Handbook for conveners

🟨 The purpose of this handbook is to provide information, guidance and support to both experienced group conveners as well as those new to the role


Starting a new group 
Running a group 


□ Interest Groups are at the very heart of u3a activities. Each group has a named convener who is the contact point for the group as a whole. Without volunteers willing to take on this role Interest Groups would never get off the ground

□ For most groups the convener is a facilitator, someone who has a special interest in the subject rather than an expert, specialist or teacher. In this way members are encouraged to develop their own knowledge and skills across a range of interests, be they educational, cultural, recreational, physical or social

□ Groups are largely free to run as they wish within the u3a principles of shared, participative and lifelong learning

□ There is no fixed format or procedures and always room for innovation. Group members are encouraged to share their expertise and experience as well as aspects of administration, organisation and activity planning

□ The Groups Team (Appendix 10) provides support and information for groups. Just ask if you want some help

□ Being a Group Convener involves a modest amount of work but at the same time is rewarding and enjoyable. It is a vital and invaluable job and the success of the Groups is the success of the u3a

Starting a new group

○ Do you have an interest, hobby, or expertise in a particular area?

○ Do you share an interest with others that is not catered for?

○ Is the group you want to join full?

○ Then maybe you could consider starting a new group?

○ It is fun, straightforward, rewarding and we help and support you all the way

□ What to consider

○ Aims of the group
○ Size of the group
○ Type and style of meetings
○ Fixed term or long term
○ Where to meet
○ How often to meet
○ Skill or knowledge level of potential group members

□ What to do next

○ Find out the likely level of interest by publicising the group. A member of the Groups Team will help. If enough people are interested give it a go

○ Draft an entry for the website with support from the Groups Team and the Website Manager. Once this has been agreed, the group can be publicised on the CEDu3a website and via the monthly bulletin. Members can then apply to join the group via the website

○ Collect and maintain up-to-date contact details of each member of the group to be added to Beacon, the CEDu3a membership management system. The Beacon Administrator will help you set up a group list so you can communicate about the group’s activities

○ Ensure communications with members comply with data protection by always using blind copies or preferably making contact via Beacon

○ Where activity demands stamina, physical fitness, e.g. sports, walking, ensure that members confirm that they are capable of taking part. (Appendix 5)

Running a group

□ The initial meeting

○ Introduce yourself and the purpose of your group as you see it

○ Agree how the group will operate and what members should expect
○ Identify any accessibility needs members may have

○ Discuss how group members will communicate with each other bearing in mind the need to comply with the requirements of the UK General Data Protection Regulation. (Appendix 3)

○ Agree some ground rules through discussion and agreement

○ Request members to advise you when they will be unable to attend meetings

○ Agree breaks for holidays

○ Agree to disagree amicably and be respectful to others and their contribution

○ Advise members that where the group is full and there is a waiting list failure to attend meetings on a regular basis may lead to their place being re-allocated

○ Advise members of any ‘house rules’ when meeting in members’ homes

○ Advise members that when meeting in their homes a contribution of 50 pence may be made to the host to cover the cost of tea/coffee

□ Attendance

○ Welcome newcomers and confirm that they are members of CEDu3a either by viewing their membership card or via Beacon. A CEDu3a member can only attend one meeting without proof of membership

○ Take a register at each meeting. This is a requirement of CEDu3a insurance. A summary of the u3a insurance policy can be found here while further advice can be found in Appendix 8

○ If a member has not renewed their membership there is a grace period of two months during which the member is still covered by the u3a insurance

○ If the group is full keep a waiting list of potential new members

○ Ensure that those on the waiting list can join the group when vacancies arise

○ Keep group membership lists up to date via Beacon, where members can be added or removed directly. You will be notified in early February of every year, of the need to remove from your group membership list those members who have not renewed their membership. Their names will be in red on your list. If members do not renew, they are no longer eligible to attend meetings

○ Follow up with members who have not come to several consecutive meetings

□ Conveners have the right to remove members from the group if they fail to attend on a regular basis

□ Communication

○ Communicate regularly with both your group and wider u3a, while complying with the requirements of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (Appendix 3)

○ The recommended form of email communication with group members is via Beacon

○ If (contrary to CEDu3a advice), interest group members agree to share their personal email addresses to be used for group activities they should be reminded that any communication between them using these addresses must abide by the u3a guiding principles (as set out in the Code of Conduct for Members)

○ Consider creating a whatsapp group to communicate with members with mobile phones

○ Keep members up to date with group activities and informed of any changes or special requirements

○ Keep the group information on the website up to date by communicating changes to the Website Manager

○ Comply with 6 monthly requests (pre Open Day and pre membership renewal) to review your web page(s)

○ Keep the Groups Team broadly informed of how your group is progressing and feedback any information which may affect the local or wider u3a

○ Promote your group and u3a interests

○ Provide information about group activities to Facebook, NEWS@ (the CEDu3a newsletter), and the Website manager

○ CEDu3a also publishes an emailed monthly bulletin containing group information and details of upcoming events. This is usually distributed via email

○ Attend Conveners’ meetings to discuss issues, exchange ideas, and share expertise/good practice
○ Attend the annual Open Day to share the u3a experience and recruit new members

□ Safety and accessibility

○ Take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of yourself and group members

○ Advice on health and safety can be found in Appendices 5,6 & 7

○ Make appropriate adjustments where possible for any members’ disabilities or additional needs

○ Where a group becomes too large, or demand exceeds the number of places available, consider using a larger venue or setting up a new group possibly led by another group member

○ All u3as (and their members, group leaders/conveners and committee officers & trustees) which are fully paid-up members of the Third Age Trust have the benefit of the nationally provided Public & Products Liability Insurance

○ Consider car sharing when appropriate. All passengers are normally covered by insurance in a comprehensive car insurance policy but, do check! CEDu3a public liability policy does not cover this. u3a members can offer lifts to other members and accept money towards petrol costs without compromising their insurance cover

○ Ensure that any walk or similar outdoor event is reconnoitred in advance and risks assessed

○ Ensure that Risk Assessments/Checklists are completed as recommended and remind members to provide emergency contact numbers when necessary

○ Templates for risk assessments for meetings held in private homes and for those leading walks are available in Appendix 5

○ On outings or walks be aware of members’ health and capability and know what you should do in case of accident or illness (Appendix 6)

○ Carry contact numbers and emergency contact numbers of participants

○ Ensure that any member having an accident/injury or becoming ill on a u3a activity completes an incident form (Appendix 7)

○ Completed incident forms should be returned to the CEDu3a Secretary

□ Safeguarding

○ Where instances or allegations of abuse or neglect are brought to the notice of interest group conveners, they have a responsibility to take action in accordance with the CEDu3a Safeguarding policy and procedure

○ It is not the responsibility of conveners to investigate such matters themselves but to pass on their concerns to the appropriate person within CEDu3a

○ Any convener who becomes aware of possible or actual abuse or neglect should therefore record the details and refer the matter to the Groups Coordinator or any member of the Executive Committee as soon as possible
Not all “instances and allegations” are immediately identifiable and may begin with the expression of a simple concern

○ If a convener is unsure about what they have heard or witnessed, then it is important to discuss this with the Groups Coordinator, or any member of the Executive Committee as soon as possible. This will determine whether any further action is needed

○ The Safeguarding policy and procedure includes guidance notes on what to do if someone discloses abuse and how to keep a record of what was disclosed

□ Solving problems

○ Although problems seldom arise, it is important that when they do, they are resolved amicably and quickly through discussion and agreement as far as possible

○ Feedback from group members can be helpful in identifying issues at an early stage when they are more easily resolved
○ Follow up members who persistently do not follow accepted ground rules such as to notify absence or missing meetings

○ This is particularly important where groups are oversubscribed or there is a limit on numbers or costs will be incurred

○ Members missing three meetings without explanation may be a reasonable starting point for contact and discussion
○ Be conscious of potential difficulties as soon as they arise, it is often better to tackle issues sooner rather than later

○ Be particularly aware of the potential for difficulties where a group agenda invites controversy

○ When dealing with difficult or inappropriate comments in meetings it is important that the facilitator remains neutral and non- judgemental

○ If you are unsure, want further advice, your first port of call is to contact a member of the Groups Team

○ In the event that the issue cannot be resolved it should be raised under the CEDu3a Complaints Procedure

○ There are a number of policies covering issues such as members’ code of conduct, complaints, data protection, copyright, equality, diversity and inclusion, health and safety. Those policies directly applicable to the work of conveners are referred to and should be read in conjunction with this handbook


Beacon administrator

Bulletin editor

Facebook administrator

Groups coordinator

Groups organiser

NEWS@ editor

Website manager


1. Financial arrangements 

Includes guidance on convener/group expenses, Zoom accounts and room hire

2. Resources 

Includes guidance on equipment, copyright material, public performance, photography and national u3a resources 

3. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements 

4. Beacon 

5. Risk assessment checklists 

6. Safety on outdoor activities 

7. Incidents 

8. Public Liability Insurance 

9. Designated groups 

10. Groups Team role descriptions 

Email to groups@cedu3a.org.uk any comments or suggestions as to how this handbook may be improved