trust, which requires adherence to the guiding principles of the U3A movement. No payments are made to members for services rendered to any U3A. Each U3A is self-funded with membership subscriptions and costs kept as low as possible. Outside financial assistance should only be sought if it does not imperil the integrity of the U3A movement. Further national advice is at

>Establishment of a Group

1. Within the U3A principles and any CE&DU3A guidance, conveners and group members are largely free to run their groups as they wish.
2. A joint group with other U3As can be set up if, for instance, a group is otherwise not viable. The specific approval of each U3A’s Committee is required.
3. There are no fixed terms; a group decides what breaks it wants for holidays.
4. When you set up a group:
◼︎ Make an email address group list.
◼︎ Email everyone on the list, reminding them of date, time, frequency, venue and what the group will do. You can repeat what’s on the website, because many won’t have read it. Ask them to confirm that they want to join your group.
5. You may have more people wanting to join than you have space for. But, expect:
◼︎ Half, perhaps, won’t confirm their interest.
◼︎ Not everyone will turn up for every meeting (maybe a 75% attendance rate), so do accept more than you have room for. If you want 12 at a meeting, have a group of 16.
◼︎ There will be early turnover too, as some members decide the group’s not what they expected, or they’re too busy. So, it’s sensible to keep a waiting list, maybe equal to 25%. So, for a group of 16 (of whom you’d expect 12 to attend any one meeting), you should perhaps have a waiting list of 4.
◼︎ You may decide to change your initial plans in order to accommodate more members, such as moving to a bigger venue or having helpers.
◼︎ You can also ask people to offer to help convene or host a second group. Tell them it’s easy and fun, and that a tentative offer from them isn’t a commitment. The groups organiser – – is happy to meet them to discuss possibilities (with or without you, as you prefer).

In Meetings

6. Check that recruits to groups are CE&DU3A members, by seeing their card or asking the membership secretary –
7. You may let people come to one meeting without proof of membership, but, (though use your discretion) not subsequently. If a person’s membership has not been renewed, there is a 2-month grace period during which the person is still covered by the U3A’s insurance.
8. Some U3As allow non-U3A members or members of other U3As to attend a group on a “taster” basis. We don’t (other than relating to 8 above), because it’s such an uncertain practice. Similarly, we do not offer a discount on the membership fee to members of our U3A who belong to another U3A as well.
9. Make a list of group members & keep a register of attendance (this is in case of an insurance claim).
10. Record any accidents & report them to the CE&DU3A secretary –
11. Especially when going out, you need to be aware of members’ health and capability. There can be no hard-and-fast rule, but you may want to discuss with your members whether to have their (and/or someone else’s) phone number.
12. CE&DU3A has audiovisual equipment, which you can borrow if trained.
13. You don’t have to do all this yourself. As a general principle, it is good to involve as many members as possible in the running of the group.
14. Please discuss any problems with the groups organiser. As in any body of people, there can be disagreements and bad behaviour. If anything untoward is starting to happen in a group, the sooner the convener acts politely to close it down the better. CE&DU3A has a ▶︎ grievance procedure.
15. These are issues about managing meetings that conveners raised in a workshop:
◼︎ Members’ expectations – managing these and one’s own expectations in convening a group.
Be clear from the beginning the purpose of the group, and what the group can and can’t achieve – in so far as possible in discussion and agreement. Repeat as necessary. But in the end it’s your decision, because groups only exist because of your willingness and enthusiasm to establish and continue them.
◼︎ The role of the convener under a democratic ‘sharing’ system.
See above. A group is not strictly democratic or sharing. You as convener are offering the sort of group that interests you, and that’s what members are joining. You will, of course, want your group to prosper, and so will seek to foster members’ involvement and enthusiasm. You will also be probably all too glad for members to share the burden of running the group.
◼︎ Managing those who don’t attend or who attend very irregularly, particularly when there is a waiting list.
There’s no hard and fast rule. It depends on the pattern pertaining to your group. If you have a waiting list, do ask poor attendees whether they’ll come more often; if they don’t, politely remove them, explaining why. On the other hand, you may run your group in such a way that you have more members than places and you rely on not everyone coming every time. It’s reasonable (not a rule) that members attend, say, 2/3 of the time. You will want to take account of illness, but that’s not a bar to removing someone.
◼︎ Enabling contributions from all members.
Have the confidence to be firm with those who would dominate the group, and encourage those who don’t contribute. Say at the start that you’ll do this.
◼︎ Managing and following up difficult or inappropriate contributions or comments.
This can be difficult. Especially if it’s a group that invites controversy (like current affairs), establish ground rules. Be conscious of potential strains as soon as they arise, and try to deflect them. Don’t be afraid to be positive and explicit (though polite), as that’s easier than sorting out a problem that grows too big. You can also speak to the offending member privately – preferably in person, but an email that starts something like “I’m sure you don’t intend this and I hope you don’t mind my raising it, but I feel that one or two members may be taking amiss…” is reasonable. If you’re having difficulty, please ask the groups organiser for help. See also our ▶︎ grievance procedure .
◼︎ Managing non-email members (we have a very few).
You will need to communicate by phone, and maybe occasionally post something like a programme. Or it’s possible the member may have a family member or neighbour who will ask as an “email post-box”. It may be possible to cope simply by being clear at the end of each meeting.

Information and data protection

16. Information you have about members should be kept private and used for U3A purposes only.
17. Do not reveal email addresses to others without the owner’s permission. Before, for instance, you send group emails, check whether everyone is happy about their email address being known to the others; use blind copy (bcc) when someone is not.
18. Do not use a circulation list for any non-U3A purpose.
19. Photographs: if you want to show publicly (e.g. on your web page) a photo of your group, you must obtain everyone’s permission. If you use a photo that is not your own (e.g. to illustrate your web page), you must ensure it is free of copyright.
20. Conveners are responsible for keeping up to date the web page of their group. Email any changes or updates to

Financial matters

21. CE&DU3A’s income comes from membership fees. For advice not covered below, contact the Treasurer –
a) Insurance
Proper U3A activities are fully insured. A non-member who teaches a group must have public liability insurance.
b) Insurance for car sharing
The driver’s own insurance ought and should cover this (i.e. it’s normally covered in one’s comprehensive car insurance). CE&DU3A’s public liability insurance doesn’t cover it. ▶︎ U3A advice.
c) Theatre booking and similar, outings, exhibition and gallery admissions
Members pay their own way. Where it’s necessary to make a single payment en masse in advance for the whole group, it’s best not to do this via the convener’s own bank account. We’re trying to set up a process via PayPal or the U3A’s account.
d) Overnight trips, holidays
A complicated subject, partly because of U3A/company insurance. We have no policy as yet, so seek advice from the Executive Committee well beforehand.
e) Paying external tutors/trainers/experts for groups; i.e. not U3A members, who always provide their services for free.
It is national U3A policy not to pay external tutors etc for groups, though some other U3As do. Our own policy is NOT to pay regular tutors, but to consider doing so, on request to the Committee, if a group requests it, for an occasional tutor. CE&DU3A funds, rather than the group, would pay.
f) Group incidental expenses
Most groups won’t need anything, but where necessary setup costs of up to say £50 may be provided (e.g. cards for bridge, tasting glasses for wine appreciation). Also running costs of up to £30 or so. To be agreed in advance between convener and treasurer. CE&DU3A will not fund consumable materials that individual members use and own on a personal basis, such as pencils and paper for drawing, or fabric for crafts.
g) Room hire for groups & whole U3A
CE&DU3A pays via the Treasurer. Conveners have been sent a list of venues; if you need it, ask the groups organiser. For an ordinarily-sized group, expect to pay £10-20 an hour.
h) Coffee/biscuits, etc provided by host at group meetings in members’ homes.
CE&DU3A suggests each member offers the host a 50p donation, but it’s up to the group to vary this..
i) Ditto in café/pub.
Each member pays individually.
j) Ditto at speaker meeting
CEDU3A funds
k) Coffee/biscuit/wine/snack etc at particular event.
To be decided on an individual basis. CE&DU3A may, for example, provide mulled wine and a minced pie at the December speaker meeting.
l) One-off social event like a quiz, open to all members
Self-funding via tickets sold to members. To go through the CE&DU3A account via the Treasurer.
m) Payment to monthly meeting speakers
CE&DU3A policy is not to pay speakers as such, but to reimburse travel expenses. A bottle of wine is given as an appreciation, funded by CE&DU3A.


22. ► Our dogs policy

Further advice

If you want to know something that is not covered by the above, please use the ▶︎ National U3A website – or ask the groups organiser. To use the website, you’ll need to create an account – look at the bottom right of the website’s first page. Then, along the top of the page, you’ll see advice and resources. The latter has a resource centre (you can borrow from 600 opera and film DVDs; you need to register) and subject advice.

August 2018