Building Community - Planning

Planning involves setting visions and goals, sharing community results, identifying community assets and developing an action plan. It may also involve applying for a seed grant.

Develop terms of reference
Establishing a shared sense of purpose and structure is an important first step in moving community groups forward.

What are terms of reference?

Terms of reference describe the purpose and structure of an organization or group of people who have agreed to work together to accomplish a shared goal. They set out a road map for what will be achieved, by whom, how and when. Terms of reference define:

  • vision and mission,
  • goals,
  • structure, including membership, governance and decision-making
  • available resources, and
  • timelines

Why are they important?

Terms of reference provide organizations with a shared understanding of what they are about and what they aim to accomplish. Getting this down in writing is critical to moving organizations forward and developing workable structures and clearly defined action plans.

What does a basic template look like?

It could include the following information:

  1. Background: a brief description of the background to this organization and why it exists.
  2. Vision and mission statement: A compelling vision statement can inspire others to get involved. It expresses the dream of an organization. It should be brief and easy to understand and communicate. A mission statement is the what and why. It is more action oriented. It should be concise and clarify the organization's overall purpose.
  3. Goals: This can include deliverables and timelines.
  4. Scope: What are the bounds of responsibility and authority of this group? What does it need to address and what is outside its area of concern?
  5. Membership: What is the criteria for membership? Are there any restrictions? What is the process for selecting members? What is the role of members? Can groups as well as individuals join? Are there different levels of membership?
  6. Resources and budget: What resources does the group have at its disposal (space, funding, staffing, etc.)? What is the financial budget?
  7. Governance or decision-making: How will the group be organized? What are the different roles and responsibilities (e.g. chair and vice-chair)? Will there be committees? If so, what are their roles and responsibilities? How will decisions be made (voting, consensus, etc.)? Is there a requirement for a certain number of people to be present to pass a motion (quorum)?
  8. Meetings: How often will meetings be held, when and where?
  9. Reviewing terms of reference: How often will they reviewed, by whom and how?

Additional resources

 The Community Tool Box