Template – Terms of Reference – Working Groups

The document below should be edited to fit your working group. Some example text has been provided but can be deleted or edited as required.

Last updated: (insert date) – for more details see the update log below.


A Terms of reference document defines the purpose and structures of a project, committee, meeting, negotiation, or any similar collection of people who have agreed to work together to accomplish a shared goal. Terms of reference show how the object in question will be defined, developed, and verified.

This document details the terms of reference for the organisation and delivery of (Add group name and summary here)

As a charity, the Society must fulfill its legal obligations in many areas including but not limited to: equality, diversity and inclusivity, financial regulation, working with volunteers, protecting reputation, liability insurance, cancellation insurance, GDPR. 

Many of these legal obligations feature in the organisation of this working group and the Society Trustees must take responsibility for certain decisions and actions while at the same time formally delegating the organisation and delivery to the working group committee. Final responsibility in all matters lies with the Society.

Where the term “the Society” is used, this refers to the Board of Trustees (as the elected representatives of the organisation) unless specified otherwise.


This Terms of Reference is effective from (insert date trustees voted to hand delegated responsibility to WG chair) and continues until the (insert expected date of completion). 

Committee Aim

What is the aim of the working group committee? How does this help the Society’s charitable objectives?

To organise and deliver a relevant outcome for the RSE community providing a balanced and varied programme catering to all RSE roles and skill levels. Creating multiple comfortable and interesting social events with the secondary goal of generating a surplus for the Society that will allow the Society to invest in further activities which meet it’s charitable aims. The Society would expect that no single research domain, language or skill set would be promoted above any other or make up the majority of the programme.

Purpose and Aim of the Working Group’s outputs

What event or outputs will the WG generate? What is the purpose and aim of those outputs, and is the society or working group committee that’s responsible for setting that purpose?

Using careful consideration of the RSE community and the external environment at that time, the Society will decide on the purpose and aim of the WG event and produce a purpose statement that will be agreed with the WG chair and can be placed on the Society and WG websites. This may be a yearly decision looking at the feedback from the previous events. Alternatively a purpose and aim statement can be proposed by the WG chair to the Society for agreement. This statement could cover questions such as but not limited to:

  • What is the purpose? 
  • What are the goals? 
  • What does our community want?
  • What does the Society want? 
  • What is the balance?

Event Name

What will the event name be? How will it be referred to on twitter, in email communications, on the website and in any printed materials?

Any change to this name and format must be agreed by the Society in advance of launching the event. 

Structure and Themes 

If relevant, provide information on the structure and theme of the event/output. Include if any significant changes will have a financial or reputational impact. 

To share this potential impact together, the Society will agree the themes, structure and outline programme each year with the appointed (working group committee member) taking into consideration previous years themes, the current community needs and ideally following a review of the feedback from the previous years event.   


What is the approximate budget for the working group, will it generate income or incur a regular deficit? Will events have a registration fee and who is responsible for managing the budget?

The Society will decide on an overall budget and the surplus amount required to be returned to the Society, this will be agreed with the working group committee. The working group committee is not expected to enter into any agreements or contracts with suppliers or sponsors on behalf of the Society. The registration fee should be proposed by the Society Treasurer and agreed on by the Society. Discussions should be had around different registration levels for different types of attendees. The working group committee is asked to help with potential and relevant contacts and introductions. 

Insurance Policies

What insurance policies, if any, are required for this working group? 

The Society Treasurer will ensure that the event is covered with any appropriate insurance policies like but not limited to: Public Liability insurance, Events cancellation insurance. This should be organised in conjunction with the working group committee so that all involved have full knowledge of what is both required and purchased.


If the working group is due to generate funding through sponsorship or registration fees, please provide details on the balance between these and what proportion of the expenses each covers. Which committee members will be responsible for producing sponsorship packages, and how will they work with the Society?

The packages are produced by the (committee member) and finalised with agreement from the President, Vice-President and Treasurer ideally 10 months before the event date and before approaching the sponsors.  

The Society expects the (committee member) to approach non-controversial sponsors representing the Society and working group. If a sponsor is potentially controversial to the community a decision may need to be taken by the trustees.


How will the working group committee report on progress to the Society, and how frequently?

The Society requests that one of the working group committee reports on progress at the monthly trustee meeting in the role of ‘WG Liaison’. This can be the same person each time or change as necessary depending on availability. Any formal decisions which the trustees are expected to make regarding the conference should be submitted to the Society secretary at least one week in advance of a trustee meeting so that they can be included in our agenda. Once event registration is open, we ask that registration numbers are reported weekly to the trustees by the Liaison, by email. The Society will create a folder on the google drive for the working group’s documents and would expect to see regular meetings with notes and actions clearly defined. 

Keynote Speakers

If relevant, who will approve any keynote speakers and their potential cost?

The Society will approve the keynote speakers and their potential cost before the appropriate working group committee member approaches the speaker or agent. The Society reserves the right to withdraw a speaker if inappropriate views or content from the Speaker comes to light after the booking. 

Venue tendering 

If relevant, how will any event venue be chosen and paid for?

The Society understands our legal and financial obligations as a charity when tendering for a large contract as specified in the Tendering Process Policy.  Firstly, the Society will review, revise and agree on an updated Venue Specification Document. Normally, the Society will manage the tendering process 18-24 months before the conference date. The President of the Society or the Treasurer of the Society will sign the venue contract once the costs and terms & conditions have been reviewed and agreed by the Society.  

Committee Roles 

How will the working group committee be structured? Which roles will be taken with trustees and which will be volunteers? How will any volunteers be supported and guided? Will there be a steering group within the committee, if so which roles will be part of it? When will roles be appointed, and what is the process? Include a diagram/image of the committee structure if relevant.

The WG committee will consist of a majority of volunteers and both the Society and the Steering Group should ensure that working as a committee member is a fun and learning experience. To that end, we look for a proactive attitude from the Steering Group to ensure that tasks are evenly spread, giving opportunities to all volunteers to learn new skills and gain confidence in event organisation. 

The Society must fulfill its obligations with regards to volunteers working on behalf of the charity. The Society will make sure there are proper arrangements for their recruitment, support and supervision. To this end, the committee structure spreads the risk while allowing Chairs to use their energy and time efficiently in their own area of expertise and responsibility. A minimum of two currently serving trustees are required to be on the conference committee. One of which will be an ‘Advisor’ to the Steering Group from the trustee ‘event/conference’ sub group who will use their extensive experience and knowledge about events and event planning to provide advice where necessary. 

Four volunteers will form the Steering Group: (list roles). This steering group takes responsibility collectively for all decisions and can vote when unable to agree unanimously. If this vote doesn’t lead to agreement, the decision is taken out of the Steering Group to the President of the Society who has the casting vote.

For induction, the WG Steering Group is asked to:

The process for appointing the WG committee is as follows:

  1. The Society will launch an open call for a minimum of three weeks to the RSE Community, a minimum of twelve months ahead of the annual event to find the chair.
  2. The Society will shortlist, interview and appoint the steering group members.
  3. The Steering Group will launch a call for volunteers for the remaining roles. This call should be open for a  minimum of two weeks.
  4. The newly formed Steering Group consisting of the above four roles decides on the committee members from the open call submissions and confirms the committee members to the Society. 

The open call is looking to fill these roles typically: (list roles)

Role Descriptions are available from the Society for the open call and to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities. 

Onboarding of Committee members

The Society asks that the Steering Group ensure that an initial onboarding meeting takes place to cover the following (but not limited to) activities:

  • Introductions and icebreaker
  • Circulate this document and ask all to read it carefully
  • Ask each member to take the free (mandatory) online EDI training on https://elearning.acas.org.uk/
    • Bullying & Harassment
    • Discipline & Grievance
    • Equality & Diversity
    • Disability Discrimination and Reasonable Adjustments
  • Read the Organisation Code of Conduct
  • Read the Complaints and Grievances policy
  • Volunteer policy – see charity governance
    • Complete the free ‘Good Practice in Volunteer Management

Removal of unproductive committee members 

In the unlikely event of an important committee role not being fulfilled with the possibility of that inaction jeopardising the working group, the Society reserves the right to ask that volunteer to step down and will appoint a new person in that role. The new person will be appointed in discussion and agreement with the Steering Group. If any committee member is concerned about the behaviour or inaction of a fellow committee member, they can raise a grievance through our Complaints and Grievances Policy

The Society reserves the right to remove any of the Steering group if sufficient progress is not being made and this inaction is thought to lead to a failure to deliver the working groups goals.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity

How will you work towards making the working group’s goals fit within our EDI policy and make any events open and accessible to all? 

Within the committee there will be an EDI chair, who should provide statements covering the event’s goals in regards to equality, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility. These statements will be agreed on by the Society and the Steering Group as a reflection of the Society’s aspirations and goals for each of these areas for the RSE community. The Society can discuss with the EDI Chair who we would like to encourage to attend the conference. The EDI chair should be familiar and work within the confines of the Society EDI policy [LINK].

The Society will provide input into the collection of EDI statistics that will be collected at the online registration point so we ask that the EDI Chair liaises with the EDI Trustee team. The EDI Chair is asked to provide a summary after the conference to the Society. Any changes to this format must be proposed and agreed by the Society. 

The Environment and Sustainability

If relevant, how will you make the working group environmentally friendly and sustainable? Will there be any giveaways at events?

The Society asks that the committee think carefully about what giveaways it would like to make available to event attendees and make reasonable adjustments to minimise waste and the production of single use giveaways. 

This may take the form of 

  • using an online programme app instead of printed copies, 
  • compostable name badges, 
  • reusing previous years lanyards
  • encouraging attendees to bring reusable hot drink cups
  • only have one main event designed giveaway (t-shirt)

The Society asks that any giveaways be reusable and useful and that this same behaviour is communicated to the sponsors.


Will the working group collect any feedback from events? If so, how will this be collected and shared with the Society?

The Society asks the Steering Group to create a feedback form for the attendees, encourage participation after the event and compile a summary with recommendations for the following year intended for the trustees and a blog post for the Society website. The Society would like to agree to the feedback form going to attendees. This would enable the Society to have the opportunity to add any specific questions relating to the conference or the community.

Publicity and online presence

What publicity will the working group require? Would you like the Society to help set up accounts, a page on our website or to share materials? 

The Society will help in the creation of a twitter account and website and will actively help in the publicising of the event from their own twitter account. Any publicity should refrain from making any political or religious statements, from liking political, religious or extreme views online (or indeed anywhere) and understands that it does not represent the Society or the Society’s views. 

Codes of Conduct (CoC)

The Society has two Codes of Conduct currently in place: an event CoC and an organisation CoC (also known as the Trustee Code of Conduct). The event CoC covers the expected conduct at events and on any online forums and apps. The organisation CoC covers the expected conduct for the organising committee. The Society expects both of these CoCs to be adopted by the Steering Group. Any changes to either document would need to be requested to the Society and approved by trustee vote.