Unit Committees and Volunteers

What is a Committee?

Unit officers and individual members help to carry out the Unit’s charge, but committees typically carry the majority of a Unit’s workload. Most Units have standing committees and special committees. Standing committees are those that have a continuing charge from year to year and are defined in the Unit’s bylaws. Membership, nominating, and continuing education committees are all examples of standing committees—each has responsibilities from year to year, regardless of the Unit president’s plan of work. Special committees are those created by the Unit president to fulfill a specific charge over the course of a finite, relatively short period of time. Often, special committees are created to address a specific project, such as bylaws revision, strategic plan development, publishing a proceedings or other book. Special committees may also be established to oversee new programs, such as a new award or scholarship. Unlike standing committees, which function unless Unit bylaws are suspended or revised to eliminate the committee, special committees dissolve at the end of a Unit president’s term, unless reestablished and reappointed by their successor. If a special committee’s charge develops into ongoing responsibilities, Unit members may elect to revise their bylaws to create a new standing committee with this charge. The current list of standing and special Society-level committees are located at https://fisheries.org/about/committees/.

Standing committee composition, including the number of required members, necessary representation, ex officio or other predetermined members, etc., is typically stipulated in the Unit bylaws. For example, bylaws may state that a Unit’s nominating committee must have at least 3 members and is chaired by the immediate-past president. In most cases, committee chairs must be AFS members, but not all Units require committee members to be AFS members. Requirements aside, Unit leaders are encouraged to consider diversity—gender, racial/ethnic, generational, disciplinary, geographic, and otherwise—when making committee appointments. Committees that are diverse are more likely to consider a wider diversity of perspectives in fulfilling their obligations—innovation begins with the assembling of more and different ideas.

Additional recommendations for working with committees and volunteers is location at https://fisheries.org/about/Units/guidelines/using-committees-and-volunteers/

The Role of the Officers/Executive Meeting

The roles of officers and standing committee chairs, all of whom must be Society members in good standing are clearly specified in Unit bylaws. For example, the treasurer is responsible for monitoring, documenting, and reporting the Unit’s financial transactions, the newsletter editor is responsible for assembling and distributing a newsletter to Unit members on a quarterly basis, etc. As members of the Executive Committee (EXCOM), however, officers and other Unit leaders have specific responsibilities beyond that of Unit members, committee chairs, etc. As elected/appointed representatives of the Unit membership, EXCOM members are given considerable authority beyond that of the office or chair they occupy. For example, a Unit EXCOM may have the authority to make financial decisions or conduct other Unit business without consulting the full membership. For this reason, it is essential that EXCOM members be actively engaged, informed, and approach their role in a deliberative, conscientious manner.

Running a Business Meeting

Robert’s Rules of Order

Most of us have attended meetings that were poorly planned, inefficiently conducted, and unproductive. Some may have experienced a meeting complicated by side-bar discussions, seemingly never-ending circular debates, or even being ‘hijacked’ by one or a few vocal attendees. When meetings are mandatory, we have no choice but to participate, regardless of how well (or not) the meeting is run. As volunteers, however, AFS members can choose whether to attend and participate in meetings. By planning ahead and leading the meeting effectively, members will feel that your meeting is a good use of their time and continue to attend, engage, and participate.

Robert’s Rules of Order is the ‘gold standard’ for parliamentary procedure and, as specified in the AFS Constitution, is the authoritative guidance for conducting AFS and Unit business. Unit leaders are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Robert’s Rules. Though many find parliamentary procedure to be intimidating, Robert’s Rules exist to help run effective meetings and to conduct business in a fair, transparent manner. The current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order is the defining source, but the Wikipedia entry for Robert’s Rules of Order provides a wealth of information regarding parliamentary procedure that is an appropriate introduction for most Unit leaders. Other quick reference sources can be readily found online and may even be distributed to attendees at the meeting (http://diphi.web.unc.edu/files/2012/02/MSG-ROBERTS_RULES_CHEAT_SHEET.pdf). A more in-depth resource, specifically tailored for AFS leaders, “Running a Meeting under Robert’s Rules of Order: A Primer for AFS Unit Leaders”, is provided at https://fisheries.org/about/Units/guidelines/roberts-rules-of-order/. The Primer addresses the proper order of business, approving minutes, handling motions, types of motions, adjourning meetings, and recording minutes with brief, easy-to-follow guidance. Unit leaders are strongly encouraged to review the Primer before meetings to familiarize themselves with Robert’s Rules or to refresh their knowledge. Knowing and following Robert’s Rules will ensure a fair deliberative process, whereby all are allowed to speak to a matter, but no individual can dominate the discussion or force a decision in any direction.

Although Unit presidents are responsible for presiding over a meeting, it can be quite difficult to manage the meeting and parliamentary procedure at the same time. For this reason, it is customary to establish a parliamentarian at the outset of any meeting. For the Society, this is the Constitutional Consultant. If your Unit does not have a formally recognized parliamentarian, anyone familiar with parliamentary procedure present at the meeting can be asked to serve in this capacity for the duration of the meeting (former parliamentarians or past-presidents of the Unit are often good choices). This individual will help to keep the meeting and flow of business on-track and in compliance with Robert’s Rules of Order.

Leaders often know what they are trying to accomplish on behalf of their Unit, but are unsure as to how to approach some of the formalities of conducting business according to Robert’s Rules. In many cases, there are multiple ways to get the business done, some of which are easier and more straightforward than others. The AFS Constitutional Consultant is an excellent resource for information regarding Robert’s Rules of Order, as well as preparing motions for consideration by the Unit or Governing Board.

For more information specific to running AFS Unit business meetings, see https://fisheries.org/about/Units/guidelines/conducting-business-meeting-guidelines/ and https://fisheries.org/about/Units/guidelines/roberts-rules-of-order/

Planning an Annual Meeting

AFS has many suggestions and resources available to assist Units with site and venue selection, hotel contracting, meeting planning and running a tradeshow. Contact the AFS Meetings Manager, for more information and assistance.

Deciding on a Location

Ease of travel for attendees, air fare costs, attractiveness, walking distance venues, per night hotel rate, meeting cost are all important considerations. Be sure to consider the possibility of hidden costs. For example, many properties will look attractive based on rental pricing, but food and beverage costs could make the total event cost two to three times that of a nearby property. The AFS Headquarters Office staff can help you evaluate different locations and venues, as well as offer recommendations for other service providers that can assist with the planning and management of large events.

Negotiating Hotel, Meeting Space, and Other Contracts

Send out an RFP (Request for Proposal) to target properties in your requested area, and only the properties that can accommodate your request will reply. Read responses carefully and if you’re unclear about certain provisions, ask for more direct wording or propose a revision / counteroffer. Be cautious of attrition commitments on contracts. It is always best to ask for meeting rooms and function space that is too large rather than asking for more space later. Once the hotel contract has been signed, it will be very expensive to add additional space. If you target an area off-season, nearly everything is negotiable including food and beverage pricing.

Managing Registration

There are several companies that charge a per person fee from $0.99 to $4.00 a person +3% bank charges for managing registrations. AFS staff can provide a few suggestions regarding service providers.

Running a Trade Show

Attracting exhibitors can be difficult. Targeting existing personal relationships and federal and state/provincial agency affiliations is often effective. Handing out booth registration forms at the conclusion of the current meeting for next year will also generate interest among existing exhibitors, particularly if the tradeshow was successful. Between meetings, make sure to stay in contact with exhibitors and provide updates about the upcoming meeting. Offer benefits for becoming a sponsor or exhibitor and try to have extra activities at the tradeshow to keep traffic flowing during slow times. Examples of extra activities include cooking demonstrations, cyber cafés, breaks, or raffles. During the meeting, regularly check in with exhibitors to ensure there are no problems.

Running a Raffle, Silent or Live Auction

Try to solicit items as far in advance as possible from vendors, crafters, tackle and fishing manufacturers, recreational and industry suppliers, sporting goods stores, or other potential contributors. Request a deadline for receipt of the items and distribute a list of auction items to registered attendees to generate interest. Consider holding a live auction for ‘big ticket’ items, such as personal watercraft, guided trips/tours, etc., as this approach is usually the best way to encourage friendly competition among bidders and increase the revenue these items generate.

Planning for Special Attendees and Other Guests

Besides your membership and leaders, consider other guests who might be attending your meeting and require accommodations or assistance. These may include other AFS Unit leaders who may wish to formally participate in business meetings, plenaries, or other events (e.g., Society officers typically attend Division and other Unit meetings and speak on behalf of the Society to the membership or Executive Committee) or international attendees or other guests (e.g., invited plenary speakers) who may be unfamiliar with the location or other aspects of the meeting. These individuals may need more information regarding logistics, help with accommodations, etc., so be sure to plan ahead and provide assistance when needed.