1. Setting up a VOPE

Section 1 contains information relevant to VOPEs in the process of founding and formalizing themselves. It also touches on important governance issues relevant to emergent and developed VOPEs. 

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The topics covered in this section include:

This section will help you think through some of the initial steps that you need to take if you want to found a VOPE. You will find some valuable advice and examples under the resources listed at the end of this section.

According to Kriel (2006), most VOPEs start as informal networks and only embark on a process of formalization once it becomes necessary. Rushing into premature formalization can cause the valuable resources of a VOPE to be caught up in bureaucratic systems and processes while neglecting the essential networking functions and services of a VOPE.

When a group of evaluators decide to start a VOPE, it is natural to think about both form and function. The form of a VOPE should be decided on once the goals of the VOPE have been determined, in other words when the function of the VOPE has been defined. This means that, before a VOPE becomes too concerned about who will be the president and who will be allowed as members, its champions need to identify opportunities and priority areas for making an impact. This process defines the vision, mission and key objectives.

As part of the founding process your organization may want to lay down some basic rules of operation. This is a good idea irrespective of whether you choose to become a separate legal entity by incorporating your VOPE or not. The most basic rules of operation are usually captured in a constitution, or founding document or bylaws. If your organization intends to register as a legal entity, the constitution, founding document or bylaws usually become the legal basis of operation, so it might be necessary to check that your founding document is consistent with the legislation in your context/country.

Once you have decided to formalize your organization, you may need to register it as a separate legal entity. Depending on the country or state or province in which you choose to register your VOPE, there might be different organization types from which to choose; each organization type is usually associated with specific legal, accounting and taxation requirements. What should be considered are structures that allow the greatest flexibility while also allowing sufficient legal status to operate a separate bank account and put potential donors’ and members’ minds at ease about the governance of the resources?

The members of your VOPE are the heartbeat of your organization and, as such, your VOPE should strive to communicate and engage members on an ongoing basis. To this end a Membership Register and Policy should be developed and maintained. Once the membership policy is established, the actual running of a membership administration system can be planned and implemented.

Requirements for an AGM may be spelled out in your VOPE’s constitution or other (legal) documents. This usually determines the agenda, frequency of meetings, the notice period for meetings, the minimum number of people required to constitute a quorum at an AGM, the records (such as minutes and attendance registers) that must be kept, and voting processes.

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