Robert’s Rules for New Organizations: Holding Your Charter Meeting

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP

Robert’s Rules outlines what you need to do for your charter meeting. For all but the smallest organizations in which everybody who is going to enroll does so at the second organizational meeting, you must conduct a third meeting, known as a charter meeting. The charter meeting is actually the first official business meeting of the new organization.

Enrolling charter members

Just for the sake of encouraging you to think in terms of success, let’s assume that you adopted the bylaws. If so, you’re almost home. If you constructed your bylaws correctly, you’ve specified dues amounts and defined member eligibility. Your new organization doesn’t have any members, though, until you enroll them by collecting dues and obtaining from each member a written agreement to abide by the new bylaws. After you’ve adopted bylaws, the remaining task is to officially enroll members in your new organization.

Because from the moment you adopt bylaws you need to be an enrolled member to vote on anything, your new organization stands in immediate recess to enroll members.

You can’t enroll new members without enrollment agreement forms containing a statement that the undersigned agrees to abide by the bylaws. Signing an enrollment form becomes a commitment to pay the dues and any initiation fee. The recess to enroll members may last only a few minutes if everybody planning to join is at the meeting.

If not, you can adjourn to meet again in a third and final meeting, and you can take a day or two (or more) to distribute bylaws and enrollment agreements. During this longer recess, you can specify some particular date for the charter meeting, at which all the newly enrolled members have the right to vote on the election of permanent officers.

Electing permanent officers

After completing the enrollment of charter members, you have an organization — finally! Now you need to elect your permanent officers, according to the details your bylaws outline. Your temporary chairman presides over this meeting until you have a permanent president.

Handling other essential business

The countdown is on to adjournment of your new association’s organizational session. But before you adjourn, you may have some final details to address. Maybe you just need to fix the time for the next meeting (your bylaws should state it). But you may have other, more important issues to wrap up. For example, the new president may have the duty to appoint committees and may have already made some decisions. Now’s the time to address these details.

Adjourning

When all the work is finished, it’s in order to adjourn the meeting. Future meetings are held in accordance with your bylaws. The end of this process is the beginning of your new organization. Congratulations are in order — you’ve just started a new organization. Now get ready: The real work is ahead of you!