What Is the Difference Between a Chapter and a Constituent Group?
Chapters are organizations where membership is defined by a constituency that resides in a similar geographic area. An example of a chapter is the University Chapter with members residing in Monongalia County, West Virginia.
Constituent groups are defined by a constituency that shares a common experience. An example of a constituent group is the Alumni Band with members having performed in The Pride of West Virginia while enrolled.
There are two types of chapters and constituent groups – chartered and non-chartered. Chartered groups are formal organizations with bylaws, meeting basic structural requirements. Chartered group leaders are referred to as Chapter or Constituent Group Leaders. Non-chartered groups are informal, do not have bylaws, do not handle money and are not bound by basic structural requirements. Non-chartered group leaders are referred to as Alumni Ambassadors. The chosen group leader and Alumni Association staff will determine jointly if a group should be chartered or non-chartered.
Starting a Chapter or Constituent Group
If you are interested and considering to possibility of starting a group, the first step is to look to see if a group already exists for your area or interest. A list of active chapters and constituent groups is included in the handbook as Addendum D. If no group exists, the steps listed below will outline the general procedure for getting started. There are instances where the criteria and procedures to establish a group must be altered. However, in most instances the steps below will lead to establishing a chartered group.
1. Review the list of expectations for different types of groups and information about support that is provided by the Alumni Association. The expectations are included in this handbook as Addendum E. A list of basic support provided by the Alumni Association is included in the handbook as Addendum F.
2. Contact the WVU Alumni Association at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in forming or reorganizing an alumni group. An Alumni Association staff member will be assigned to discuss the feasibility of starting one and the process to get started.
3. An alumni staff member will assist you in pulling the agreed upon data from the Association’s alumni records and sending out an email to gauge interest in the group and to identify other alumni who are willing to volunteer. The Alumni Association will also refer interested alumni to you.
4. When you’ve identified other alumni volunteers, work together with your assigned alumni staff member to set a date, time and convenient location for a kick-off event.
5. Set an agenda for the event. The primary goals of an initial meeting should be both fun and practical: to meet one another; discuss ideas for future activities; and to engage volunteers.
6. Work with your assigned alumni staff member to create and send a blast e-mail invitation to the event. Collect RSVPs and work with the venue to make sure they are informed about the expected number of attendees.
7. Hold the event. Have a sign-in sheet where you can collect contact attendee information.
8. Complete a post-event report. A copy of a post event report is included in the handbook as Addendum G. Based on feedback from your meeting, discuss with your alumni staff member and make decisions about the structure of the group.
9. If you decide to charter the chapter, work with your alumni staff member to create bylaws to be approved by your group at the next meeting of the group. A copy of sample chapter bylaws is included in the handbook as Addendum H. If you elect to remain non-chartered, the steps end with the post event report.
10. Return a copy of your approved bylaws to the Alumni Association. After the bylaws have been entered into the Association’s records, a meeting will be scheduled so that the Executive Director of the Association can present the group with their official charter.
Developing and Maintaining a Strong Group
A strong, dedicated leadership group is vital to developing and maintaining a strong organization. When choosing the leadership of the group, seek capable individuals willing to dedicate the time to initiate, plan and promote a variety of activities appealing to a diverse audience. Successful leaders tend to have strong communications and organizational skills, work well with others, are imaginative, resourceful and enthusiastic. Successful groups also develop a succession plan to manage a change in leadership. Simply stated, under most circumstances, nurturing a strong group requires the efforts of more than one person. Groups that rely solely on the work of one or a few individuals may have initial success, but are likely doomed to long-term failure.
Alumni Leader Conduct
Alumni leaders are ambassadors for WVU. In order to maintain the reputation for professional excellence of the Association and the University, volunteer leaders are expected to display good judgement, diplomacy and courtesy when dealing with constituents. We ask that you adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional ethics and sign a professionalism and personal conduct statement. A copy of the professionalism and personal conduct statement is included in the handbook as Addendum I.