This page provides information and resources to Friends of Parks volunteer groups who help to improve our parks.
Use this page to find out about running a volunteer group, the responsibilities of groups and how you can organise events and activities.
Running a volunteer group
Select a topic below to find out about running a Friends of Parks volunteer group:
A constituted Friends Group usually has three core committee roles: Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer.
A central coordinating role within the group. Responsibilities include:
- chairing meetings of the Friends Group
- communicating with other groups, organisations and partners
- communicating with the Council
In addition, some Chairs take on a number of additional roles if authorised to do so. This authorisation might be set out in the governing document or related procedure, or agreed by the other Committee Members.
Additional roles of the Chair could include:
- acting as a figurehead for the group at functions, meetings or in the press
- leading on the development of the group and ensuring its decisions are implemented
- taking urgent action (but not decision-making, unless authorised) between meetings when it isn’t possible or practical to hold a meeting
The Secretary is a key communication role within the group. Responsibilities include:
- organising meeting dates and times
- taking the minutes of meetings and circulating them as needed
- administering any membership scheme and ensuring up-to-date records of members are kept, unless there is a Membership Secretary role in the Friends Group
- sending information to Members
- checking that quorum is present at meetings
- checking that action points are followed up
The overall role of a Treasurer is to maintain an overview of the organisation’s financial affairs, ensuring its viability and ensuring that proper financial records and procedures are maintained. Responsibilities include:
- overseeing and presenting budgets, account and financial statements
- making a presentation of the accounts at the AGM
- advising on the group’s fundraising strategy
- ensuring accounts meet the conditions of contractual agreements with external agencies such as statutory bodies and funders
Groups can appoint Ex-officio Officers. These members can fully participate in Friends Group meetings but are not given voting rights. They are also not required to attend meetings and would not count towards the quorum number.
This role can be held by Ward Councillors, but only one Councillor can hold this role at any one time.
Groups can also create several other roles, including:
- Events Officer
- Membership Secretary
- Volunteer coordinator
- Web and social media coordinator
- Publicity and marketing coordinator
We ask that all Friends groups sign a pledge every year. This pledge ensures a collaborative working relationship and shared commitment to improving our parks and green spaces.
The annual pledge sets out the responsibilities of volunteer groups, as well as how we will help groups to carry out their work.
As part of the annual pledge, we commit to helping Friends groups in several ways:
- Engaging with the Friends Group with a positive and cooperative attitude
- Responding to Friends Group enquiries in a timely fashion and in line with Council Customer Care Standards
- Encouraging a positive interest in the park and Friends Group from other individuals or organisations
- Including the Friends Group in the long-term planning process to ensure that the Friends are aware of the goals and direction of development for the site
- Considering Friends Group ideas for improvements in the management of the site, including the provision of additional facilities or activities, and to work with the Group to develop and progress these where appropriate. When ideas cannot be progressed the Parks Department will explain the reasons and, where appropriate, explore alternative ideas or solutions with the Group
- Recognising and acting upon our duty of care to the volunteers working on our sites, as well as other members of the public
- Attending at least one meeting per year for each Friends group, if invited (possibly the AGM)
- Providing the name and email address of the primary contact in the Parks Team
- Keeping Friends groups informed of action on the site which may affect the Friends activities
- Offering guidance and advice in running a Friends Group where possible and when requested
By signing the annual pledge, Friends groups agree to operate in the following ways:
- Engaging with the Parks Team with a positive and cooperative attitude
- Encouraging a positive interest in the park and Friends Group from other individuals or organisations
- Offering constructive comments to support our work in managing and developing the site
- Only undertaking activities on the site which have been agreed in advance with Council
- Recognising and acting upon its duty of care to the volunteers working with them and members of the public. This includes consideration of how to make ‘lone working’ as safe as possible if volunteers ever need to do activities on their own
- Appreciating our need to balance limited resource across all the sites in the county, and recognise that our need to prioritise reactive work often alters the schedule of regular work
- Accepting that, as managers of the site, we will carefully consider suggestions from Friends groups, but we have the final say in whether a suggestion for the site can be progressed
- Considering making all meetings ‘open meetings’ so any member of the public can input thoughts and consider sharing agenda and minutes with the Parks Community Development Officer to give extra opportunity for updates and feedback in both directions
- Providing the Parks Team with contact information for the group, if a constituted group, which can be passed to interested members of the public
- Notifying the Parks Department if the group ceases to actively support the park, allowing for a new Friends Group to be established in the future
A member of the Friends Group committee will need to sign the pledge by completing our online form:Sign the annual pledge
Group activities and insurance
You need to notify us of any events or activities you intend to organise in our parks before they go ahead.
For regular activities, you need to give us a schedule of when the expected sessions will be. For example, every second Sunday of the month, 10am to 12pm.
Select a topic below to find out more about organising events and activities in our parks.
Our Parks Service has public liability insurance that covers events and activities that we organise. Our insurance policy extends to Friends groups that run small events in our parks, such as volunteer gardening.
To organise a small event, you need to complete a Parks Activity Registration Form and a risk assessment for the activity, in coordination with the Parks Service who will guide you through the process.
Your Activity Registration Form must include the following details:
- What the event or activity will be - for example, a bat walk
- When the event will take place
- Where the event will take place
- Who will attend the event, including the number of participants
You should contact us 12 weeks ahead of the proposed activity date to give us time to check and approve the event.
We will not apply administrative charges for small-scale events that we approve.
Examples of small-scale activities include:
- Walks and talks in parks and green spaces
- Tours of a park relating to history, heritage or biodiversity
- Gardening and horticulture
- Species Surveys
- Meetings of Friends or recruitment of Friends in the park
Small activity criteria
We will consider activities as small-scale if they meet the following criteria:
- The activity is for a maximum of 25 people, including activity leaders, Friends and participants
- You do not bring infrastructure into the park - such as electricity, onsite catering, fire, vehicles or temporary structures such as gazebos for stalls
- The activity is primarily for your local community and neighbourhood
- You are not charging for the activity - no ticket sales or fees
- The activity is organised and run by the Friends Group
- There are no high risks or unusual circumstances to the activity
If you need to set up a small gazebo to protect equipment or materials during an activity, you need to check this with the Parks Service, who will ensure it is safe to do so.
When an activity in a public space increases in size and risk and exceeds the small-scale criteria, there is a different procedure.
To host a large event, you will need to submit an online application which the events team will process.
Council insurance does not apply to large-scale events, so you will need to obtain your own public liability insurance policy to cover your large event.
Large event criteria
We will consider activities as large-scale if they involve any of the following:
- Infrastructure such as catering, electricity, music, fire, vehicles
- External providers for activities such as play or food provision
- Vehicles on site
- Groups are likely to exceed 25 people
- Stalls and gazebos
- Unusual circumstances
To organise a large-scale event, visit our book an outdoor event page
Our insurance cover extends to Friends groups that run basic, small-scale activities to improve our parks.
Your group can also choose to take out independent insurance if you want to hold larger events or undertake higher risk gardening activities, such as working from a ladder to install a bird box.
Activities covered by our insurance
Our insurance policy covers the following activities:
- General gardening activities with hand tools
- Litter picking with appropriate equipment
- Cleaning signs, benches, and other park furniture with low-risk cleaning products
- Small-scale activities
Our insurance only covers events that we approve through the small-scale events procedure, detailed above.
Activities not covered by our insurance
Activities not covered by our insurance include:
- Activities involving motorised tools such as motorised strimming, mowing or sawing
- Working alongside the Highway
- Working in water such as pond or stream clearance
- Working at height (e.g. anything off of the ground)
- Using structures such as event tents and marquees
If your group is independently insured, then you may be able to undertake slightly higher risk activities, if your insurer allows.
In these circumstances, you will still need to complete a Parks Activity Registration Form and provide us with the following three items:
- A copy of the current Public Liability Insurance for the group (for a minimum of £5 million)
- A risk assessment of the activity
- A description of how this activity will be approached and what measures will limit the risk to members of the public, as well as to members of the Friends Group
If you do not provide these details, we cannot approve your event.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) offer discounted insurance rates to members.