1. Why Start a Group?

The purpose of U3As is to provide opportunities to continue learning through the sharing of knowledge and experience of their members. This in turn encourages social interaction and development of new friendships based on common interests. Interest and activity groups are formed according to the wishes of their members.

Lead Contacts play a vital role in providing an appropriate environment for learning and enjoyment.

A wide range of groups can be found in our U3A and a variety of approaches to learning and associated social events are used by our Lead Contacts. These may include formal lectures or speakers, organised and structured programmes of learning, educational / interest outings or even fieldwork trips.

2. How Can I Get a Group Going?

If you have an idea for a new group, or you hear of someone else who has, there may be other members who would like to join in exploring a particular subject. In the first instance, contact the Interest Groups Coordinator or a committee member who will help you work out if your idea is viable, and then help to determine ways to publicise initial concepts.

The time and location of a new group can be important, so consult the Groups Coordinator about possibilities. In theory, interest groups can meet with any frequency and may be of fixed duration or open-ended. Practically, the availability of a room or suitable venue will probably be an important consideration.  If members’ own homes are not appropriate, contact the Groups Coordinator about possible venues and any associated costs involved. 

Please note that you must be a Wimchcombe Area U3A (WU3A) member to be a Lead Contact, otherwise you are not covered by U3A insurance.

3. How Do I Organise the First Meeting?

If you would like to help get a group started, contact the Groups Coordinator who can help you organise your first meeting.

Ensure that the members of the group agree about how the group will work, and who will be helping to organise and run it. It should not be assumed that the role of Lead Contact is to do all the work!  As a potential new Lead Contact you will need to consider what you can reasonably offer in terms of time and commitment.

Key issues should be agreed at this stage, including:

o  How much participation is expected from members, how often the group will meet, and what the size of the group will be? Will the Lead Contact lead all the sessions, and how should sessions be structured? Often this will evolve as time goes by.

o  Is specialist tuition required, as for example in yoga (remember that interest groups cannot pay for tuition)? Try to find out what experience exists in the group. A mix of methods and styles is known to work well for most members.

o  You might also want to look at the range of publications and subject advisers available from the Third Age Trust (TAT). For this you will need to first create a U3A member user account via the TAT website at http://www.u3a.org.uk/

4. What Must I Do To Successfully Run a Group?

Your first meeting will have determined responsibilities for requirements such as booking rooms and publicity, but it will be a good idea to also have nominated back-ups. As the Lead Contact you will need to keep a diary of agreed meetings, and if you have agreed to meet, say, every 4th Thursday of the month you may want to send out email reminders if there are five Thursdays in a particular month! People will confuse 4th with last.

For meetings at members’ houses, you may wish to check out any possible parking restrictions if near the town centre, and encourage members to car share. In the case of car sharing contributions can be made by members to pay for agreed fuel costs.

Once your group is established, as a Lead Contact you can obtain a ‘Beacon’ account (see below) with which you can set up details of group members, venues and planned meetings. You can then use Beacon to e-mail group members details of future events or other relevant information. Please contact the WU3A Webmaster or Chairman for more information on Beacon.

You should provide details of future meetings to the WU3A Webmaster. If you do not know how to do this, please contact the Groups Coordinator who will have provided information about your group on the website. Summaries - and, if appropriate, photographs of past meetings - will be useful input to our website, increasing awareness for both existing and potential members.

Your group is encouraged to send a short description of upcoming events to the Newsletter Editor and, as appropriate, reports on activities which have taken place. Photos are welcome.

When a new member wishes to join your group, do check they are a paid up member of WU3A as this can have insurance implications. (If your group is open to other U3As in the Cotswold Link network, ask to see membership cards).

If you need to indicate that the group is full, please let the Groups Coordinator know. Then the possibility of forming an additional group can be investigated, if this seems appropriate.

5. How Can I Book a Meeting Room?  

Interest groups vary in their requirements for venues.  Many groups can be accommodated in homes of members, but some, either due to the size of the group or to the activity involved, need to book a venue.

Venues for interest group meetings can only be booked on behalf of the Winchcombe Area U3A by a committee member, so the procedure set out below is designed to protect both the U3A and Lead Contacts when a commitment to use a venue is made.

Different venues have different terms and conditions for booking.  Our U3A has compiled a list of potential venues which is managed by the Meeting Venues Coordinator. 

If you need to book a venue for your interest group meetings:

o  Contact the Meeting Venues Coordinator about the venue to discuss your requirements and the options that are available. 

o  You need to consider how many meetings you need to book the venue for, how large the venue needs to be to accommodate your interest group, and whether you need any special facilities.  No bookings should extend beyond the Winchcombe Area U3As financial year end which is 31st March.

o  Normally a venue that does not charge is to be preferred, but if for any reason this is not possible the Meeting Venues’ Coordinator will make the initial booking on behalf of your interest group.

Interest groups are self-funding, so the cost of the venue must be recovered from the members as follows: 

o Calculate the cost of venue hire for the period chosen. For example if the venue costs £10 per meeting and you book for 6 weekly meetings the total cost will be £60.

o Divide the total cost by the number of members of your group. So in this example if you have 10 members the cost per member for venue hire will be £6.  

o Collect the cost per member (in this example £6) from each member at the first meeting of your group.  NB: the cost of venue hire must be collected before the U3A is invoiced for the costs, so group members must pay their share of costs in advance. Group members who do not attend a meeting will not be reimbursed.

o This money should be remitted promptly to the Treasurer together with the Rental Remittance Form, a copy of which (together with a worked example) can be found at the end of this guide.

o The Treasurer will then pay the venue the hire cost.

o If new members join your group part way through a hire period, they should be charged pro rata.  So, in this example if a new member joins in the 4th week, they will pay £3 to cover their share of the costs for the 4th, 5th and 6th weeks.  This extra income can be used towards the cost of the next venue hire period.

o The Lead Contact can designate arranging venue hire to another member of the interest group, but the procedure set out above must be followed.  

6. What if I Need to Relocate My Group?

If you wish to relocate your group, you should keep to the following procedures:

o consult members and report the proposal to the Groups Coordinator, with numbers of those who wish to move and those that do not. Those who do not wish to relocate will be supported in finding another Lead Contact.

o ensure that the proposed venue meets any storage requirements and Health and Safety regulations, as required for insurance purposes.

7. How Do I Obtain Equipment Required for My Group Meeting?

Winchcombe Area U3A has purchased a projector, but initially groups must source any other equipment needed themselves. As our U3A develops and grows, more equipment may be purchased, and groups may also decide to purchase equipment for their needs.  If this equipment can be loaned to other groups, let the Groups Coordinator know so that a list of equipment can be maintained.  If using your own equipment, bear in mind that Lead Contacts and members are responsible for the electrical safety of their own equipment used during U3A meetings.  

8. What Administration Is Required?

Membership Cards

Please ask your group members to show their membership cards on a regular basis. If non-members are attending classes, you and they are not insured. Checking cards has brought to light a surprising number of people attending who are not members!

Group Members’ Details

o  At any venue the Lead Contact (or a nominee in the group) should compile a register with contact details (e-mails and telephone numbers) of all those who attend their group’s activity. This is essential in the case of an emergency, and to comply with insurance requirements. A notebook is included in the Lead Contacts pack for this purpose.

o  Leaders of all outdoor activities (e.g. walks and outings) should also make a list of the names of those in the group at the start of the activity, in case of accident or emergency.

o  You will need to lodge a copy of your register on an annual basis with the Groups Coordinator, who will also answer any queries you may have about the administration and record-keeping. This is helpful to allow your group members to be contacted in case of emergency.

o  Some potential U3A members like to try out a group before joining the U3A: a non-member can attend an interest group once only. 

o  Members of other U3As can attend one Winchcombe Area U3A interest group without joining our U3A. So if any of your interest group members are members only of other U3As (and not also members of our U3A), please let the Groups Coordinator know so their attendance at all groups can be monitored. 

o  If your group is full, please keep a note of those who enquire about your group so you can inform them when a vacancy occurs. If you have people waiting to join your group please inform the Groups’ Coordinator, as there may be scope for starting a second group.


“Beacon” is a system designed by the Third Age Trust to help U3As with their administration.  Winchcombe Area U3A is adopting this system which, once running, will record information about membership and interest groups.  Lead Contacts will be offered training in using it, and most will find it helpful, but if you prefer paper we will find a way of making this work!

Data Protection

Please remember that members’ contact details are provided for the purpose of running Winchcombe Area U3A, and should not be shared with anyone else without the permission of the member. If you or a member of your group need to contact someone else in the Winchcombe Area U3A, or if you are asked for contact details of a member, please contact a committee member.

9. Money Matters – What Should I Know?

o   Members pay an attendance fee of 50p each time they attend an interest group meeting.  This is in addition to any cost of venue hire or any sum agreed by the interest group members to cover the cost of refreshments.  The Lead Contact or a nominee in the group should collect this at the meeting.

o  There is no attendance fee for the first meeting of a new group. 

o  When the sum collected reaches £10 or, in any event, at the end of June, September, December and March, the money should be sent to the Treasurer along with the appropriate remittance form a copy of which (together with a worked example) can be found at the end of this guide.

o  Groups should be self-financing, and members will generally meet any costs such as materials and room hire.

o  Where small groups meet in members’ houses, members should contribute to the cost of refreshments: this should be arranged within the group and need not be reported to the Treasurer.  

o  If groups meet in a rented hall, arrangements should be made with the Treasurer / Groups Coordinator following the procedure set out in Section 5 above.

o  If there is any expenditure (other than materials and rental) that the Lead Contact feels is necessary for the running of his/her group, this should be discussed with the Groups Coordinator and authorization obtained before any expenditure is incurred. The Lead Contact should keep a record of expenditure with receipts and invoices, and give them with the form “Claim for expenses incurred by Lead Contact” to the Treasurer (usually at monthly meetings).  All outstanding claims need to be with the Treasurer by the end of the financial year (31st March).  

o  If members regularly use their vehicles to ferry other members around, the driver should receive a contribution towards his/her costs.  Mileage allowance of 40p per mile is suggested, with the total cost split between the occupants of the car.  Drivers should check that their car insurance is valid for this purpose.

o  An interest group may not open its own bank account.   

10. Copyright 

As part of the U3A movement, our U3A needs to observe copyright rules. If you want to copy any publication (e.g. book, journal, newspaper, sheet music) or use any recorded media (e.g. music, DVDs) you must consider whether this is covered by copyright. There is a summary of information on this website, but it is important also to look at the U3A ‘authorised version’, which is on the national website at https://www.u3a.org.uk/members-area/document-downloads-2/committee-reference-file/supporting-your-members/1019-f09-copyright/file.html .

Through the Third Age Trust, the Winchcombe Area U3A has a Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence which allows groups to make multiple copies of extracts from books and magazine/journal articles. (See elsewhere on this website for more information on what is covered by this licence.)

If you are in doubt about some aspect of copyright please contact a member of the Committee in the first instance.

11. Will I Have Any Insurance Cover?

Public Liability

o  As a member of the Third Age Trust, Winchcombe Area U3A and its members are covered by public and products liability insurance. Full policy details can be viewed at http://www.u3a.org.uk/component/search/?searchword=INSURANCE&searchphrase=all&ltemid=565. Individual members who think they may be at additional risk might want to check the cover provided by their own insurance policies.  Personal accident insurance is not provided by the Third Age Trust.

o  Educational trips (not holidays) involving overnight stays are covered. Before any arrangements are made, however, they must be approved and the financial details sorted out. Contact the Treasurer before arranging finances for a group outing.

o  Non-members can attend a class or outing as a guest or potential member for one occasion only, and after this must become a member of Winchcombe Area U3A in order to be insured. Failure to apply this requirement may invalidate insurance for the whole group.

o  There is no formal requirement to carry out risk assessments for any regular workshop activity using tools or materials. However, some venues may require the completion of a written risk assessment as part of their insurance requirements. You should contact the Groups Coordinator if you need any advice.

o  It is advisable for leaders of some outdoor activities (e.g. walks, cycle rides) to keep a checklist and to check routes beforehand.  Any hazards should be notified to the group beforehand, with group members then deciding if they wish to participate based on this knowledge.

12. How Do I Keep the Group Going?

Flexibility of Groups

The flexibility and fluidity of interest groups is their greatest advantage, but can also be a disadvantage, as there tends to be a natural cycle to their existence.

Interest groups are self-motivating, so they can be difficult to maintain over lengthy periods. They arise, continue, and cease, as dictated by their members. In time there may be some falling-off of interest, involvement or commitment.

Shrinking Groups

If you think that your group could benefit from some new members, you could advertise in the newsletter, or write an article for the newsletter about the activities of your group. You can also do a short presentation about it at the regular monthly meetings, or put more information on the website. 

If your group is shrinking, please try to find out why this is happening.  It may be a problem of timetable clash, or the venue or content. Please review the situation with your group members, and also contact the Groups Coordinator or a committee member if you want to talk it over.

Occasionally groups that have run their course finish when the members feel that they have done enough.  Sometimes these groups can be revitalized and started again at a later date.

13. What Support Sources Are Available?

South West Region

The South West Region has contacts and resources to help you in running your group. Their website provides information on additional backing for local networks to ensure active support for their Lead Contacts. This may take the form of briefing sheets, study days, information exchange meetings, training days and so on.

Third Age Trust – U3A Resource Centre

The Third Age Trust is the national body for all U3As and this has developed considerable expertise in supporting U3As in their learning activities. They have a range of materials available for U3A groups to borrow free of charge, except for the cost of return postage.  There are, for example, slides, videos, audio cassettes, CDs and DVDs available in many subject areas.

These are available from the Resource Centre, Third Age Trust: https://u3a.org.uk/resources

Third Age Matters and Sources

A number of U3A subject advisers are available at the Third Age Trust. Their contact details can be found in each issue of Third Age Matters which you receive as a member. These advisers can provide leaflets and advice.

Sources is the national educational journal for U3As,
and is published by TAT several times a year. This is also sent out with Third Age Matters. Each issue has a subject focus.

A number of on-line courses are also available on the national web-site. 

14. How Do I Give Up My Lead Contact Role?

When a group has run for a while you may feel that you would like a rest or a change. Talk to your group to see if anyone in the group - or a small group of members - would like to take over. 

If no-one volunteers, then please contact the Groups Coordinator, who will advise on the next course of action. One possibility may be to advertise in the newsletter.

But always remember: you are the life blood of our U3A – without you there wouldn’t be one!

So on behalf of the Winchcombe Area U3A – thank you.

15. Useful Contacts

Winchcombe Area U3A Committee

   Chair : Brian Gash        
   Tel: 01242 603799,  email: click here for Brian

   Secretary: Jenny Mackelworth        
   Tel: 01242 602286, email:  click here for Jenny 

   Membership Secretary: Mary Roberts
   Tel: 01242 603893, email: click here for Mary

   Treasurer: Janet Bidwell   
   Tel: 01242 604396, email: click here for Janet Bidwell
   Groups Coordinator : Rosemary Middlemiss
   Tel: 01242 602453, email: click here for Rosemary  

    Venues’ Coordinator : Jan Charlton
    Tel: 01242 603799, email: click here for Jan Charlton

    Webmaster : Phil Hawthorn
    Tel: 01242 609031, email: click here for Phil 

    Newsletter Editor : Richard Slessor
    Tel: 07719 721933, email: click here for Richard 

Third Age Trust

Tel: 0208 466 6139, website: www.u3a.org.uk
National Office, The Third Age Trust, 52 Lant Street, 
London SE1 1RB

Cotswold Link


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