The ability of Friends to operate successfully to best support Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites relies primarily on volunteers throughout the state who give of their time and effort to support and preserve Georgia’s greatest natural and cultural treasures. Without this army of volunteers and chapter leaders, Friends could not accomplish its mission.
As the organization has grown with more than fifty chapters statewide, so has the amazing creativity, ingenuity and passion to solve problems and create solutions for the parks and historic sites. One key to chapter success is local governance in partnership with the site manager to determine what is best for each site and to act appropriately.
While the local structure and governance allows great flexibility, chapters are required to work within the boundaries of the four primary governing documents that define the roles and responsibilities of Statewide Friends, Friends Chapters and the Division.
There are four documents fundamental to the operation of a chapter. The documents take precedence in the following order:
- Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, Inc. Corporate Bylaws
- Cooperative Agreement between The Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, Inc. and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division (hereinafter referred to as the Master Agreement)
- Chapter Agreement between Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites and the chapter
- Chapter Bylaws/Operating Guidelines
This set of documents governs the operations of chapters and how they interact with the sites they support and with Statewide Friends. If there are any conflicts between any of these documents, the order of precedence is used to resolve the conflict.
Because these documents are the legal foundation for the corporate entity, compliance is required by state and federal laws. As such, Statewide Friends reserves the right to periodically assess a chapter’s compliance with the terms of each governing document to evaluate whether a chapter continues to meet minimum standards for recognition as a chapter. In cases where a chapter is found to be out of compliance, Statewide Friends will work with the chapter to provide guidance on addressing the deficiencies. In rare instances, to protect the statewide entity, recognition as a chapter may be temporarily suspended and assets may be held by Statewide Friends until such time as the chapter qualifies for recertification. Once a chapter complies with the provisions of the documents and is recertified, the chapter designation will be reinstated and assets returned to the chapter.
The bylaws of the corporation govern the activities of the entire organization including those of the chapters. These bylaws grant the company the authority to create and recognize chapters. Specific chapter activities are rarely impacted by any restrictions in these rules. They are primarily used to determine the operating principles of the Statewide Friends organization.
The Master Agreement is a contract between the Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites Division (PRHSD) and Statewide Friends. This document governs how Statewide Friends and chapters operate in relation to the entire park system as well as the individual site(s) supported. Chapters should be familiar with the Master Agreement and its provisions. Many issues covered in the agreement can impact how chapters operate. The Master Agreement is included in the appendices of this handbook in its entirety. In addition, a plain English translation has been provided to make the agreement simpler to understand.
The Chapter Agreement is the document that formalizes the chapter as a part of the larger corporation. Essentially, this document is related to the initial formation of the chapter itself. It lists the initial officers and the initial priorities for the chapter. The agreement also ensures compliance with the Statewide Friends bylaws and the Master Agreement.
Chapter Bylaws or Guidelines
A chapter’s bylaws are the guiding principals and procedures that govern its operations. While Statewide Friends offers sample bylaws as a recommendation for chapters, the actual content of the bylaws is up to the chapter leadership to establish. Assuming there are no contradictions with any of the other three governing documents or with state law, the bylaws can contain virtually any provision the chapter leadership determines appropriate for the operation of the chapter.
Chapter bylaws should not be perceived as static. A primary reason they are not dictated by Statewide Friends is to allow for the flexibility required from site to site. As such, it is recommended that bylaws be reviewed periodically to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the chapter. Bylaws should also include a provision for amendments. It is unrealistic to assume that, once created, a chapter’s bylaws will always meet the needs of the chapter and the site. Bylaws should be thorough enough to help set the guidelines for chapter operations but, at the same time, should not be so restrictive as to make compliance difficult.
Should a chapter’s bylaws be modified by the chapter leadership, they must be resubmitted for approval to Statewide Friends to ensure there are no conflicts and to help the organization keep track of chapter functions.
This handbook is not necessarily considered a governing document. However, the governing documents are the basis for much of the information contained herein. In some cases, chapters are entitled to stray from the advice provided in this handbook. However, there are instances where compliance is dictated by one of the governing documents. Chapter leaders should be familiar with the governing documents and this handbook to help guide their decision making processes.