Group Business

Set up a Bank Account

Decide how to handle finances and expenses before they arise. How will money be handled? Will each person pay a membership fee with extra money coming from fundraising efforts? Or will each person give as they see fit? Do you want to have a separate bank account for the group’s money? What is your procedure when an unexpected expense occurs? How will you determine what your money will go toward? Answer these questions up front, before a situation occurs; otherwise, your group might end up with financial problems and disagreements that could undermine the organization’s cohesiveness.

Taking Care of Business

Determine a regular meeting time, whether it be once a week or once a month. Try to pick the same day and time - it will be easier for people to remember. Use your phone tree to remind members of each meeting a day or two in advance. Decide whether or not your group wants to incorporate as a registered non-profit organization. As a legal entity, an incorporated association has rights and responsibilities. It can enter into contracts, buy land, borrow money, and have bank accounts, etc., in its own name. The liability of the members is limited. The continuity of the organization is assured even if the membership changes. A corporation can own property in its name regardless of membership change. It can bring a legal action in its own name (an unincorporated body cannot). Its chances of receiving government grants may increase because of the stability the organization appears to have.

An unincorporated association is an agreement between individuals, and has no legal status. The members are personally liable to the creditors for the full amount of any debts they incur on behalf of the organization. An unincorporated body cannot sue or be sued; members must sue or be sued personally. (Summarized from Non-profit organizations by The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan.)

However some groups prefer not to incorporate for various reasons. For example, doing all the paper work required may use up valuable time when dealing with an urgent situation. An unincorporated organization may be a more difficult target for SLAPP suits and other forms of intimidation.

For an excellent resource on setting up and running an incorporated non-profit organization, see: “Non-profit Organizations” a free handbook published by The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan.

Keep accurate records, both business and financial. It is important to record the date and time of phone calls, meetings, etc. You may need to refer back to them at some point. Keep a contact list, spreadsheet or rolodex. To help you stay organized, keep notes from calls, meetings, etc., in a spiral bound notebook.

Remember to celebrate your successes—no matter how small. Plan for some fun along the way in order to keep from burning out.