A Bill of Rights for Members

The Dear Association Leader

Since the member has an investment in the success of the organization, the member shall not be denied these rights.

  1. The right to be informed about every meeting's purpose, date, time, and place.
  2. The right to have meetings to start on time.
  3. The right to learn the agenda before the meeting starts.
  4. The right to raise questions about any item on the agenda and propose changes before the agenda is approved.
  5. The right to see and hear what's going on and be heard when speaking.
  6. The right to understand the meaning of every proposed action and its related options.
  7. The right to have all the facts, alternatives, and consequences presented openly and the opportunity to discuss every item before voting.
  8. The right to participate in the process of selecting officers, representatives, and those who chair committees.
  9. The right to full and free discussion of every item presented for a group decision.
  10. The right to have all the information available to any other member or officer.

(The Bill of Rights was excerpted from Lead On! 1982 Leslie Griffin Lawson, Franklyn D. Donant, and John D. Lawson)

Perhaps the 'golden rule' of these rights is the right to not be surprised. You, as an association leader, need to make sure that members have no reasonable excuse for being surprised. Keep in mind, though, that the discovery there is no reasonable excuse is something the member should discover and not something anyone should point out to him or her. The way to avoid surprises is to have structure and routine supported and reinforced by communication and consistency.

For example, starting late rewards the stragglers, punishes those who arrive on time, and creates an atmosphere of uncertainty from the outset. If it becomes a habit to start late, the meeting announcement becomes a matter of confusion rather than clarification. Such discrepancies can be a subtle group identification mechanism using who knows what hidden information to define the group. - not a good situation if whole group cohesion is the real goal.

Communications need to timely, frequent, and varied. Many bylaws require that action items be established at a meeting prior to their discussion and decision. This allows the agenda to be distributed with the meeting notices. An association's meeting agenda's should follow a common pattern and the topics to be decided should have sufficient preparation so that the decisions to be made are clearly understood before the final action.

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