Sunday, July 22, 2012

Does your choir need a constitution?

This post is part of a series of occasional Questions and Answers. Just contact Chris if you want to submit a question.

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Sue wrote in to ask:
“As a self-funded community choir, do we need a constitution?”



The short answer is “No”!

Unless ... you're applying for funding or opening a business bank account. In which case you will also have to have a committee with posts such as treasurer, etc.

Otherwise you can do whatever suits you. You don't need a committee or treasurer or constitution or choir bank account or business plan or anything else unless it's of benefit to the choir.

committees

Having a committee can help with the day to day running of a choir. But be careful that you don’t get a lot of jobsworths or people who like being on committees and talking endlessly! The committee (or steering group or helpers ... whatever you want to call it) are there to make things easier for the choir and the choir leader, not to complicate things.

The committee can be as formal or informal as you want it to be. If you do end up with a constitution then the roles and responsibilities of committee members will be spelled out there, together with how people get on the committee and how long they can stay there.

bank accounts and funding

Having a choir bank account can look more professional instead of people writing cheques to an individual. The choir name is a constant whereas that individual may move on. Also, it makes sorting out finances easier if they’re in a separate account.

If you are a community choir, most banks have Clubs and Societies accounts, especially for local hobby groups. These don’t incur business bank charges and can be opened in the name of the choir.

Sometimes you need more than one signatory and a proper committee (and constitution), but often just one signature will do and there is no need for a formal constitution of the choir.

If you ever decide to apply for funding from the local council, a charity, the Arts Council, etc. they will often insist that you are formally constituted. This is to make sure that there is accountability and that the choir leader doesn’t run off with the money!

if you do decide to have a constitution

Your constitution doesn’t need to be very complicated. Ask another community choir or organisation that is similar to yours and adapt it to your own needs. One choir I ran had taken a constitution from a local playgroup and just changed the aims. But it was all rather over-complicated. Luckily we had someone in the choir who had a law background so one year we shortened and simplified it.

If you do end up with a constitution it does mean that there are several new chores to consider each year:
  • you have to have an Annual General Meeting of the choir
  • you will need to elect committee members
  • you will have to keep proper accounts
None of these need to be onerous though. Whenever I’ve run a choir with a constitution we usually take the last half hour of one of our weekly sessions for our AGM and committee election.

further reading

You might find some of these earlier posts useful:

How to start your own community choir 2: Forward planning
Looks at the notion of a committee.

How to start your own community choir 3: Finding the money
Considers applying for funding.

Whose choir is it any way?
The roles and responsibilities of a committee.

what about your choir?

Does your choir have a constitution? If so, why? Does your committee work well? Have you had any problems because you’ve got (or not got) a constitution? Are things very different outside the UK?

I’d love to hear of your experiences. Do leave a comment and share your thoughts. Thanks.

Chris Rowbury's website: chrisrowbury.com