Chapter meetings are essential to working with and supporting a site. They allow the chapter to come together to discuss projects, plans and priorities.
Each chapter meeting should contain the following basic agenda items at a minimum:
- Welcome and Introductions - As the chapter generates and cultivates volunteer interest, new members will frequently attend a chapter meeting. Special care should be taken to welcome new faces and to introduce the officers in attendance. Guests at a meeting should feel welcomed into the group and offered the opportunity to get involved and contribute in a meaningful way. In addition, it may be helpful to review some of the basic information about the chapter to help familiarize guests with the process and goals.
- Minutes - Notes from the prior meeting should be discussed to keep attendees informed about any updates or accomplishments. Minutes are discussed in detail later in this chapter.
- Intermeeting updates - Occasionally, decisions will need to be made between meetings as authorized by the chapter leadership. In these cases, any decisions or actions taken since the group met last should be discussed and reviewed with all present.
- Full Treasurer Report - The treasure or his/her designee should provide a complete treasurer report with printed copies for the membership. The report should include bank balances and any income received or expenses incurred since the last meeting.
- New Business - At some point in the meeting, a request should be made for new business, questions or issues from all those in attendance. Every attendee should feel that they have the opportunity to speak and contribute at chapter meetings.
While the above is certainly not a comprehensive list of all activities that can or should take place at a chapter meeting, it does offer a basic framework. These items should be reviewed at every chapter meeting to help all attendees the opportunity to be involved and to learn about everything going on within the group.
Most chapters choose to hold meetings monthly and manage all chapter business at each meeting. However, some chapters may choose to hold full chapter meetings only quarterly while officers meet monthly. The frequency of chapter meetings may also depend on the activities at the site. For example, if a site is typically quiet and the chapter is not involved in activities over the winter months, the chapter may choose not to meet those months. Whereas, a busy chapter may find the need to meet more often than monthly.
Ultimately, it is up to the chapter to determine how often meetings are held. Regardless of the frequency, it is very important to make sure that members who would like to attend know the meeting schedule and that any changes are well publicized.
Site Staff Attendance
The site staff is critical to the success of the chapter and its ability to function. The site manager or his/her designee should be in attendance at all chapter meetings. However, given current staffing levels and workload, it may not be possible for a staff representative to attend every meeting. Should a meeting occur with no staff member present, the chapter should work with the site manager to communicate what was discussed at the meeting, any decisions that were made and to pose any questions that require site input.
Whenever possible, a representative from the site should be in attendance at meetings. If he or she cannot attend, the chapter is responsible for providing an update
In certain instances, the chapter may choose to meet without site staff present. While this is acceptable and sometimes necessary, it should be very rare and only in unique circumstances.
Time and Location
Much like the frequency, the time and location of meetings is also flexible and entirely up to the chapter. Most chapters hold meetings in the evenings or on weekends when members who may work can attend and meetings typically last one to two hours.
Typically, the leadership of the chapter sets the time for the meetings and then holds regular meetings at that set time. However, it may be important to periodically check with attendees to make sure the time is still meeting everyone’s needs.
Site managers can provide meeting space free of charge for chapter meetings.
Most chapters choose to meet at the site they support. The site manager should be able to help provide space for a chapter to meet. However, this is not always feasible for some sites. In these cases, the chapter should find a meeting location near the site. Some options may include community centers or church reception halls. Even local businesses or restaurants may be willing to provide space for meetings. Regardless of the location, the chapter should try to hold meetings at the same location to avoid confusion.
Running a Meeting
A chapter meeting should be a time for members to get together and discuss the operations, priorities and plans for the chapter. At the same time, meetings should be welcoming and fun for all involved. Meetings are a great time for friendship and fellowship.
Keep meetings interesting by offering periodic diversions from standard meetings. Inviting a guest speaker, having a potluck meeting and meeting in an unusual location are all ways to add diversions to regular meetings.
There are formal methods for keeping order and organization at meetings. One such method is known as “Robert’s Rules of Order” which outlines basic Parliamentary Procedure. This method is one of the most widely known and utilized methods for formal meetings. The set of rules defines the processes for making a motion, seconding and voting on motions, using quorums and maintaining speaking orders.
Robert’s Rules of Order are available online: http://www.rulesonline.com.
Robert’s Rules of Order provide complete parliamentary procedure that may become too unwieldy or complicated for smaller chapter meetings. Those still interested in some type of rules may want to look at Roberta’s Rules of Order, a simplified version of the full parliamentary rules. Another option is to keep things simple. With a smaller chapter, it is entirely possible to conduct meetings without a formal rule of order at all. Common courtesy in allowing everyone to speak and to contribute to the meeting can be all that is required for successful meetings.
Taking good minutes at a chapter meeting can be one of the most important functions. Minutes provide a record of what was discussed and, more importantly, what was decided. Minutes are the perfect place to capture who has volunteered to complete certain activities, how things may be accomplished and the next steps that may be required to finish a task.
Minutes do not have to capture everything that is said at the meeting. They should capture the main points and ideas of the meeting and, most importantly, should capture decisions and plans. Typically, minutes should answer the basic questions: Who? When? and How? Minutes should also include a roster of who attended the meeting.
Typically, the secretary of the chapter would be responsible for taking the minutes. However, there is no reason a different person could not fill this role. The only real requirement is that the minute taker be in attendance.
It is a common and preferred practice to formally approve minutes from previous meetings. This practice gives attendees the opportunity to review the minutes from the last meeting and to ensure everyone is in agreement on what was said. This can also help to serve as a reminder for those who volunteered to complete certain tasks.
As a general rule, minutes should be distributed to all those who were in attendance at the meeting. This allows each person to review the meeting. Additionally, minutes may be posted for the general public or for those who were unable to attend. A web site is typically a good place to post minutes as most people have access to the Internet and can review the minutes at their leisure.
Minutes should be maintained on file for no less than five years and are considered open records. They may be reviewed by the Division or members of the public on request.