Interest Groups Online

IGO Group Guidelines

The people who run groups are volunteers who freely give their time, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for the benefit of other IGO members. They are to be supported and encouraged by members, IGO volunteers and Third Age Trust staff.

1. Setting Up a New Group

Members may come forward to be the leader of a new interest group. Please fill out a new group form if you wish to do so. The group will be set up on Beacon, where IGO members can join.

Alternatively, the IGO Team will set up a start-up group for your group of interest. Members can join the group so show an interest in it. Once sufficient members have shown an interest, the IGO Team will set up an inaugral meeting to discuss how the group will run and who will take on which role. 

The group will be publicised on the u3a website and in the IGO News Extra and will be made available on Beacon, with the possibility of publicising in the u3a national newsletter or Third Age Matters magazine too.

2. Running a group

There are various tasks involved in running a group, undertaken by one or more group leaders.

  1. Deciding what the group does and how it does it. This is the most important task and will normally be decided by consensus among the group
  2. Setting up online meetings. Usually, groups are run via Zoom, group leaders can contact the IGO team for support in setting up meetings and using Zoom.
  3. Group leaders must ensure that everyone attending is a member of IGO.
  4. The group leader should keep the groups coordinator(s) informed of any significant changes to the group.
  5. Emails to multiple group members must be sent out via Beacon, which is a GDPR compliant method of contacting your group. Group leaders must not use any other services (eg gmail, outlook) to email multiple group members. 

In exceptional cases, group members may want to communicate with each other as part of the group activity. In this case, explicit written permission is required from each member. Groups may wish to use WhatsApp – whatever the communication platform, written permission will need to be given before contact details are shared. The following wording could be used:

If you would like to take part in group discussions outside of the online meetings, please confirm that you are happy for your *email/phone number* to be shared with the other members of the group and to be contacted by other members. 

6. Keeping webpage up to date. Information on the group webpage must be current by updating the IGO team with any updated relevant information. For this reason, it should generally not include reference to specific event dates. It should include information about what the group does and how it works. General information about the timing of meetings should also be included (e.g. second Tuesday, 2-4pm). It should also say how the meetings are conducted (e.g. zoom, WhatsApp, email etc). 

3. Group membership

IGO members must join a group using Beacon.

Membership of a group is normally open to all IGO members, but numbers may be restricted. Group sizes should be as accommodating as possible but may be limited due to:

  • The practicality of enabling all members to contribute to the discussion.
  • The organisation & administration required to run a larger group
  • Prior knowledge requirements (eg langauge learners - beginners and advanced). 

Where possible, when a group becomes too large, group members or leaders could form a second group.

Details of group size limitation should be included in the Beacon description of the group.

Guests are allowed to attend up to two meetings but must join IGO to attend any more meetings than that.

When a group is full, Beacon will invite members to join the waiting list. Beacon does not, however, convert members on the waiting list to group members when a vacancy occurs.

It is important that the group leader monitors the numbers and adds waiting members to the group when a vacancy occurs. This should be done on a first come, first served basis.

If group members have not been attending meetings for some time and there is a waiting list, group leaders should ask for clarity on a member’s continued participation and remove anyone from the Beacon list who is no longer wishing to attend. Members who do not renew their membership will be made lapsed on Beacon, they will show up in red and labelled as lapsed in group lists, and they should be removed from any groups. If lapsed members are still attending meetings without having renewed their membership then please ask them to contact the IGO team so they can be supported into re-joining.

If there are sufficient numbers on the waiting list, the group coordinators will invite these members to consider setting up a separate interest group on the same topic.

4. Beacon Group Administration

Each group is listed on Beacon. The Beacon group listing is managed by the group leader(s) who should provide the following information:

  • an account of what the group does
  • information about when meetings take place
  • contact email address for the group leader
  • the maximum number of members which the group can take

IGO members join the group using the Beacon Members Portal.  If the group is full, the member is able to join the waiting list.

Group Leaders should contact their group members via Beacon -  this protects group members’ contact details and helps ensure data security. Beacon must be used for all bulk or multiple email contact with members.

Beacon also allows a schedule of meetings to be set up. You can read further guidance at Beacon for Group Leaders.

5.  Removing Members from Groups

If a member does not attend meetings for three months, they should be asked if they want to continue to be in the group and advised that if they do not reply, they will be removed.  If they say they want to continue, but do not attend for the next three months, they will be removed anyway.  There may be extenuating circumstances such as illness which should be addressed on a case by case basis, with appropriate discretion advised. 

6. Conflict in a Group Meeting

De-escalation of Conflict

We know that conflict is possible in certain IGO meetings, especially in discussion based groups. Members are reminded of the code of conduct, treating each other with dignity and respect at all times and never acting in a way which is discriminatory or offensive.

Where possible, we advise that all conflict that arises is resolved within a meeting itself. If a member is causing unnecessary disruption or sharing discriminatory views, group leaders are advised to interrupt the member speaking, and give a verbal warning. If the member continues and the zoom functionality allows, leaders can mute these members, and allow the conversation to continue and move on.

If the problem persists, and depending on the zoom setup, some group leaders have the capability to remove a member from a group meeting on zoom.
If you are uncomfortable with the content of a meeting, you may leave the meeting early. Please report any concerns to the IGO Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Zoom Etiquette

We encourage all members to have their cameras on during IGO meetings, being well lit and clearly visible. Sharing body language and facial expressions not only allows members to connect and build relationships more easily, but also allows for lip reading. If someone’s camera is broken or they feel unable to have it on, the member should ensure their microphone is able to pick up their sound clearly and that captions are turned on.

Please see IGO Copyright and GDPR for further information about zoom, screenshots, recordings and data protection.

7. Grievances & Guidance

If an IGO member has any concerns around any of the following:

  • Safeguarding
  • A member’s code of conduct
  • Issues around equality, diversity, accessibility and/or inclusion
  • Data protection
  • Copyright restrictions

Or any other matter that requires further advice and support, please contact the u3a office via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 020 8466 6139.

Support can also be found on the u3a website under the advice for u3as, however members are encouraged to make contact for sensitive and nuanced concerns.

Last updated 24 April 2024

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