Your normal activities might have stopped but that doesn’t mean the organisation has stopped.
The people running the group should be communicating about how you are handling COVID-19 crisis. Two key areas are:
- Dealing with cancellations and all the administrative work that comes out of that
- Thinking about the long-term future of your group
Face to face meetings are out of the question – but there are lots of online solutions for virtual meetings. Here at Making Music, and many other places, we use Zoom. There is a free version that allows you to have as many meetings as you want with multiple guests – but with a limit of 40 minutes per meeting. There are lots of other platforms available too of course – and most come with good user guides to help people get used to them.
Online meetings are a different beast to physical ones – so it is worth having a little think about how to run them. This blog from a company we work with has some tips.
Online platforms do require an internet connection and a device to access it which not everyone has (althgouh some allow you to dial in for sound only using a normal phone connection). There are phone specific solutions too – PowWowNow for example allows people to just call from landline or mobile – this does have a cost implication for those making the call, which could be claimed as an expense, but it’s free for the organiser or host of the call.
Note for Charities: your governing document might not allow for electronic meetings – but regulators are being flexible – see charity section below.
Keeping group activities going
Most of your normal activities will no longer be possible - but lots of things are. We know taking care of the practical might be all you have capacity for, but if you do have a chance to think about how you can keep your group together, even just socially if not musically, it could really help you keep momentum and pick up where you left off when things settle down and are back to normal. See our stay connected resource for more information
Recruitment – this might sound counter intuitive, and we understand that it will not be a priority, but there might be some recruitment opportunities at the end of all this. Music group activity and people connecting online is getting a lot of press coverage. When people emerge into the world again, they might be looking to try new things – and music could be on their list. Without being cynical, finding a way to take advantage of and prepare for that could help your group get back on its feet. If any committee members have time, thinking about current opportunities for raising your profile might help. One thing to consider is telling the world about what you are doing – local media outlets are keen to share good news stories – so if your group has a good story, get the word out there. You could also take the opportunity to review your brand and prepare marketing messages and materials ready for when you start up again.
Time and capacity
Your group might be finding that people’s availability to help keep things running is variable. As a result things might not move as quickly as expected, and it could feel like not everyone is pulling in the same direction or with the same enthusiasm.
It’s important to remember that lockdown means different things for different people: some may be busier than usual with work or supporting family, others may need to focus on looking after their own mental and physical health. This is an unprecedented and challenging situation and everyone’s response is different.
However, if the reduction in some people’s time commitment is having an impact on your group, discuss it with them. Open, honest and supportive conversations can be difficult, but are the best way to find out what may be going on, resolve the issues, and find a good way forward that supports both the person and the group (now and in the medium to long term).
You could ask everyone what their challenges and worries are, and what time and capacity they have, to build a realistic picture of what people can do. Where people are struggling, acknowledge their challenges and offer some ways to help:
- Supporting on tasks – with so much change and things moving online people might be dealing with new things. A bit of extra support might be all they need to help get them started.
- Reducing the load – they may have too many things on, feel overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Taking a few things off their plate might be all that is needed.
- Stepping down temporarily – it might be a weight off their shoulders they will be glad of. Making it clear that it is temporary, perhaps deciding a review point, is a good idea as they may not want to lose their role completely.
If the existing committee is struggling for time you could consider asking other people to help. Even if you have enough hands on deck, exploring options for additional help now will ensure you are ready if that situation changes.
You could consider appointing people to ‘vice’ positions and sharing knowledge of process or systems more widely among the committee members. Your membership might also include people who can help with the new knowledge and expertise you’re looking for, for instance with moving activities online.
We know recruiting new committee members can be easier said than done, but given the circumstances you might find your members are willing to help, indeed some may have spare time and would be glad of the challenge.
Those who help could do so as volunteers, rather than in an official capacity (e.g. charity trustee), but it is important to be clear about which role is being taken on and where decision making lies. If you are looking to appoint formal positions make sure you do so in line with your governing document and rules. (see charity sections below).
You can only do what you can do
While many groups have started new online activities, for others the most realistic option, both financially and in terms of capacity, is to deal with the immediate fallout, batten down the hatches and look to start again when they can.
There is nothing wrong with this, coming through relatively unscathed and being able to start up again would be no small achievement. If you are in that position the one thing we encourage you to do is communicate with your members. It doesn’t have to be often or regular or much, but saying hello somehow, and keeping them updated, will mean that when you can start up it’s a little easier.
See also: Planning for the future: finance