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Choosing a Location
It's best to host your meeting in a neutral space. Schools, churches and service clubs will often donate space if you ask them. Hosting meetings in people's homes works well for a close-knit group, but makes it harder to recruit new people (especially those from outside the HD community).
Choosing a Structure That Works
Your chapter executive must meet regularly so that you can plan, carry out activities and report back to the group. A regular meeting time helps people fit them into their schedules.
Most chapters meet once a month on a set day, such as the first Tuesday of each month. However, how frequently you meet and how long the meetings run really depend on the structure of the chapter and the work to be done.
Show a healthy respect for the time your volunteers are giving. Everyone is busy, and people with HD tire easily and may not have enough energy to be out late. Make good use of the Internet, telephone and task-oriented committees so that you can reserve meetings for larger-scale planning and decision making.
Some chapters have a business meeting only, while others invite a guest speaker or have an event. Most have refreshments and a chance to network with other members.
Support group meetings and chapter business meetings have very different purposes and need to be kept separate.
If you have support meetings for individuals and families with HD, hold your business meetings on a different day, or reserve a half hour at the end of the business meeting for personal sharing and support.
Otherwise, you risk losing members who are looking for support and become frustrated when the only thing discussed is the next fundraising event.
However, each chapter is unique. The bottom line is that if you have an approach that works for your group, don't change it.
The chair can lay the groundwork for well-run and effective meetings with good preparation:
• Have a pre-set time and place.
• Know what you want to accomplish at the meeting.
• Develop an agenda. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but make sure everyone has a copy, or write it on a flip chart or blackboard that everyone can see. You may want to ask your members for agenda items beforehand.
• On your own copy of the agenda, note how long each item should take. This will help you keep the meeting on track and prevent you from cramming in too many things.
• Arrive early to make sure the site is ready and any audio/visual aids are working.
During the meeting, it's the job of the chair to:
• Focus the discussion on the agenda.
• Encourage input from others.
• Look for agreement.
• Make sure key decisions are made clearly.
• Summarize the tasks everyone has agreed to do.
To keep meetings smooth and productive:
• Keep everything polite and fair. Polite means that you can disagree with an idea or motion, but not tell someone that he or she is wrong. Fair means that the majority rules - always!
• Involve your members. The meeting does not belong to the chair or president.
• Encourage discussion. Several minds applied to a problem are usually better than just one, so the more discussion generated around an issue or a topic, the better the outcome is likely to be.
2. Guest speaker (if any)
3. Approval of agenda
4. Approval of minutes of the previous meeting
5. Business arising from the minutes
7. Financial report
8. Committee reports - Amaryllis, Indy, Public Awareness, etc.
9. New business
10. Date of next meeting
Getting People Out
People need a good reason to come out to meetings. To improve attendance at your meetings:
• Plan an interesting agenda.
• Make sure someone phones members a few days beforehand and tells them about the program. Ask members for their suggestions for future meetings.
• Be well prepared, follow the agenda and keep the meeting moving. Longer is not better! When meetings drag on, your volunteers will start thinking of all the other things they could be doing.
• Introduce newcomers at the beginning of the meeting and welcome them. This is a critical moment for newcomers - it may help them to decide whether or not to come back.
• Take the opportunity to get to know new members. Find out what they are interested in and give them an opportunity to help with a project.
• It is important to give a new volunteer an easy task during the first or second meeting, to get him/her engaged in chapter activities.
• Provide light refreshments.
• Engage everyone in the meeting.
• Thank everyone who attended and assisted with the meeting.