Ireland, Northern Ireland Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance

Best practice from Ireland – Guidance manual for Fingal community facilities


Donabate Portrane Community & Leisure Centre, Donabate, Co Dublin. Credit@FCC.

Fingal County Council, a local authority north of Dublin City, serves a geographical location of 448. sq km, which spans rural, coastal, urban and suburban communities and is home to several key elements of national and regional infrastructure, including Dublin Airport. 

With 35 Community Centres and serving one of the fastest growing areas in Ireland, Fingal County Council (FCC) looks to support the highest standards of facilities management and good governance in their community facilities while ensuring they are meeting the ever-changing needs of local communities.

In 2022, over 2.3 million people accessed their local community centre in Fingal. Fingal County Council recognises the enormous challenges facing volunteer boards of management and community centre managers who are responsible for these local centres on a day-to-day basis, particularly in areas such as legislative compliance and health and safety.

Parallel to this, boards are required to develop a sustainable operational model that will ensure that the facility is meeting the needs of the community and that it is generating income which supports the sustainability of the facility into the future. They are also accountable to many funders who provide resources to support staffing and programme costs. Therefore, volunteers are under significant pressure to ensure that their governance and operational practices are in order.

Recognising these challenges, the Council’s Community Development Office identified the need to develop a Guidance Manual that would support best practices for voluntary boards of management operating Fingal County Council-owned facilities in the management of their facilities. Fingal works very closely with these boards in the day-to-day management of facilities in areas such as governance, business development, funding applications and facility management.

The main objective of the Guidance Manual is to provide a resource that will help boards develop a consistent framework around how their community facilities are managed, which includes efficient and safe service delivery, facility maintenance and operation, policy development, and sustainability across all FCC-supported community facilities.

The process

The Guidance Manual was developed by the Community Development Office’s ‘Community Facilities Management Support Unit’, led by Senior Community Officer Janet Ivers, in conjunction with key stakeholders: Quality Matters, Acacia FM Ltd and Fingal Community Facilities Network recognising that managing an effective and sustainable community facility can be a complex and challenging task for volunteer boards.

The development of the Guidance Manual was informed by a needs assessment, which was carried out to gain a better insight into what supports community facility managers and boards wanted and to ensure that the online resource was as useful as possible in supporting the daily operation of community facilities across the county.

The guide was developed through the following processes:

  • Extensive desk research and evaluation of existing material, such as templates and policies.
  • An online survey was sent to potential users of the guide with questions regarding their daily work, use of resources, needs, areas of difficulties, and wishes for a useful operational guideline manual.
  • An online focus group was conducted with centre managers and board members, during which the areas of difficulty were discussed and explored in depth.

Main themes:

The Guidance Manual focuses on the main themes involved in the day-to-day management and operation of a community facility.

  1. Facility management
  2. Governance
  3. Human resources
  4. Finance and procurement
  5. Fundraising
  6. Community development
  7. Marketing and social media
  8. Risk management
  9. Policies and procedures

The Guidance Manual provides an extensive overview of each topic and resource links that can support groups in developing their policies and best practices. It is hosted on the Fingal Community Facilities Network website and provides links to a policy hub that contains a wide range of resources that can be regularly updated.

Official Launch of Guidelines for Fingal Community FacilitiesL-R Robert Burns, Director of Housing & Community Development, Mayor of Fingal Cllr Adrian Henchy, Janet Ivers Senior Community Officer, Linda Ennis Principal Community Officer
Official Launch of Guidelines for Fingal Community FacilitiesL-R Robert Burns, Director of Housing & Community Development, Mayor of Fingal Cllr Adrian Henchy, Janet Ivers Senior Community Officer, Linda Ennis Principal Community Officer

While the guide recognises the complexity of developing a standard model for the management of Community Facilities, given the difference in budgets, interests, policies, and visions of involved parties, it focuses on standard good practice. It is formulated as a compendium that will help the reader understand key aspects of central topics within community facility management and provides further links to help and support if needed.

The guide can be used at any point in the planning or operational phase of a community facility. The principles and tools are equally applicable to new and well-established facilities. However, the guide is not intended to be prescriptive as no two community facilities are the same. The links to the online resources aim to ensure the guide remains relevant, as these will be continuously updated as changes are made.

This Guidance Manual has been developed into a user-friendly Plain English tool and has been translated into the Irish Language. Fingal County Council is confident that the Guidance Manual provides an excellent tool for boards, community officers and centre managers to improve their operational practices and develop more opportunities to expand and develop their projects.

Thanks to Fingal County Council for sharing this case study of best practice. Do you have a similar project you would like to share? Then click below and tell your story! 

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