Finding a new venue for your unit
What happens if you need to find a new meeting place?
Is your unit struggling to find a new venue?
Lots of units are back meeting face to face, but what if you’ve lost your meeting place? Whether it’s because the rent’s changed or your meeting place isn’t available anymore, this can be a worry when you want to get back to guiding.
We spoke to leaders who found themselves in this situation and heard what their advice is to find a new meeting place. Here’s what they had to say…
Contact other venues
Sometimes it takes a little resourcefulness and looking around at what your local community has to offer. When Jayne Carman, a commissioner, heard that units in her area were unlikely to return to their venue, she started emailing any building in the area, from the library to the community centre. Whilst she had offers from the community centre and youth centre, it was the local primary school that came up trumps. Not only can all the units meet at the venue they have a forest school, playgrounds, fields, hall and a wonderful site manager who can’t do enough to help them.
A problem shared with parents and carers can have amazing results. Jacky, a Brownie leader, really panicked when she found out the hall rent was being increased. ‘I didn’t know what to do, to be honest. We’re a small unit and quite a few of our girls were from low income families. After several sleepless nights I decided to speak to the parents and carers. They were really understanding. So much so, that one of them spoke to their daughter’s school. I received a phone call from the school offering us their hall at a cheaper rate. We’re now having fun in a new venue plus we have new girls joining.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate the rent
County commissioner Tracey Johnson’s unit had met at the same church group for 23 years and although the church moved location, the unit were able to move with them. Before Covid-19, the church just asked for donations and the unit normally gave between £150-£250 a year. As the unit didn’t meet during 2020, and the church lost other youth groups, Tracey was told that from September 2021 her unit would be charged £15.50 per hour – a huge increase for a unit in a deprived area. The unit would struggle and were at risk of closing. She put together a plan…
- She asked parents and carers for feedback (out of 15 parents and carers, only three said they could afford the rise).
- She wrote to the church committee asking for a meeting.
- She asked all the leaders from other groups to come to the meeting and put together the facts.
- At the meeting she spoke to the committee about how guiding operates in the community, the impact the costs would have on the unit (it might have to close!) and how units in other venues close by could offer the same experience for much less.
- Tracey also used examples of some families losing their jobs or being furloughed, and explained how for most girls Brownies was the only activity they did.
- She also spoke about the opportunities guiding gives girls and Girlguiding’s values.
Tracey also asked them what they were charging other groups including the drama and dance group and asked for a charity rate. The result? The committee came back with an offer of £10 per week which was a far better result for Tracey and her girls. It’s worth reminding venues what guiding does – we're not just another after school club – our impact can be felt throughout the community and girls can have fun, adventure and the space to discover their potential.
Think outside the box – in Scotland, four units moved into the local holiday inn. Their event space wasn’t being used and they didn’t charge rent because the units were part of the hotel’s community action.
Another unit moved to the local bowling club which only asked them for a donation as the club wanted to help the community.
Hints and tips
If your unit needs to find a new home, Sarah Pearce-Mitchell, a Guide leader in Middlesex shares her tips:
- Don’t panic!
- Ask everyone you know about local spaces eg other leaders, parents etc.
- If you have large corporations operating in your area, drop them an email and see if they can help.
- Have the new venues checklist handy - print them off when you go to view somewhere so you can check them off or ask questions.
- Have fun in your new place, advertise well particularly if you’re changing nights etc.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself, particularly if you lose girls because of the move. You’ll get more.
- Speak to your commissioner to find out if they can help.
- Find out what grants are available in your area, your commissioner may be able to suggest some.
- If you’ve got an activity centre or Scout centre close by, think about asking them if you can use their space.
- Once you’ve found your new home, let your commissioner know and update the meeting place in GO.
- Complete a new risk assessment to consider your new environment and your new meeting place.