Voluntary Action Camden

Starting an organisation

So, you want to set up an organisation or a group to help Camden in some way? Then you’ve come to the right place.

At Voluntary Action Camden our highly experienced team specialise in empowering local people to make Camden an inclusive and thriving borough. We do this by sharing local knowledge and connections.

People come to us with a desire to do something for the community, and over the years we’ve helped many to put their ideas into action.


An introduction to the voluntary sector

The voluntary sector is the division of society run by not-for-profit organisations. Other names for this division are:

  • third sector
  • non-profit sector
  • voluntary and community sector
  • social sector
  • civil society

These terms are often used interchangeably. At Voluntary Action Camden we use ‘voluntary and community sector’ and ‘civil society’ interchangeably, because we feel these terms are most closely representative of who we are.

Voluntary organisations range from large, registered charities such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), staffed by paid employees and unpaid volunteers, to small, informal groups that run coffee mornings or community arts, for example. They differ in their legal structures and rules of governance, which determine how they should be run and funded. Large organisations and charities rely on a team of paid employees in directorial and administrative roles who coordinate a team of local volunteers. Many small community groups are run entirely by volunteers.

All voluntary organisations and groups work independently from government and business interests. They are run by the community for the community to serve needs that aren’t being met by public and private sector organisations.

If you have an idea for a voluntary organisation or group but don’t know where to start, either get in touch for a conversation or fill in our form to request support from us.

Why start a voluntary organisation?

There are many reasons why you might want to start an organisation. From social justice and civil rights to animal and environmental welfare, the voluntary sector is home to organisations championing nearly every cause in society.

Some groups are founded by people with artisan skills such as painting or sewing and sometimes career development skills, who want to contribute to the community by passing on those skills. Other community groups are set up around shared interests such as writing, poetry or hobby crafts.

Founders of organisations are driven by a passion and a desire to fulfil an essential need which they feel isn’t being adequately met. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you feel the same about a cause that you want to take up in your community.

Here are some important things to focus on at this stage:

  • What problem or need do I want to address in my community?
  • Is the need already being fulfilled by another local organisation?
  • Which groups of people will my organisation serve?
  • What is my mission?
  • How do I write a mission statement?
  • What type of organisation do I need?
  • Will it be sufficient to set up a low-key group such as a community interest group, or will my organisation need a team of experienced professionals?
  • Will I need a website and social media channels?
  • How should my organisation be funded?

Running a voluntary organisation requires hard work and dedication with no personal, financial rewards, but can be highly enriching in many other ways. If you have identified a need in your community that isn’t being met by another organisation, you can fulfil that need by starting one. Having said that, taking your idea from the inspiration stage to a fully operational organisation comes with a unique set of challenges and isn’t for everyone.

While you don’t need prior experience, qualifications or specialist skills to set up an organisation, it takes time, commitment and an ability to work with others to succeed in the voluntary sector.

When you shouldn’t start a voluntary organisation:

  • If your cause or need is already being fulfilled by an active organisation or group
  • If your motive is to make a living from a voluntary organisation
  • If you don’t have the spare time to undertake unpaid and voluntary work
  • If you don’t live in the local area where you want to set up an organisation

Starting a new organisation requires commitment and planning, even if it’s just a small group. How complicated or simple the process is, will depend on the type of activities and services you want to provide, and to whom.

We have a robust system in place and the know-how to guide you from absolute beginner to running a fully resourced, operational and thriving organisation.

How to get support from VAC

  • You submit your enquiry including your name, the name of your organisation, or a description of your idea for an organisation.
  • Your enquiry goes into our system and is automatically matched to the team members most qualified to help in your area.
  • You receive a form from us requesting your contact details and more details on the type of support you need.
  • Once we’ve reviewed your form and determined if we can help, we’ll assign you a ‘development worker’ who you’ll hear from within two weeks to discuss the next steps.

For a small group like ours, we can’t survive without VAC’s support. They are a local organisation with friendly and knowledgeable people who are willing to help small organisations develop their work locally.  VAC is extremely important to keep local connections, and in many ways, keep small organisations up and running.



If you’d like help starting a new voluntary organisation or group then please contact Ricky Singh Tokhi at rsingh@vac.org.uk.