Purpose of these guidelines
One of the great things about GOC is that every group is different, and groups are encouraged to run in a way that meets the needs of the people involved in them. These guidelines do not try to make groups the same but they work within the constitution to ensure that some core requirements are met and that experiences are shared between groups.
Structure of GOC
GOC nationally is managed by a committee, details of which are listed in the magazine and on the website. They set the framework by which GOC is organised, issue guidelines such as these, publish a monthly magazine , arrange publicity, maintain a list of members, collect membership fees, maintain a website and pay all the club’s running costs.
Each of the committee members has a specific responsibility, one of which is that of Group Liaison Officer who has a particular remit to liaise with the groups and to represent their interests on the committee.
The Committee does not organise individual events, which is the role of the groups, except that they assist a local group in organising an Annual Outdoor Gathering.
Local and specialist groups
Local groups organise events for a specific geographical area. The main activity for most local groups is walking but many local groups organise other activities, such as cycling and camping as well.
Specialist groups operate across the whole country and organise specific activities (e.g caving) or cater for specific groups of people (e.g. younger people).
There are also contacts for other activities such as skiing to bring people together for events not organised by GOC.
GOC maintains links with a number of other gay outdoor and sporting clubs by which we promote each other’s events and sometimes jointly run them.
GOC maintains affiliations to national governing bodies of activities where needed and with organisations like the Youth Hostels Association where we derive benefits.
Details of our associated clubs and affiliations are in the magazine and on our website. Many other organisations throughout the world are listed on our website for the benefit of people visiting those areas.
Running a GOC group
Each group requires a coordinator who is the link between the national committee and the group. They should ensure that the following are done:
- A name and telephone number are given to the Group Liaison Officer as a contact for people enquiring about the activities of GOC in the area
- A programme of events is planned
- Details of events are entered into the GOC diary on the website
- E-mail enquiries are dealt with
- The group page on the GOC website is kept up to date
- Event messages and the group forum on the website are monitored
- Messages are sent to the group mail list regularly
- Items for the magazine are submitted to the editor
- The group is publicised locally
In some groups these functions are all done by the Group Coordinator but they could be different people to spread the workload.
When changing group coordinator, it is important that all the members of the group are advised in advance to ensure that the new coordinator has their support and help in the tasks of running the group. Notice that the group is to change coordinator should therefore be given in the magazine and to the e-mail list. The Group Liaison Officer should be involved to make sure that contacts are updated.
Starting a new group
Most of the UK is within a reasonable distance of a local GOC group. However, that shouldn’t prohibit the formation of new local groups, so long as it does not threaten the viability of an existing group. If, for example, an existing group is covering a large area and is getting a good turn-out, it might be appropriate for a new group to form to concentrate in a different area. This can have the advantage of offering more events for members, and less distance to travel to an event, but it is obviously important to ensure that events do not clash between neighbouring groups.
If there is a specialist need that is not catered for by an existing group, a new specialist group may be appropriate but it is important that the implications on the club’s insurance are assessed before any steps are taken to set this up.
The Group Liaison Officer should be consulted if you are considering starting a new group.
A group cannot levy an individual subscription, nor can a charge be made just for attending an event but a group or event organiser may collect money to recover the cost of an event, such as a youth hostelling weekend.
Local organisers may reclaim reasonable costs for running a local group such as postage. This should be agreed in advance with the Treasurer.
Deposits for weekend events have become larger and required earlier so GOC can assist – contact the Group Liaison Officer for details.
People in Your Group
Greeting new people
It is important that new people get a good first impression of your group and the club, and group coordinators should ensure that at least one member takes care to greet a new person on an event. New people have been put off by feeling that they were ignored, by having inappropriate attention paid to them or by being monopolised by one person. However confident they may appear, a new person may find it difficult to deal with such situations so it is important to introduce them to a variety of people in your group.
Sometimes a new person may want to meet an existing member to give them confidence to go along to a group event. For your personal safety it is unwise to have such a meeting alone at your place or the new person’s. The ideal situation is for the new person to meet with two members in a relaxed public place.
Non-members may attend events as guests but restrictions may be applied and people who attend regularly should be encouraged to join.
Where events have limited numbers, members must always be given priority in booking. There may be events (such as the Annual Outdoor Gathering) which guests cannot attend.
Membership of GOC
GOC is a membership organisation, run by volunteers for the benefit of the membership. It can only prosper by people showing their commitment to the club by joining and contributing to the running of events.
Membership is to GOC nationally, not to an individual group and the administration is done by the national committee. Members may attend any GOC event across the country.
Running an event
Details about running an event are given in the organising an event page which everyone involved in running an event should refer to.
Every event must be led by a GOC member, not a guest. That person is responsible for the running of the event and must have appropriate experience and/or qualifications according to the type of event. Certain types of event have been defined as high risk by our insurers and have special conditions applied to them – please refer to the insurance section of the organising an event page for details of these.
Planning your programme
Most groups plan a programme of events because that enables people to plan around the events they want to do, and it does not stop additional events from being added during the year. By having a programme it encourages members to come forward and offer to organise events.
It is usual to put together the programme at some sort of meeting. Some groups have this at the end of an event; others do it separately and make a social event of it. It helps to encourage as many people to attend as possible and for them to come prepared to offer to arrange an event. Some gentle persuasion often helps to spread the load around the group! Your group will be stronger if you use several people to lead walks over the course of the year.
If possible, hold the planning meeting in the autumn so that you can fill in any gaps and expand the detail in time to get the programme on the website for the start of the year when many people are looking for something new to do.
In devising a local programme talk to you neighbouring groups. Joint events offer the opportunity for members to meet different people, they reduce the workload and get your group better known.
In House Magazine, Outdoors
GOC publishes a magazine for members called ‘Outdoors’ which can be ordered at the same time as purchasing membership or contact the Membership Secretary via the Contact Us page to have the magazine added to your subscription. Outdoors is published monthly (except January and August) and contains the following:
- Details of all GOC events for the forthcoming month (automatically shown from the list of events entered on the website)
- Highlighted events (such as the Annual Outdoor Gathering)
- Previews of events (e.g. hostel weekends which require advance booking)
- News about the club (new groups etc.)
- Club business (such as elections and accounts)
- Other items of interest
If you have anything for the magazine, please submit it to the editor via the Contact Us page.
Most people have access to the internet and many people regard it as their preferred way to find information. It is now the most common way for people to find out about GOC.
Each group has an e-mail address which can be used in local publicity material and will be the name of the group followed by @goc.org.uk, for instance [email protected]. Visitors to the GOC website can send a message using the ‘Contact Us‘ page, which will be sent as an e-mail to the group’s GOC e-mail address.
Using a GOC e-mail address has the following advantages:
- It gives a consistent and memorable way of addressing e-mails (they are all @goc.org.uk)
- It shows the sender that they are writing to a bona-fide person in the club
- The address will not change if the group co-ordinator changes (or changes their e-mail address)
- It does not expose the group co-ordinator’s personal e-mail address to public view
- It enables the work of dealing with e-mails to be shared if desired
Having these e-mail addresses does not mean that a group has to stop using their existing addresses. The GOC e-mail address will forward the e-mail to up to five e-mail addresses (but if you forward it to more than one person you will have to work out how to avoid more than one of them replying). To change the forwarding the group coordinator should contact the Website Manager, please note that the forwarding of e-mails is separate from the website so changing the person responsible for your group on the GOC website will not alter the e-mail forwarding.
A large group may require a more sophisticated way of dealing with e-mails than forwarding, such as through a webmail facility – please contact the Website Manager if you think that you may want this.
The magazine and website described above are very valuable tools in advertising your group and its events, but there are many ways to contact new people and introduce them to GOC and your group.
In some cases GOC can fund publicity initiatives for a group, for this and any other assistance with publicity the committee has a Marketing Officer who can assist you.
Some ideas which have proved useful are:
- Word of mouth – Still the best way to get people involved in GOC; tell your friends and people you chat to.
- Online chat and messages – If you read something about outdoor activities, speak up about GOC.
- Social networking sites – There are websites which are activity and not sexually based, which could feature our events.
- Internet listings – The entries on these are updated by the Publicity Officer to ensure that we give a consistent message, but please let them know if you find any outdated or missing entries.
- Magazines – It is increasingly difficult to get free listings on a regular basis in any magazine but we sometimes place adverts.
- Articles – Newspapers and magazines are always looking for articles so if you have an interesting event it would be a good way to publicise it.
- Interviews – There are a large number of local radio and TV stations which may be happy to interview you.
- Posters – A poster is available for use in venues in your area. Places which have been tried in the past are bars, clubs, cafes, community centres, saunas, libraries and outdoor shops.
- Local resources – Some areas have gay magazines or information sheets which may be prepared to take articles or adverts. Local papers can also be tried.
Resources and assistance
Members of the committee, in particular the Group Liaison Officer, are there to help you. Please contact them if you have any questions or want any help.
These guidelines have been compiled from the experiences of GOC groups and we intend to update them regularly. If you have any suggestions for future versions of this document please send them to the Group Liaison Officer.