Start A Local Chapter
How do you start?
Requirements and Guidelines
Suggestions and Activities
AWIS National Bylaws, Article I, Section I: Chapter Formation. The Executive Board may recognize any chapter organized and composed of members of the Association for the purpose of encouraging communication among members. Each Chapter shall be governed by the BYLAWS which shall not be at variance with the Certificate of Incorporation or the Bylaws of the Association. Each local Chapter has authority to set its own dues and shall be self-supporting. Each chapter shall submit an annual report to the Executive Board when requested. Click here for sample bylaws.
"Women form their own professional (and nonprofessional) organizations for 4 general purposes: 1) to work for the achievement of equal opportunities and rights in reaching their professional goals.., 2) to promote, recognize, and act on women's perspectives in the professional fields, if there is agreement within the group that such special perspectives exist.., 3) to train women in the administrative and political aspects of their professions.., and 4) to promote consciousness arousal among the women of a particular group."
The local chapters of AWIS provide the personal contact between women in science that is impossible in a National organization situated in one location. We believe that forming local groups will provide opportunities to share information and experiences and to develop ideas for addressing concerns and problems of women in the science professions. Members of these chapters will participate in activities determined to be the best methods for accomplishing these goals. There are several benefits to local chapters. As an interdisciplinary organization, AWIS offers a rare opportunity for women scientists to meet professionals from other fields. Also, women in science are frequently isolated from each other in their working environments. By joining AWIS chapters, such women will experience the rapport and camaraderie born of shared activities and mutual respect.
A local chapter also provides a vehicle for developing strategies to address a variety of concerns. A host of issues confront women scientists today, and chapters may choose to follow National AWIS's lead, or concentrate on particular issues of regional concern. The number of possible projects and activities is infinite.
How do you start?
NOTE: AWIS Chapters must have a minimum of 20 (twenty) AWIS members. If this requirement is not met, then creating an AWIS Affiliate Group is the first step. Affiliate Group Procedures and the Application are also listed under the Affiliate Group and Chapter Resource Center.
1. Assemble a nucleus of persons interested in forming a group. We require that you find a minimum of 20 (twenty) others who are also willing to work to get a group started. However well things go in the future, the initial impetus will come from a small group willing and able to donate time, energy, and, probably, some initial financial assistance. If you need to find other interested persons, the AWIS National Office can provide you with a list of National members in your area to contact. There are probably a number of women in your area who are not members of AWIS and may not even know that AWIS exists. To contact them, advertise by posting notices, using public service announcement facilities, by word-of-mouth, etc.
The person who originally contacts the AWIS National Office for this list will be considered the main correspondent unless otherwise specified. The person will usually be referred to as the Chapter Coordinator.
2. Arrange a time and place for a planning session. It is best to have a small organizing meeting first. Find a room to use (for free), meet at someone's home, or meet in a restaurant for a lunch or dinner meeting. You may also choose to have a socializing period before or after conducting the business meeting. Use your judgment about what will work best for the group that is likely to gather.
The coordinator, or other organizer, should draw up an agenda for the meeting, so that everyone knows what needs to be accomplished at this meeting.
A larger event can be planned for the second meeting or if you were not able to locate enough people for the first organizing meeting. Plan a program that will attract women in the sciences, whether students, professionals, or both. [Note -- this group should be expanded to include lots of others -- e.g., science policy, science educators, libraries, scientists in management in industry, etc.] Be careful how you advertise your event as most people will be expecting a group already formed; some will be happy to help get one started, others will want to wait until the group is actually organized before participating.
3. Ask some questions and make some decisions. This first meeting is usually the time to determine how feasible it would be to form a chapter. You will have to ask some of the following questions. If you cannot get good answers, they should be thought about and another meeting arranged so that answers can be presented and discussed at a later date. We suggest going through the whole formation package before discussing the following as some of the answers are contained in this and other documents.
Is there enough of an interest in the idea of women in science getting together on a regular basis? Why should women in science meet or work together regularly? Is the momentum likely to be sustained, or will the group fall apart if some of the original organizers leave?
Are there shared concerns among the women in science in your area?
What do you hope to accomplish by bringing women in science together? What are the purpose and goals of this group?
What community would this group serve and what would be its name? (Names are usually based on the geographical area.)
As much as we would like to see a chapter organized in your area, past experience has shown that if there is no sense of purpose and most of the work falls on a few people, problems arise in a short time. Leaders burn out, leaving them tired and with little or no sense of accomplishment. Others have no idea of why the group exists and will not participate, and may even become disillusioned with AWIS as a whole.
Therefore, if there are no positive answers to the above questions, we suggest that you reexamine the need for a chapter. It might be better to wait. Or it might take some extra effort to develop a genuine and lasting interest in forming a chapter. Usually there is a great deal of interest in forming a chapter, but asking these questions at the beginning provides a solid foundation for the development of an active and productive chapter.
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Requirements and Guidelines for Chapters
1. Chapter and National Membership. Chapters are composed of members of the National organization. In compliance with IRS regulations, all chapter members must be members of the National organization.
Chapter dues are to be paid through the National Office. At the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July, October), you will receive a list of the people who paid dues to the chapter during the last month and a reimbursement check, as long as all reports are submitted to National as required. The check will be for the dues and contributions that the chapter is entitled to. Rebates are determined by tabulating membership in each chapter either at the time of joining or during the renewal process.
Also, membership in AWIS is open to all, female or male. We expect that your chapter will have the same policy. However, chapters have a tendency to become composed of a similar group of people, usually because of the community where meetings are held. For example, meetings held in an academic setting will have mostly faculty and students as members, with few members from local industry. The group may even consist of faculty and staff only, with no students. This results in missed opportunities to mingle with women of different backgrounds and a limited group from which to draw members. It may also create feelings of rejection or isolation for those who feel that they do not fit in. This is a possibility that you should anticipate and try to prevent.
2. Chapter Size. A chapter must have at least twenty (20) members before formal recognition is sought. Chapters seem to be most active when they have a membership of 70 or more members. This usually provides enough people to be responsible for chapter activities without suffering a lot of burnout.
3. Chapter Dues and Money Management. Dues are set by the chapter and should be limited to two categories -- member and student member. The amount should be based on the probable ability of local members to pay and chapter income needs.
The group will need to establish a bank account for the management of funds received. The account should be in the name of the chapter, not a person. Also, we suggest that you require the signature of two persons on checks. Any checks from AWIS will be made out to the chapter. Any payments from chapter members (e.g., for dinners or programs) should also be made out to the chapter.
Usually, a treasurer is elected to handle funds (see sample constitution). The chapter's executive board should review the chapter's financial situation regularly. Income need not be limited to membership dues; in fact, we encourage you to develop other resources. Because of AWIS's not-for-profit status, there are some special considerations for us in money management, especially regarding our tax- exempt status. PLEASE see the information on AWIS and the Internal Revenue Service and call us if you have any questions.
4. Bylaws. The purpose of the Bylaws is to have a written guide to the purpose and operation of your chapter. The chapter section on the website contains a sample gives you an idea of how they should look. It also indicates the minimum amount of information your Bylaws must contain. The Bylaws should provide the procedures for operating the chapter and for solving problems. Do not produce too rigid or too fluid a document or you will run into problems later.
The chapter Bylaws may not contradict National AWIS's Bylaws but do need to specify how the group is operated. The composition of your Executive Board may differ from National AWIS's, and other duties may be added or deleted. Certain provisions should be included in your bylaws as specified in the National document.
When you have finished drafting your document, a copy should be sent to the AWIS National Office for approval. Any changes will be sent to you for correction, and the documents should be resubmitted. When they are approved and other required papers are received, the chapter will be formally recognized. However, since the approval process may take a few weeks, chapters begin official operation as soon as the paperwork is in. We will contact you if there is a serious problem.
5. AWIS and the Internal Revenue Service. National AWIS is a not-for-profit organization as specified under IRS Code Section 501(c) (3). This makes us exempt from payment of federal income taxes. Chapters must follow certain procedures to obtain the same status. The required documents are as important as the Bylaws. Please see the information on AWIS Chapters and the IRS for details.
6. Chapter Recordkeeping. A responsibility that will most likely fall to the secretary of the chapter is the maintenance of chapter records. Apart from the membership records, it is important that documents from National be kept in a known place and be passed on and reviewed by successive chapter officers. Included are the documents in the chapter formation package and any official communication from National AWIS relating to chapter business.
7. Taking a Position on Issues. Chapters are not to take positions on issues or join others organizations without the permission of the National organization. We encourage the active interest of chapters in local and national issues of concern to women in science. The national organization will be glad to consider any matter raised by local chapters.
Any legislative matters also need to be approved by the AWIS Executive Board. Chapters may not take any political stand not already sanctioned by the Executive Board.
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Suggestions and Activities
1. Chapter Meetings. The most common chapter activity is the regular meeting. It may be monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or whatever is most appropriate for your group. We recommend monthly or bimonthly. The format may also vary. Most chapters will present a program of some sort, such as a guest speaker or panel. Some will have social hours, with or without refreshments, or schedule dinner at a nearby restaurant before the meeting. The meeting place may also vary. Some meet at the same place, same time, same day. Others will vary to accommodate differing member schedules and locations. When choosing locations, consider member interests. Topics may cover issues important to the professional (in industry, government, or academe) or the student; issues addressing science policy or ethics; presentations of recent research in different fields; or items on the feminist agenda.
The meetings may be open or closed to non-members. However, opening all or part of the meeting to others is advisable. People are reluctant to join a group they know nothing about.
2. Increasing Chapter Membership. People have to find out about your chapter before they can join. You can advertise or make direct contact by:
a. Requesting an Excel spreadsheet of National AWIS members from the AWIS National Office;
b. Posting notices at research and academic institutions, private science industry employee bulletin boards, etc. (include a contact name);
c. Placing announcements in local newspapers, including campus publications. These are often provided free as a public service.
d. Writing up a small brochure or flyer describing your chapter, including a chapter application, if space permits.
3. Networking with Local Groups. Usually there are other women's groups and resource centers in your area. In addition to letting them know you exist, try planning events with them. This lets you sponsor larger, more attractive events. Other science groups and institutions may be eager to work with a women-in-science group. Contact your local academy of science or science museum.
4. Public Relations/Community Outreach. The chapter should foster and maintain good relations with the community. Offer the resources of your group; for example, set up a Speaker's Bureau, a Big Sister program, or be available to judge science fairs. Chapters may even distribute their own awards, such as an outstanding woman scientist of the year, or a prize to the best projects by young girls at a local science fair.
Do not be shy about creating publicity for yourselves. Utilize the various forms of social media to publicize your chapter and the events that are being held. Send notices to local newsletters. Make sure that your group is given credit when you participate in events. It will benefit your group and get women in science in the public consciousness.
5. Share Ideas with other Chapters. If you see that another chapter has a program similar to yours, or has one that you would like to initiate, contact them to discuss it. We all have the same basic goal. And sharing experiences helps us to reach that goal faster and more efficiently. A local chapter directory is available from the AWIS National Office and is also available on the AWIS website under Chapters.
The above is designed to serve as a guide to forming and operating your group. Not all of the suggestions need be adopted, nor are they meant to be the only options. If you have questions about the above, or wish to discuss ideas of your own, please contact
Association for Women in Science
1321 Duke Street, Suite 210
Alexandria, VA 22314
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