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A Day in the Life of a u3a Trustee: Milford On Sea u3a Newsletter Editor, Jenny

  • 10 November 2023

Milford On Sea u3a member Jenny shares her experience of being on the committee - currently as a newsletter editor - and the committee's collaborative approach to running a u3a.

A woman handing another woman some flowers

Jenny (on the left), thanking Maggie, a committee
member at the end of her term of office.

My husband and I are both founder members of our u3a and I’ve done just about everything on the committee, apart from Treasurer. I’m currently newsletter editor. I went back on the committee and took the newsletter over after Covid. I put together the newsletter on my iPad on Pages which is very easy. It’s quite simple to collate - usually the Chair writes a paragraph at the beginning and I add news of events. The groups are really keen to send in content. Members like to see lots of photos.

In our u3a, whatever we do, we spread it out as much as possible. For example, we’ve done away with having a groups coordinator as it’s far too much for one person. Instead, there is a groups support team of five with a leader, who’s on the committee. Similarly, instead of group leaders, we have group contacts. What we say is that when you have a group, everyone in that group is responsible and people can do different roles within it. It has definitely changed the culture.

My Mahjong group is on a Monday morning – I’ve just been away for six weeks, and it runs very well without me! u3a is about people learning together. For our groups to be successful they need to not rely on just one person. Now our members don’t think about running a group as being daunting, they think ‘oh yeah. I could do that.’

Yesterday was our committee meeting – but we had a pre meeting just before to plan our Christmas party. This year, we’re doing a traditional Christmas party with party games and traditional food and hopefully some dancing. This is a different to what we did last year - we wanted to use ideas from new members on our committee.

In our meeting, we worked out the nitty gritty of what food we were going to have, the rough outline of what we were going to do, timings and budget. From that, our Vice Chair who is the organizer, booked the community centre. The next step will be to arrange another meeting with other u3a members who are happy to help. The committee will be actively there – it’s important for people to know who the committee are - but lots of other people will be showing their faces and helping.

We use polls on Beacon to identify people who help with different aspects of running the u3a, for example there’s one called “help with events”. We’ll email the members on there and ask for people who are happy to help, for example handing out the food, laying the tables – so there are little tasks that people will do.

It’s important to thank people. We give people plants and bunches of flowers; we make a big fuss of people; we value what people do. The people who do refreshments and make teas at the meetings make a huge difference. If people didn’t have a cup of tea and a chat, they probably wouldn’t come. It’s showing people that all of these things are important. And through doing that, more and more people have come forward. People want to be a part of it.

After our planning meeting, we had our committee meeting. It started off with reports; from the Treasurer, the membership secretary, and the Chair, who spoke about the Third Age Trust AGM. We try to keep the committee abreast of what goes on nationally. The group support team leader spoke about a recent open afternoon where the group contacts each had a stall so members could come along and join new groups. There was a lot of feedback and discussion about that. Nine new groups were set up on the day, which was brilliant.

Then we moved onto policies – each of our policies gets reviewed annually. We had a discussion about our disciplinary procedure and complaints policy. We’ve never had to use these, but we do have to have them. Every u3a will have someone who knows about policies like these, or safeguarding for example, – and all you need to do is find that person to help with that element. That is more effective than expecting Trustees to be experts.

At the end of yesterday’s meeting, I said, "should we have a committee dinner?" And everyone said, "yes that’s a good idea." So we’ll have a nice dinner along with everyone's spouses and invite the people who help out a lot but aren't members of the committee. We pay for ourselves of course, but maybe the Chair will buy us all a drink!

I’m sure there are lots of u3as that run like this. Running a u3a does not need to be onerous. When Milford on Sea u3a started, we thought we’d be really lucky if we got 100 members, now we have 400.

Being a committee member is great fun. I enjoy it very much. There is tea and laughter - and biscuits! The biscuits are very important. We laugh, we make friends – I’ve made so many friends in u3a. We moved here before we retired and we didn’t know a soul. u3a was the thing that gave me all my friends.

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