Bryn Mawr Alumnae Club Handbook


Chapter 3: Starting & Growing a Club


Goals of a Club

The overarching goal of BMC clubs is to connect alumnae/i within a defined geographic area to each other and to the College. Depending on your club's size and resources, your programs should achieve some or all of these specific goals:

  • Foster alumnae/i connections through alumnae/i gatherings or group community service;
  • Support the College by helping recruit students for the Admissions office;
  • Help to raise funds for the Annual Fund or Alumnae Regional Scholarship;
  • Create career opportunities through the Career Network.
  • Make Bryn Mawr's name visible through community service projects.

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General Requirements of Clubs

  • Each BMC club should have 75 potential members within its defined geographic area.
  • Each club should have an executive board to set policy and plan programs.
  • Each club should adopt a formal set of bylaws (see sample in the Appendix), and elected a board of officers (recommend to include a president or co-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer).
  • Clubs should submit an Annual Report and an Annual Financial Report form to the AA (see Appendix for sample forms).
  • The club should send at least one newsletter annually to all alumnae/i in its defined region.
  • The elected officers should obtain tax exemption for the club under 501c(3) of the IRS tax code (see Finance section for details).
  • Club officers should collect dues for an operating budget.
  • Each club should publish a directory of alumnae/i in its area. This directory may be provided to dues paying members as a benefit of membership.

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Forming or Reactivating a Club

Any alumna interested in starting a club should contact the assistant director for clubs in the Alumnae Association office to discuss the feasibility of this new group. The Alumnae Association will provide a list of names and contact information of alumnae in the area and suggestions and advice on how to proceed.

Ideally, either you or the Alumnae Association will know of one or two other alumnae interested in forming a club with you. Organize a planning meeting to do the following:

  • Examine the printout to determine the demographics of the alumnae listed;
  • Recruit a core organizing group (3-10 alumnae) to talk about what alumnae needs could be met by the club, what kind of activities you'd like to host, and what goals you have for the group;
  • Plan a first mailing, usually a cover letter announcing an event or open meeting. (The Alumnae Office will provide mailing labels and/or prepare and mail the first mailing.)

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Planning for the First Meeting

  • Select a time and place for the gathering.
  • Plan a program that will encourage maximum attendance.
  • Have a telephone committee/e-mail notice follow-up once the meeting notice has been mailed (ten days to two weeks prior to the meeting).
  • Ask the Alumnae Association to provide mailing labels, send an email broadcast about the event and send a reminder e-blast five days prior to the event.

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The First Meeting

  • Select a chairperson to preside at the meeting.
  • Wear nametags.
  • Nominate a single slate of officers.
  • Create bylaws (see sample in Appendix) or appoint a committee to do so.
  • Recommend a dues amount or at least a dues structure.
  • Plan an initial event.
  • Notify the Alumnae Association of the results of first gathering.

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Bryn Mawr Club Levels

The Alumnae Association has established three levels for BMC clubs. Each level offers the club the opportunity to serve alumnae in its area and the College, while taking into account different levels of resources. Each level requires a different number of the following types of activities: Connector Events are programs that increase alumnae affiliation to BMC and to one another. These include faculty or College speaker programs, other educational programs, traditions events, book clubs, etc.

Admission Events help the BMC Admissions Office to identify and recruit excellent students. These include holiday parties for prospective students and send-off parties for entering freshmen. Career Events help BMC alumnae/i in all stages of their careers. Career Network Events bring students and alumnae/i together, and serve as a link to local career resources. Many of these events are held jointly with Haverford and may be a networking reception, speaker event or panel discussion.

Fundraising helps raise money for Bryn Mawr College. It can take several forms, from a letter campaign requesting donations to a special benefit to raise money for the College’s Annual Fund or Alumnae Regional Scholarship Fund.

Some of these activities may be combined—a faculty speaker event might address a topic that relates to the Career Network; a summer potluck might also be a send-off for admitted students. Considering your group’s resources (volunteers, time, money, energy), choose one of the following levels. Remember, you can always exceed the required programming, but don’t overextend at the start!

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Small Clubs, Medium Clubs, Large Clubs

Small Clubs

Geographically diverse, and/or in temporary hibernation, or just forming 75¬–100 alumnae/i in the area; 15 or more active members*

  • 1 annual newsletter to all area alumnae/i (not just members)
  • 1 letter from the president asking for dues and other donations
  • 1 Connector Event (e.g., faculty speaker luncheon)
  • Publish a directory

Medium Clubs

Urban, suburban, or a growing club
100–500 alumnae/i in the area; 40 or more active members*

  • 1-2 newsletters each year (one to all area alumnae/i)
  • 1 letter from the president asking for dues and donations
  • 1-2 Connector Event (e.g., faculty speaker event, career development workshop; potluck dinner or May Day brunch)
  • 1-2 Admissions Events (e.g., yield party for admitted students; send-off party
  • Publish a directory

Large Clubs

Urban or suburban, mature club
600+ alumnae/i in the area; 80 or more active members*

  • 2 newsletters each year (one to all area alumnae/i)
  • 1 letter from the president asking for dues and donations
  • 2-3 Connector Events (e.g., summer potluck that is also a send off party for new and current students; faculty speaker event that is also a Fundraiser; May Day brunch)
  • 2-3 Admissions Events; 2-3 Career Events (e.g., career panel lunch w/Seven Sisters;
  • Publish a directory
  • *Club members are all alumnae/i that reside within the geographic boundary of the club. Active members are all dues-paying members who reside within the geographic boundary of the club.

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Club Leadership

Because clubs vary in size and activities, the formal structure of leadership also varies. All clubs should have at least a president, secretary and treasurer. Although terms of office are set by individual clubs, two- to three-year terms seem to work best. These terms should be staggered to provide continuity on the board. Officers should be elected by May 31. Whenever new officers are selected, notice should be sent to the Alumnae Association.


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Suggested Responsibilities of Bryn Mawr Club Officers

President/Co-Presidents

  • Determine overall direction of the club
  • Call and preside at meetings
  • Appoint specific committees (nominating, young alumnae/i, public relations)
  • Write annual president's letter asking for membership dues and donations
  • Make sure that at least one newsletter goes out each year
  • Maintain records of club activities and file an annual report each May
  • Attend Alumnae Volunteer Weekend when appropriate
  • Keep informed about the College
  • Thank and nurture volunteers

Vice President

  • Assist the president
  • Carry out specific duties as assigned (social chair, benefit chair, membership chair, admissions representative, young alumnae representative, career development representative, Seven Sisters representative, publicity chair, webmistress)
  • Take the lead in planning annual club program

Secretary

  • Write and keep a file of minutes of all meetings
  • Distribute minutes to board members (by mail, email)
  • Maintain current membership list
  • Notify board members of meetings (by telephone, mail or email)
  • Notify Alumnae Association of address changes
  • Create an annual directory and distribute to dues paying members (some clubs may choose to have a separate membership chair to handle some of these activities)

Treasurer

  • Work with president to prepare a budget
  • Maintain appropriate bank account in the club's name
  • Receive and keep accurate records of all incoming money (dues, gifts, fundraising)
  • Pay all club bills and keep accurate records of all expenses
  • Ensure that the club complies with laws relating to fundraising and taxes; file necessary forms
  • Report on finances at board meetings
  • Keep a file with bank account numbers, bank statements, copies of tax forms and exemption certificates, bulk mail permit (if any)
  • Send regional scholarship contributions and a list of contributors to the Alumnae Association or keep separate records of regional scholarship contributions if managed by the club
  • File an Annual Finance Report to the Alumnae Association in June of each year
  • Ensure there are adequate funds in the treasury to support ongoing programs

In addition to these leadership positions, clubs may also have the following:

Webmistress

  • Update and maintain the club website, ensuring the accuracy of information
  • Expand on-line services and capabilities commensurate with interests of the club and the College.
  • Young Alumnae Coordinator
    • Work with the club president to establish a set of program activities geared to alumnae 10 years out and younger
    • Collaborate with Alumnae Association to plan annual "Welcome to the City" in the fall for recent graduates who have moved to the club's area. (Some clubs also invite young alumnae five years out to the Welcome event.)

    Career Development Representative

    • Work with the club officers to determine career programming interests of the club and provides career-related programming
    • Help alumnae, especially those who have recently located to the area, to make networking connections with others in their fields

    Admissions Rep

    • Organize holiday, yield and send-off parties to aid the Admissions Office in recruiting students to the College

    Program Chair

    • Work with the vice president to design programs which appeal to the club's diverse constituency and to plan the year's calendar of event.
    • Inform the Alumnae Association of plans and activities by forwarding copies of all newsletters and special reports
    • Plan the year's calendar of events for the club in cooperation with designated officer(s)
    • Design programs that appeal to the club's diverse constituency

    Membership Chair

    • Maintain accurate records of club membership
    • Works with treasurer to develops procedure for entering information from dues envelopes (or other mechanism) into a spreadsheet program
    • Coordinate the work of one or more committees to welcome newly-arrived alumnae to the club area

    Newsletter Editor

    • Create print and e-newsletters publicizing club activities

    Nominating Committee

    • Field a slate of officers that will continue the business of the club for the next term.
    • Present complete slate of nominees to the members at the club's annual meeting. (The committee should seek to broadly represent all club constituencies.)

    The current officers should make clear to the nominating chair the club priorities for the upcoming term. The chair and committee members must respect the confidentiality of all applications for officer positions and must be clear in representing the responsibilities of the office.


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    Ways to Attract, Sustain and Increase Membership

    • Send newsletters, dues notices and/or alumnae surveys to all alumnae who are potential members of your club. Ask alumnae to get involved and ask for help at events.
    • By telephone or handwritten note, welcome all alumnae who are new to the area.
    • Plan a membership telethon a month after the dues notices have been sent out. Find an alumna caller for each decade to welcome new members and encourage membership.
    • Plan special events for dues-paying members only or offer one price to members and a higher one to non-members.
    • Ask members what programs or events they'd like to attend. Vary program content, times and locations in order to accommodate your constituency.

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    Building and Managing Your Board and Committees

    An organization is only as strong and vital as the people involved in making it work. Despite the fact that people are increasingly busy, there are women who would be happy to volunteer for BMC and your club. The challenge lies in finding them and determining the volunteer job that provides the best “fit” for them.

    Finding Volunteers

    • The first rule for finding volunteers is to ask. Give members an opportunity to sign up on your dues form, at an event, or through a survey or newsletter.
    • Contact the executive board representative for clubs and regions and the executive director of the alumnae association for recommendations on alumnae/i volunteers.
    • Ask other BMC women if they know of anyone who would be a good volunteer.
    • Approach a potential volunteer personally. Let her know that what she would be doing is important to the club and to BMC.
    • Follow up on all offers of help! Don’t lose the chance. She may never volunteer again.
    • Appoint co-chairs rather than a single chairperson. It’s more fun and less onerous to share a job with someone else.
    • Break major jobs into smaller tasks. People are more likely to sign up for a “one shot deal” than to assume major responsibility.

    Fostering Leadership and Managing Volunteers

    • Listen to your volunteers’ ideas and be receptive. There are many ways to do things.
    • Support your volunteers in what they are trying to do. Praise and thank them.
    • Pair experienced volunteers with new ones, older with younger.
    • Make use of people’s professional expertise when handing out the tasks. For example, an accountant as treasurer, an educator to plan an educational lecture, etc.
    • Vary the tasks or reapportion them every so often so no one has to do the same thing event after event, or year after year.
    • Always try to give volunteers assignments you know they will enjoy!
    • Make volunteering fun! Don’t have lengthy and frequent meetings—when you do have meetings make them a fun and social event as well.


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