Getting started in your park

It’s wonderful that more groups in our communities have ideas for projects to bring their park to life.

People have lots of reasons for starting groups or projects. It's worth taking a moment to plan your ideas and help others.

Perhaps an area in your park or green space looks run down and needs improving? Or you'd like to encourage more wildlife into your park, connect with a specific section of your community or offer activities for young people?

The FAQs below will help provide some early information to help you as you start a project in your park.


  • How is your green space managed?

    Councils have overall responsibilities for parks and their management and maintenance. There are some exceptions for example when green space is managed by a Housing Association or another body.

    Your Council will want to hear from community groups who want to get involved in their local park. Starting a conversation with the Parks Department early on will help you gauge how to go forward with your idea.

    What to consider

    Get to know as much as you can about your park or green space, what’s there already and any existing community connections. It is helpful to ask park users for their feedback as well as those who live nearby to form a full picture of local views.

    Talk to other local groups already doing things in parks. Even if they are not quite the same as you, their experience is invaluable. Find local groups here:


    Bath and North East Somerset

    “Take time to learn who uses your space and talk to them about your ideas to get their views. Also talk to your neighbours, do they have reasons why they don’t visit?

  • Working with Bristol City Council

    Your Council

    Bristol City Council (BCC) has lots of experience that could help you to clarify your idea and find a practical approach. This can include training, health and safety guidance and information about previous activities or work due to happen in the park.

    Ella Hogg is the Volunteer Coordinator at Bristol City Council. She will likely be your point of contact as you get going.

    BCC has a great range of information, templates and support available for groups on their website (here).

    How do we find out about what is needed from a health and safety point of view?

    If you are in Bristol, to start planning activities as a Friends of Park Group or green space Community Group, you’ll need to have at least one person who’s attended Bristol City Council’s one-day Bristol Parks Health and Safety training. Register to attend here.

    We are working with young or vulnerable people, should we have a safeguarding policy? NCVO has a helpful guide.

    Find out more about liaising with the Parks Department at your Council from this video from our Love Nature, Love Your Park Conference here.

    “Larger projects take a long time, so start with some small quick wins, clearing litter, bulb planting or similar. Small projects will help you build relationships with the Council and develop trust on both sides.”

  • Working with Bath and North East Somerset

    Your Council

    Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) has lots of experience that could help you to clarify your idea and find a practical approach. This can include training, health and safety guidance, and information about previous activities or work due to happen in the park.

    Jeremy Dymond is the Volunteer Coordinator at Bristol City Council. He will likely be your point of contact as you get going.

    Start out by reading this page on the BANES website.

    We are working with young or vulnerable people, should we have a safeguarding policy? NCVO has a helpful guide.

    Find out more about liaising with the Parks Department at your Council from this video from our Love Nature, Love Your Park Conference here.

    “Larger projects take a long time, so start with some small quick wins, clearing litter, bulb planting or similar. Small projects will help you build relationships with the Council and develop trust on both sides.”

  • Group structure

    What sort of group should we be? Do we need a certain structure and how should we organise ourselves?

    Once you have got a group together, and certainly if you want to raise funds, you will need to think about the group’s structure, but don’t worry about this to start with, there is a lot you can do as an informal group of friends.


    Informal groups are often the first sign of community inspiration to do something new in a park. However, without a bank account, groups can find it more difficult to secure funding and if there aren’t assigned roles it may be harder to manage activities. Informal groups sometimes link up with community partner organisations to help with financial procedures and provide other support.


    Formal groups including Friends of Parks Groups have structures in place to manage the running of projects and usually have their own bank account. A formal structure will widen the scope to receive funding from grant-giving organisations. Bristol Parks Forum has some excellent information on how to set up and run a park group.

    The Parks Community UK website also has great resources for groups wanting to become a ‘Friends of the Park’ group including a ‘Better’ test online tool to help you identify ways to strengthen your group and make it more diverse. Many suggestions will also be useful to other community groups setting out on park projects.

    Becoming a legal entity

    VOSCUR has a simple table to compare legal structures at a glance (link) Contact them for further advice or 3SG who provides a similar service in BANES.

    Should we become a Charity?

    With a mix of fundraising methods available from crowdfunding to business sponsorship, groups do not always need to become a charity to achieve their goals. However, for those who want to commit time and energy to the application process, becoming a charity could be a route to establish their activities in the longer term, for example, to employ staff or take on the lease of a building.

    If you are an existing group with established processes this is helpful to be able to move to the next stage and register as a Charity. There are important criteria to satisfy the requirements of the Charity Commission including guidance on how to go about appointing trustees.

    The Small Charities Coalition has a helpful resource summarising the process.

    What about becoming a social enterprise?

    If your group will be a social business focused on solving a community's needs through trading goods or services, then you may want to find out more about setting up as a social enterprise or Community Interest Company (CIC). Social enterprises reinvest their profit into the project or local community and operate a triple bottom line around people, the planet, and prosperity.

    Visit the School for Social Entrepreneurs website for useful information.

  • What activities will you undertake?

    What are you going to do and how to get it started?

    Small scale activities such as a litter pick, or a picnic in the park are a great way to start and might help you meet other residents who might want to get involved.

    Publicising your activities

    You need to tell other people you exist, keep them informed about what you are doing, and welcome others to join in. To begin with, this will probably be simple posters, flyers, and a basic Facebook page. As you grow you will want to build your communications (see Section below on Communications).

    We are interested in running an event or activity but don’t know where to start

    An event in the park can really bring an idea for a project to life. However, there are things to consider beforehand to help the event smoothly and to take into account the needs of other park users.

    Have a chat with us to talk through your idea or contact the Parks department to be confident about what you are doing. Some events will need more planning in terms of site permissions and other factors. Bristol Parks Forum has useful information on events.

    We need some ideas about what we could do or what things we need to consider

    Parks Community UK has a lot of articles on how to run safe, enjoyable and engaging events.

  • Running a group

    Every group will benefit from clear ways of working to enable projects to run smoothly. Roles and responsibilities are shared out among the group. These don’t need to be formally decided and are usually linked to skill sets and those who volunteer their help. For example a Finance role or a Communications role.

    The Bristol City Council website has useful templates and resources on its website to help park groups including risk assessments to help you keep your activities safe and on running a group.

    The Parks Community website has sections with practical help including information on setting up a Friends group, developing a constitution, agendas for meetings and minute keeping.

    Less formal groups could benefit from an email list, a whatsapp group or meetings with a simple shared agendas and bullet point meeting notes that are circulated to everyone.


    Do we need to have our own insurance?

    This will depend on the type of activity that you are hoping to carry out and how it is organised. If your group is able to undertake health and safety training offered by the Council you will gain a better understanding of what is required and whether you need to have additional insurance cover.

  • Fundraising

    Starting small may mean that you can embark on a project with just a handful of donations or support from a local business.

    The next stage is to explore raising small amounts of funding for example via a crowfund, a community activity or by applying to a community grant scheme, CIL money or Landfill trusts.

    There are some excellent guides out there for a range of different fundraising methods:

    Crowdfunding: if you have a strong network and some potential donors lined up already, a crowdfund can be the quickest and easiest way to raise the funds you need. Ground Work UK has produced a brilliant guide on starting a crowdfunding campaign.

    Community fundraising: you could run an event in the park, hold local collections or do a sponsored activity. There are hundreds of ways you can raise money through community fundraising. Here is a list of 75 ideas to get your creative juices going.

    Small grants: applying for small pots of money from local grant givers can be great if you have the right structure in place. Parks Community UK has created an excellent guide to community fundraising that can be found here and we ran an ‘Applying for Small Grants’ training that you can watch online. Get in touch if you would like our list of funders that could support your project.

    Social enterprise: if your idea can make your park and community a better place and has the potential to make money, you may consider starting a social enterprise so your project is self funding! The School of Social Entrepreneurs has a range of resources to help you explore your idea here.

    Love Your Park Community Fund

    We launched our Love Your Park Community Fund in 2021 and funded 13 projects in Bristol and Bath with small grants between £500 and £1000. Watch this space for news on future rounds.

    ‘It’s such a good opportunity for groups like ours that aren’t constituted and don’t have a bank account. The idea of having to fundraise everything is quite daunting when you’re small, so this would be a great kickstart and hopefully lead to bigger and better things in future.’ (Friends of Arnos Court)

    We have someone in our group who would like to do some fundraising training?

    We run training sessions on various topics including fundraising. Keep an eye out for future opportunities.

    VOSCUR offers a wide range of training, some free, some paid. A full list can be found here.

    You could also consider the Chartered Institute of Fundraising course ‘Introduction to Fundraising’ that costs £75.

  • Involving more volunteers

    Volunteers are the most valuable resource for your group. You may be a core of one or two volunteers, however finding additional volunteer support is vital to run activities, to tap into community energy and bring in new skills.

    Supporting and managing new volunteers is important for any group. Recruiting new and diverse volunteers can be challenging. It’s a two way relationship – making volunteers feel valued will help retain their involvement.

    ‘We have drawn up short job specifications for volunteer roles in our group because of our experience of volunteering in the past. Before committing to volunteering, we like to know what skills we need, how much time is involved and what support we will receive’ (Hillfields Community Garden)

    Download our guide on how to recruit and keep volunteers here.

  • Communications

    How to ensure people know about your project and how they can get involved

    Think about your communications objectives – these could include raising the profile of the project locally, engaging volunteers or showcasing your project to potential funders.

    Start simple

    A logo, a design, a photo that encapsulates the idea behind your group

    Your target audiences

    Identify the different people that you want to reach. It’s helpful to think about the individual, their lives, needs and interests.

    For example:

    A young Mum with little time but who would like to connect socially and help with nature projects

    An older person who would like to take part, but does not know which activities would suit them

    A young person wanting to spend time outside when not studying and to gain experience

    Then develop your main messages – What do you want to say and to whom?

    It might be that you are starting out and need initial support or are seeking more volunteers for new projects you would like to get underway.

    How do we want to say it?

    Which channels will you use? Where does your target audience find its information?

    Social media is the cheapest option or you might have a small budget for flyers or newsletters.

    Who is doing this well already? Pick out a local group you think communicate well – ask them for some friendly advice.

    ‘Show the park some love, improve the space for humans and wildlife, meet your neighbours and spend time in nature’ – Blooming Whiteway.

    Look at the communications skills within your group – do you need to recruit a social media volunteer? Local colleges and universities are often a good starting point to find a student volunteer who could help with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or show you how to get started.

    Remember to keep everyone up to date within the group so that volunteers receive up to date information they can easily share. Some groups set up WhatsApp or Facebook groups to make communication easier.

    Do you need general ideas and tips on writing a press release? Take a look at Plymouth Council’s resources for park groups. Parks Community UK has also prepared some best practice guidance for park communications.

  • Specialist Support

    ‘Your Park is like the connector between groups and the Council’
    (Dove Gardens, Grow Green)

    Contact us to discuss what support you need and we can discuss the options available and signpost you further. There are a number of different organisations involved in community outreach, particularly related to nature and conservation.

    Whether it’s the extra energy that GoodGym provides to tackle a hands-on challenge or advice on creating wilder habitats from organisations such as Avon Wildlife Trust, there are great sources of help in our local area.

    The Bristol Parks Forum has a useful list of support in Bristol and the surrounding area.

    Do you want to carry out a project in a park but need support or help to do the work?

    ParkWork in Bristol can carry out small projects in parks, such as work on paths, trees, bench repairs, etc. You will need to find funding to cover ParkWork’s costs unless the work can be carried out as part of their currently funded sessions.

"I am determined to improve the local community's involvement with our park. With Your Park's support, I have a much better understanding of the issues volunteers face in often very different situations from our park. I really appreciate all the benefits to health and well-being that will come."

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If you'd like some advice or guidance on how to take forward your idea for your park. Get in touch!

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