Running your Shed

Getting your Shed started is one thing; keeping it going is another.
On this page we review four things to consider concerning sustaining a shed on this page.

• Leadership
• Funding
• Publicity and membership drives
• Legal matters such as Incorporation and Insurance

Size
Whether your Shed is looking to grow or not depends on your goals.
Some sheds prefer to limit membership and keep it small.

Part of your role is to groom your replacement constantly
There needs to be a way to choose leaders, develop leadership skills, and transfer leadership. Having a backup person to work with the leader(s) is one effective way to prepare for "passing the torch".

Leadership
All Men's Shed members are considered equal. However, someone will need to make programming and financial decisions. As well as Shed leadership, there may also be areas of responsibility within a Shed that need leadership (membership, finances, record keeping [secretary?], public relations). If a Shed chooses a small, limited size, the leadership may be one individual. But for a larger group, some Men's Sheds form a Board or Management Committee. Such a leadership team may develop operational policies and procedures as needed to meet the needs of a specific Shed.

Think about whether individuals who have "taken the lead" will continue or whether 'leadership' will be rotated among the members. When rotating leadership, consider some way of "passing the torch" that does not have a total leadership turnover (e.g. secretary and treasurer serving a two-year term with one changing in even years and the other in odd years).

Meetings
You will also need to hold regular meetings to discuss financial and operational decisions. If there is a Leadership Team, all-member business meetings may be infrequent, but they must be held at least once a year. The Leadership Team can choose to meet at regular intervals or as needed. If "as needed", decide who will call the meetings and on what basis the meeting shall be called {at the will of the chair? at the request of one (or more) other team leaders?}

Under the leadership heading, talk about communications and the best way to get information out about activities and meeting times. Options are phone, email, media public service announcement services, or flyers left in a central location. Some Men's Sheds develop their own Facebook page. Some build a website since many people today will search for a Shed to join via the internet.

Integrating new members is another part of leadership. It is helpful to designate a greeter. Showing up alone is hard for new members. It helps to have designated greeters to introduce new attendees, explain activities, and be available to answer any questions.

Once your Men's Shed is running, you may want to establish a "code of conduct" to state what behaviours and interactions are acceptable (or not!). Then, as your Shed grows, make sure your code of conduct continues to meet the needs of all the members – always remember that Men's Sheds are meant to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.

Discuss these things early on and consider developing a leadership plan for your shed.

Funding

Some Men's Sheds want to grow in ways that involve purchasing equipment, supplies, or renovations. Some Men's Sheds have phone, internet, utilities, and office or kitchen equipment costs.

In addition to the ideas for raising funds in “Advice on Starting a Shed”, your shed might consider applying for grants.

• One such is the Federal “New Horizons” grant. Information on this program can be found at the following link:
http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/seniors/funding/pancanadian/index.shtml
• In Ontario we also have the “Ontario Seniors Grant”.
• And for a limited time there are grants through HelpAge Canada for up to $10,000 for a specific capital cost project.

Take a look at your provincial government website to see if there are any grants you might apply for based on the goals and focus of your Men's Shed. Also, many Foundations are sources of grants. Often the grants available through these foundations go unclaimed because no one thinks to do the work to see what is available.

You may find that some grants are only available to incorporated bodies. However, this does not necessarily mean they are out of reach. Look into partnering with your municipality or a community organization, or a charitably recognized body (a Church, for instance), who could apply on your behalf for a grant in exchange for an administration fee or some service you might offer to the organization in return for them applying on your behalf.

A word of caution: Although grant funding can be helpful, these funds are usually time-limited (i.e., for one or two years). So also consider other ways to get funding if the grant funds you've received will run out. Sheds that become reliant on external funding run the risk of failing when grants end.

Publicity and membership drives

Because most Sheds consist of retirees, some will always become less active for health reasons. Therefore it is necessary to develop a strategy for keeping the Shed in the public eye. Community projects work well for this. Document what you are doing with pictures and a write-up. Find avenues for sharing this information with the public. Or invite the local media to do a story on a Shed project in progress or completed.

Then, when your Shed needs to initiate a membership recruitment drive, the public already has some idea of who you are and what you do. Such a drive can be done annually (at a membership renewal date?) or following some news item about a project completed. You will find ways that work well in your community for such a drive.

One way is an "each one brings one" campaign in which each Shedder is encouraged to find a friend they'd like to invite to a "sharing meeting".

Another way is to hold a public information meeting sponsored by the Shed to share information about the Shed and the advantages a Shed offers to members and the community, plus responding to questions the community may have about Shedding or your Shed in particular.

Incorporation

This item is mainly for those Men's Sheds that want to grow and raise funds for their Shed and are comfortable having a business-type structure. It also leads to having Directors and Officers for whose protection Director's and Officers Insurance is suggested. Some Men's Sheds choose to become incorporated as a non-profit organization. Being so incorporated can bring benefits such as becoming eligible for additional funding, applying for grants (see "funding" above) and a greater sense of financial security. Becoming a non-profit organization means that the Men's Shed is a legal entity. To learn more about whether your Men's Shed might be eligible and the steps involved in becoming incorporated, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/incorporating-not-profit-corporation

A word of caution: Becoming incorporated carries some annual reporting responsibilities. To incorporate as a charitable organization (unlikely to be recognized by CRA at this time) takes even more bookkeeping and reporting. Talk to your fellow organizers about whether or not the benefits of becoming incorporated are worth the effort.

Insurance

Depending on the activities in your Shed, you may require waivers, permits, and insurance. Here are some things to consider:

• In a litigious society, it is always wise to consider liability insurance to protect your members.
• If incorporated or otherwise organized with Officers and Directors, D & O Insurance is important to consider.
• If your activities are potentially dangerous or someone could get hurt, Accident Insurance is wise.
• While it is possible to have members sign waivers where the risk of injury is part of the activity, these waivers are often considered worthless in a court of law.
• If using borrowed facilities for a workshop, Theft and Fire Insurance are wise.
• If operating under the aegis of another organization, their insurance may cover those who use their space, or the accommodating body may require you to have liability insurance.
• If you participate in a group activity, the organizing body may require special permits or insurance.

The Men's Shed Association of BC has a great piece of work on this topic, as shown below. Just keep in mind that insurance is legislated provincially. MUCH of this will apply, but you should confirm the details with your Ontario-based insurance provider. Click on the link below:

Men's Sheds Tools and Tips: Insurance, Liability, and Risk Management - from MSABC

Sustainability

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Feb 2021. The latest research paper 'Men's Shed in Scotland; the potential for improving the health of men' from Glasgow Caledonian University's three-year Sheds for Sustainable Development Project has now been published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

Recently policy has focused on the role of community-based organizations and the ways that they are tackling local health issues, such as social isolation and loneliness.

Men's Sheds have been recognized for the health and wellbeing impacts they have on those who use them, therefore, questions have been raised over their ability to become deliverers of formal healthcare to 'hard to reach' men in communities.

With this in mind, a study was conducted with Sheds in Scotland to identify challenges to Shed sustainability and development that may affect their ability to deliver formal healthcare.

Findings showed that a reliance on ageing and retired volunteers to undertake operational tasks and generate income to fund activities affected the ability of Sheds to sustain and develop. Shed members also did not wish their Sheds to become formal healthcare deliverers, preferring to keep their activities informal and flexible to fit with the needs of their members.

In conclusion, although Sheds are recognized for their health and wellbeing benefits to men, policymakers must recognize that formalizing their activities might detract from the Shed’s primary aims. Therefore, there must be a consideration of tensions that exist in placing expectations of Sheds to expand their remit and formalize into service delivery.

Read the full research paper here.

© 2022 Kevin Ford

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