Elsewhere on this website you can see a list of Alsager U3A's committee members. Have a glance at it sometime, because unless there are some changes around here, that list may cease to exist at the end of next year. Put bluntly, if we do not get more people volunteering to be committee members by the time of our next AGM, we will be in the situation of having to plan for our closure in November 2021.
We have had a taste, this spring, of life without a great many things, not least all the meetings and activities involved in being members of Alsager U3A. In eighteen months, our Chair and our Treasurer will reach the end of their permitted periods in office, and the rules of the Charity Commission dictate that we cannot function without these officers. Anyone taking over from them needs at least a year on the committee to 'learn the ropes'.
At the last AGM, the committee comprised six members, half our previous number. So we were extremely grateful when three people offered to join, giving us nine members to run the organisation; this workload would be eased if it were shared between more people.
Alsager U3A has over 1000 members, yet, despite several appeals in the Chair's newsletters, we are woefully short of volunteers offering to sit for a while on the committee, let alone take on the key rôles,
Before continuing, I must pay tribute to the many members who give so generously of their time and energy in other ways: group leaders and those who assist them; those who facilitate holidays and outings, set up and clear away at the Civic Centre, or provide refreshments for everyone, on Monday mornings; who sit on the technology sub-committee, help produce the magazine, or perform many other tasks.
This still leaves a lot of members amongst whom, hopefully, there may be some who recognise the gravity of the situation, and are prepared to step forward to join the committee.
The U3A ethos is one of sharing – most obviously sharing in the running of activities, but it also includes sharing the work and responsibilities of the Executive Committee.
So why does this not really seem to happen?
Of course there are members whose circumstances prevent them taking on anything extra – we are just very glad that, in normal times, they manage to get to a U3A group activity for some regular interest and relaxation. As for everyone else, two things, perhaps, present obstacles: firstly, time. People fear that if they offer to help, it may end up absorbing too much of their time. To this I would reply that everyone on the committee has a life outside the U3A – family commitments, grandchildren, health issues, holidays, other interests. Being on the committee is completely compatible with having another life.
We meet on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month (excluding July and December), and some of us help at the Civic Centre on Monday mornings – not everyone is available to do this. A questionnaire we answered a few years ago showed that, on a rough average, most committee members felt they gave around five hours a week to the U3A in term time, including meetings and Monday mornings. It was felt to be enjoyable time well spent.
A second obstacle is that some people feel they are 'not a committee sort of person'. To this I would say: there isn't such a thing as 'a committee sort of person'. Members are all different, with varying personalities and interests – this variety is a strength. The main attributes members need are: plenty of common sense, reliability, and a willingness to share the job of making sure our U3A runs smoothly. (Oh – and nowadays, being on email is really a necessity, as that's how virtually all communication takes place.)
It would be a tragedy if we get through this difficult time but in a year or so our U3A foundered because we had not managed to find people to help keep the ship afloat. The key rôles whose smooth continuity we must ensure are those of Chair, Treasurer and Secretary – but ordinary members are vital too. We urge anyone who feels they could help in any of these positions to make themselves known.
Our future in this matter, after all, lies in our own hands. Nobody else will bail us out.