At some point you will start thinking about premises. A place where you can store your tools, share a cup of tea and get down to some serious creating. What you need will depend in part on what you want to do in the Shed, how many Shedders you’re likely to attract and what is available locally.
We recommend you draw up a wish list for the perfect Shed, decide with your steering group what the deal breakers are and be prepared to compromise on the rest. Many groups grow out of their first Shed at some point and find something bigger and better going forward, as a larger and more cohesive group.
You should also consider:
- Is it easily accessible by public transport?
- Is there somewhere to have a tea break/social time and wash up afterwards?
- Does it have toilet facilities or is there a toilet nearby?
- Will your noise (and laughter) disturb neighbours?
- Is it safe?
Surveying your town is a good first task for a fledgling committee and can generate leads to follow up. Use local knowledge to guide you. Here are some suggestions of places to start, but the list is by no means exhaustive.
- Check with large factories, warehouses, universities, colleges or schools close by.
- Look for empty or underused properties and check on your local authority website as some publish comprehensive information about empty properties.
- Make connections with other community groups who may know of underused space in premises. To start with, you might be able to share.
- Make connections with your local housing association who can be large property owners.
- Make friends with local estate agents, explaining what you are looking for and why. They may be able to put you in touch with owners of empty properties who would be happy to have a community group housesit for them.
- Talk to your local authority. They may have premises that are empty that need some TLC. It’s a great way for them to get some good publicity and show they are supporting a community initiative.
- Contact the likes of rail companies, the local police, fire service and doctor’s surgeries who sometimes have space to spare.
The best thing about doing the above is that you are also getting known in your local area and the more you are known, the more avenues open up.
As premises are usually the single biggest overhead for a Shed, the advice above focusses on getting premises for as little as possible. However, you shouldn’t discount the following:
- Hiring a room – this can be a great way to start quickly. Utilities are usually covered in the hire charge so you can budget your usage and often only pay for the hours you use. Block bookings can often attract a cheaper rate. This can sometimes mean restricted usage and you will need to leave the room as you found it, taking away any tools and materials, but it’s a start.
- Renting at commercial rates – if you can be assured that you can raise the funds on an ongoing basis without relying on funding, this could be an option. Be aware that newly established Shed groups may find it difficult to enter a tenancy agreement so may need the backing of a guarantor.
- Buying a property – this is an expensive option and a luxury many won’t be able to consider at first, but it’s not impossible. If there’s a building you think would be perfect, you could apply for grants and fundraise to afford it. Make sure you get legal advice and do all the appropriate surveys before you commit. You may have to do a planning application for ‘change of use’.
- Building your own – for the ambitious Shedders! If you can find a suitable plot of land to buy and you’re confident you can raise the funds, speak to your local planning authority to see if it’s likely you’d get permission to build a community Shed. This would depend on various factors, including the area on which you would be building and what else is surrounding the land. Again, remember to get surveys completed and seek professional advice before purchasing land.
But, be careful…
Whichever route you go down with your premises, never neglect the legalities or surveys where necessary, and always ensure you have a lease in place before moving in. A lease is paramount even if the premises or land is loaned to you for free or at a nominal or ‘peppercorn’ rent. Situations change and legally bound agreements such as leases are for your protection. You should ask the advice of a local lawyer if you have any concerns. Such services can sometimes be accessed through local authority Communities departments or Community Voluntary Service (CVS).
Word of mouth is the cheapest and most powerful way to get members and you should encourage everyone in your steering group to be advocates. You can also try open days and initiatives like ‘bring a friend’ (or brother or neighbour) to the Shed day. Remember, you can use all of the same advertising methods that you used for your public meeting from our Promoting your Shed guides in our Resource Library.
If you think a website would help, basic web hosts like Weebly and WordPress that hold contact details and opening times are easy to set up and develop.
Speak to other local charities who may have male volunteers and individuals that would enjoy attending your Shed.
But, be careful…
If you have very small premises, spending a lot of money or time on marketing and publicity is going to result in a surge in potential members who you cannot necessarily accommodate just yet. If you have decided to become a Shed group before getting premises (many do), then the more the merrier.
Formalise your Men’s Shed
Most Sheds find that once they get started the amount of people willing to help increases. People will come to the Shed for different reasons, and want and need different things from the Shed. It’s important to realise this at the outset and welcome everyone’s input and contribution.
Organise your Development Group
We hope that many of your new contacts will want to become involved in helping run the Shed early on. This will help form a Management Committee to steer, support and work together to develop the Shed.
Most Sheds do this by becoming an unincorporated organisation. This is still a fairly informal group without the legal protection or obligations of a charity, but allows the work to be shared out amongst the committee and adds some accountability. It ensures that decisions are made democratically and that all committee members take collective responsibility for the Shed. It is governed through a constitution document. Member Sheds can download a template for this from the Governance section of our Resource Library.
The Committee can vary in size according to your Shed needs, but it usually needs a minimum of three members to cover the roles of Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
UKMSA can provide more detailed guidance and support about becoming an organisation if you need it. At some point, you are likely to benefit from becoming your own charity, but we usually tell Shed groups to get going to a comfortable level first. Becoming a charity has lots of benefits which we can help you learn, but it also takes some heavy form filling to start with and can put some groups off. It is not necessary to be a charity to start your Shed.
Equip your Shed
The type of tools and materials you need will depend on what you and your members want to do. Most Sheds start with members using their own tools, then as word spreads, they often get tools (and all sorts of other things) donated. The majority of donations will be small, electrical, DIY quality tools or hand tools, but many Sheds get lucky and are given bigger donations. Don’t forget to tell the donor upfront if you can’t use the equipment, and what you are going to do with it e.g. donate to another Shed using Toolcycle.
As a responsible organisation, you and your Committee should ensure that these tools are safe for your members to use. Talk to a local electrician about safety and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) any donated tools, they may offer to do this for free if you tell them about the Shed.
Once your Shed becomes a member of UKMSA, it will qualify for great discounts on tools and equipment.
If you’re thinking of buying some tools, look at our Income Generation and Fundraising guides to help you secure the funds.
You can find materials in a combination of ways:
- Salvaged – that bit of excess worktop in a skip might just come in handy. If you see something you like the look of, ask. It also gives you another opportunity to spread the word about the Shed and you might save the person time and money by not having to recycle it. Other useful sources include Freecycle, charity shops, reclamation yards and asking at your local builder’s merchant for any material that is unsellable or didn’t pass their quality check.
- Donated – from individuals, or companies clearing their stores, you’ll be forever humbled by the kindness of your locals.
- Purchased – if you are doing a specific job then buying your materials to ensure their suitability and quantity might be the best option. Tell the supplier about your Shed and see if they can give you a discount.
- Look online for user manuals if they don’t come with donated equipment.
- Use the tool manuals to get safety information for each item and use that in inductions. You can even print them in large and have them laminated and easily accessible to encourage people to keep refreshing their memory.
- Talk to local schools, universities and colleges. Some are closing departments and may have equipment available.
- Hold fundraising events for larger equipment. This has the added bonus of raising the Shed profile.
- Consider funding applications to grant makers with aims related to your purpose. UKMSA can give advice on funding applications if you need it.
- Scaffold companies are required to replace any scaffold boards with minor defects which can be great for things like worktops and bird boxes.
- Always ask for a discount!
Next, the formalities of smooth Shed operation.
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