Notes for Convenors

Each interest group must have a convenor, that is someone who acts as an organizer or facilitator for the group: arranging meetings and notifying members of those arrangements by email, and providing a link between the group and the Executive Committee (initially the Steering Committee). The convenor is not expected to be an expert in the group’s area of interest, nor are they expected to be a leader at meetings, though they might be either or both of these. A U3A group is not like a college class with a tutor, instead you all learn together, each member making a contribution and usually with some members taking it in turn to lead.

A few groups (such as a Theatre Trip group) will meet only occasionally, but most groups will meet on a regular day – either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. The Groups Coordinator, who is your representative on the Executive Committee, will liaise with you to arrange the meetings timetable. They will try to ensure that as far as possible your meeting does not clash with others. Some groups will break for a couple of months in the summer, others carry on without a break – it’s up to the group.

Smaller groups normally meet in members’ homes, and it is recommended that you make a small charge (usually around 50p) to reimburse the home owner for the cost of refreshments. You might also meet at a public venue such as the Bourne End Garden Centre (Flowerland) cafe, which can take groups of up to a dozen members (please check with the cafe first). Large groups might need to meet in one of the rooms at e.g. the Library or the Community Centre, but they would have to meet the hire costs themselves (by charging members, normally in advance). In this case you will need to keep a simple cash book showing incomings and outgoings.

When someone first joins your group, they should be asked to produce their membership card: you should not allow people who are not members of the U3A to attend your group meetings. One reason is that they will not be covered by the U3A’s insurance. However, in the case of someone who wishes to get a taster of what our U3A has on offer before joining, then according to U3A guidance they are allowed to attend a maximum of three of our meetings per year. Also, the U3A National Office advises that, in order to cover your meetings under the U3A insurance, you must keep an attendance register, even if your meetings are held in members’ homes. (The easiest way to do this is to have a list of members which people tick when they arrive.)

An attendance register is also useful if you have a waiting list of people wishing to join your group: if someone hasn’t attended for some time, they can be contacted and if they no longer wish to attend removed from the group membership. Note that if your group is too large or has a waiting list, there is nothing to stop you splitting it in two, provided one of your members is prepared to convene the second group. Normally the second group will meet on a different day.

The U3A National Office hosts a range of resources to assist convenors. These include subject advice and advisors , as well as publications and U3A online courses. There is also a very large number of other online learning materials – for some examples try the BBC, the Open University’s free courses, and the Open Culture website, which offers 1,300 free courses from top universities. And there are of course YouTube videos on almost every subject imaginable.