Secretary's Manual for State and Special Interest Affiliates

Compiled, written, and edited by
Ardis Bazyn


Thank you to all of the ACB members who gave valuable input. -- Ardis Bazyn


1. Introduction
2. Procedures During Board Meetings
3. Between Meetings
4. Special Interest Convention Minutes
5. State Convention Minutes
6. Membership Lists
7. Mailing Lists
8. Correspondence
9. Filing Incorporation Papers
10. Permanent Records
11. Affiliates with Offices


This manual is written to assist state and special interest affiliates with their record keeping. These guidelines are meant to provide each secretary with procedures that can be followed. It is also meant to make the transition for a new secretary easier.

Even though all affiliates are different in many ways, these are written so that they should pertain to all affiliates. Obviously, not all secretaries have the same abilities and these are not meant to discourage current secretaries. These procedures are written to help the affiliate start some practices that would be beneficial for the organization.

This manual contains general instructions for taking minutes in different settings. It also gives the duties usually assigned to secretaries during meetings and before and after meetings. It also contains both procedures and other hints that might be helpful in preparing membership and mailing lists. Even though these are often handled by the treasurer, it is included in this manual because there are a few affiliates that do have the secretary handle them.

Some information is included about filing documents. Suggestions for the storage of documents are also given for the affiliate.

Procedures During Board Meetings

NOTE: These guidelines can be followed for regular meetings, conference calls, short pre-convention or post-convention board meetings.

1. There should be a good tape recorder with a good microphone (conference microphones are available for tape recorders) ready to tape all board meetings. Notes can be taken in whatever form is preferred by the secretary: Braille, computer, or handwriting. If using both the tapes and the notes, it will make certain that all wordings can be verified for the motions.

2. At the start of any meeting, list the official time started, the date, and the place of the meeting.

3. The secretary will be asked to call the roll. The secretary must be prepared to call the names of all the board members and record who is or is not present. This is important when votes are taken. Also, the president must know if a quorum is present before starting the meeting.

4. The secretary will be asked to read the previous minutes. For many affiliates, the reading is waived and the president may just ask for additions or corrections. This waiver is accomplished by a motion and if all board members have had the opportunity to read the minutes.

5. During the rest of the meeting, the secretary must be prepared to record any motions (in a chronological order) that are made, to call the roll for a roll call vote, and to record any actions that are taken by consensus. When motions are made, the name of the person making the motion is usually noted. Any policy decisions made by consensus must be recorded.

Minutes should be as brief as possible. When discussion occurs, it is not necessary to explain the details. A comment stating that a "discussion followed" is sufficient. Events and dates decided upon would be considered actions by consensus.

6. All motions voted on must be understood. The secretary should ask for them to be repeated if necessary. The records need to be clear and accurate for future reference.

7. When recording the treasurer's report, only the main essentials are necessary. This would include the beginning balance, total expenses, total income, and the closing balance. These may be needed in the future if questions develop. For example, if the treasurer's next report is disputed. Amounts may be checked against previous closing balances.

8. At the end of the meeting, the time the meeting was adjourned should be recorded.

9. An important guest might be noted if this would be useful in the future.

Between Meetings

1. Following each board meeting, notes should be read carefully to see if they are clear. The tapes recorded can be used to clear up any questions. It is important to do this within a few days in case there is uncertainty about anything that was covered. If done soon, it is easier to come up with a consensus among board members present about any discrepancy.

2. The president may ask for a copy of the minutes in order to take care of any necessary business. Most presidents make notes for themselves but some do not.

3. It would be helpful if motions were kept both in the minutes and in a separate file. This would make it easier to find appropriate ones later.

4. A copy of the minutes may be printed in the organization newsletter. Since most of these are in alternative format, it may be easier for a small affiliate to get information out this way. Some affiliates prefer this way of handing out minutes because there is less chance of members getting incorrect information about what transpired at board meetings. This is also a way for all members to know what is going on since they may not have the opportunity to come to many board meetings. This may not be possible for larger affiliates who cover more business, but perhaps a summary could be provided to the newsletter.

5. Notices must be sent out about the upcoming board meeting if directed by the president. Some presidents take care of this themselves. Some states have open meeting laws which require written notice of meetings. The Secretary of State could be contacted if the affiliate is not sure about the state law.

Agendas of the upcoming meeting should be sent to all board members.

6. About a month before the next meeting, copies of the minutes should be sent to all board members in alternative formats (i.e. Braille, computer disk, or tape and large print).

7. Extra copies of minutes should be available so guests or other members present at the board meeting may have a copy if they choose.

Special Interest Convention Minutes

1. In a few special interest affiliates, the roll call of states is recorded at the national convention. The secretary must register the delegate, alternate delegate, and the delegate for the nominating committee.

2. For these same state special interest affiliates the secretary (unless the nominating chairperson has this information) must be present at the nominating committee just long enough to make sure that the correct people are present.

3. Minutes for most national special interest conventions usually consist only of motions made on the floor and resolutions brought forward.

4. A copy of the convention program will usually suffice for the other parts of the convention.

5. For the special interest affiliates that do have state special interest affiliates, a roll call vote may be taken at any time during the convention.

6. During the business meeting, the previous year's minutes are sometimes read. This is different for all special interest affiliates. It depends if the membership wants this information. This may also be waived by a motion.

7. Minutes must be taken during the business meeting (use the same procedure for taking minutes as written in the earlier section).

State Convention Minutes

1. The secretary must be prepared to record any motions made at the convention.

2. All resolutions must be recorded for use later.

3. The secretary must be prepared to read the previous year's minutes if required to do so. Some state affiliates do not do this at all. Others waive it through a motion.

4. A copy of the program should be kept which will serve as minutes for most of the convention.

Membership list

1. Membership lists should be kept accurate and as up to date as possible.

2. Each entry should contain the members name address and phone number.

3. Each entry should also give the choice of format for both the affiliate's newsletter and the Braille Forum.

4. Each entry should tell the mailing status such as blind or sighted. Some affiliates may prefer to designate blind visually impaired or sighted.

The U.S. Post Office has regulations (E040.1.0 through E040.4.2) that pertain to mail being sent without postage. If mail is sent without postage it must meet several requirements. First of all, the person receiving the mail must be unable to read regular print (blind or physically handicapped). Paper, records, tapes, and other material for the production of reading matter for these individuals is included provided that the print is a minimum type size of 14 point or larger and left unsealed. Also, it must be marked "Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped" in the upper right corner of the addressed side.

5. It would be helpful for membership retention to designate whether a member is a new member or a renewal. With this designation it would be easier to check and see if prior members have renewed. This would allow affiliates to call members to find out why they have not renewed.

It also will help insure that new members are added to the lists going to the national office for both membership dues and the Braille Forum.

6. The ACB office sends out a membership list each year to check against the current list and affiliates will have to add any new members to that ACB list. The ACB membership list is due back at the national office on or before March 15. Each affiliate has its own membership deadline.

7. When the treasurer receives the membership dues, the information must be passed on to the people handling the lists. In some affiliates, several lists are kept by different persons including the secretary, the membership secretary, and the office. This must be done throughout the year whenever any dues come in.

8. It may be easier to change information and retrieve information if you use a computer. Many affiliates use computers for their lists. A variety of programs are currently used. They include Word Perfect, Lotus, dBase or Microsoft Works.

If you are using a print or Braille list, it will be easier to use if it is in alphabetical order.

9. It may be helpful to the person keeping the list to have the affiliate's membership application include a question asking if the name, address, or phone number can be shared with other members.

Mailing Lists

1. Some affiliates combine their mailing list and membership list and just designate which names are members. This may depend on which method the affiliate uses for its records: computer, print or braille.

2. Mailing lists need to contain the name address and phone number of each person on the list. Phone numbers are helpful if a copy of a send-out comes back without a postal stamp marking the status. Also sometimes those stamps are not correct. Some mailings have come back marked deceased and the person was found to be very much alive later.

3. Mailing lists should be gone through periodically to make sure that those are up to date.

4. Mailing lists need to contain postal information to indicate whether those can be sent Free Matter or not (see "Membership List" for a summary of these regulations). It is the affiliate's choice whether it just lists sighted or blind or whether it has visually impaired as a third listing.

5. If this mailing list is used for fund-raising it may be helpful to note when the person has made a donation. Sometimes this is an indicator of interest in making donations in the future.


1. Letterhead stationery should be used for all correspondence. This is also available in continuous computer paper, single sheet computer paper, and paper with carbon. Letterhead stationery shows more credibility and legitimacy especially when writing fund-raising letters.

2. Correspondence is handled differently in each affiliate. It is important to determine who handles what correspondence as soon as a secretary takes over their position. If the affiliate has both a recording and a corresponding secretary, it needs to be decided which secretary does the various duties.

3. If the affiliate has a corresponding secretary the correspondence is usually handled by that person.

4. Some affiliates have the secretary do most of the correspondence unless the president chooses to take care of it. This may be determined by the amount of time each person has available or it may depend on what writing skills each person has.

5. The secretary usually handles sending resolutions to the proper parties noted on the resolution. If no specifics are included in the resolution the secretary may have to ask the president for some direction.

6. Many affiliates designate chairs of different committees to do their own correspondence. The secretary will have to ask the president whether this is done in the affiliate. due to the broad range of capabilities this may change depending on the chairs.

7. A file must be kept for correspondence. It may be necessary to verify that a letter was sent.

8. It is now possible to buy a service which places a signature on a disk. This allows a blind person the capability of inserting a signature on a letter printed by a computer printer. It might be helpful for a secretary to have a copy of a disk with the president's signature to save time in meeting in person. Of course, the president would have to give consent each time this was used.

Filing Incorporation Papers

1. If the organization is incorporated papers have to be filed periodically. Some states have yearly filing requirements and some have biannual or triannual filing requirements.

2. Do not allow this filing to lapse. There are substantial penalties for updating lapsed incorporation papers.

3. It is wise to choose either a member who will remain in the vicinity indefinitely or to have a lawyer as the registered agent.

4. If you are not incorporated or you are not sure contact your state attorney general or the secretary of state. This will depend on which state the affiliate would be registered.

5. Many special interest affiliates have the national office handle the registering and reporting for affiliate corporations in the District of Columbia. This is helpful since special interest affiliates have members in many states. If this is done for the affiliate the treasurer will receive a bill for the registration charge.

The list of special interest affiliates that are currently having their filings done by the national office are as follows: ACB Radio Amateurs, ACB Social Service Providers, American Blind Lawyers Association, Braille Revival League, Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, Council of Families with Visual Impairments, Friends in Art, Guide Dog Users Incorporated, National Alliance of Blind Students, National Association of Blind Teachers, Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, and the Randolph-Sheppard Service Corp. Also, the D.C. Association of Workers for the Blind has its incorporation papers filed by the national office.

6. If the affiliate is not incorporated, the assets of the officers can be at risk if the organization is liable for any debts. However, if the affiliate is incorporated, officers cannot be responsible unless there is malfeasance involved.

Permanent Records

1. The secretary should keep on file copies of the Constitution and Bylaws.

2. Your secretary needs to keep the incorporation papers.

3. If your affiliate is 501 C 3 status, make sure the document is filed safely. If the affiliate is ever questioned about its status by the IRS, a copy of this document will have to be provided to verify it.

4. If your affiliate has a special seal the secretary needs to keep this.

5. All official minutes should be kept for a minimum of 5 years. It is helpful if these are kept permanently for the history of the organization. Sometimes an executive summary is kept of the minutes rather than the entire copy of them.

6. All motions should be kept on file for reference in the future. It is easier if you can have a separate file of these by date rather than having to look through all the minutes to find a prior motion.

7. A file of resolutions needs to be kept for reference later. It is helpful to retain these in a separate file. Categorizing can be helpful. However keep the categories broad or future secretaries may have troubles finding the right ones. An index can be used but that takes time to create.

8. Resolutions and motions are often used for forming policy decisions so it is very important to keep these longer than five years.

9. A list of current chapters in a state affiliate or state affiliates in a special interest affiliate need to be kept by the secretary as well as the current list of officers.

10. A disk library containing the records would be a good addition for any organization. Many records have been destroyed in different affiliates because of fire, earthquake, floods, or a simple move. This back-up library should be kept at a different location for optimum protection. It would be best if this were a more permanent storage place rather than moving each time a secretary takes over.

Affiliates With Offices

1. Offices can be used for permanent storage. This is a special benefit when officers change so often that records can get lost.

2. Many offices have the equipment for transcribing minutes and treasurers reports in alternative format for board members. However, the secretary and treasurer must get the information to them in a timely manner to allow them to do so.

3. The office will often file resolutions for the affiliate. The secretary must make sure that the office receives these.

4. The secretary will have to separate the motions from the rest of the minutes in order for the office to file them. If the office does not currently have a separate file for motions, this practice might be encouraged. It will save time when looking for a particular motion later. The office might be the one asked to look through the minutes in the future otherwise.

5. If offices do the accounting for the affiliate, it is important to have a viable check and balance system. This will allow the treasurer to easily follow what has transpired. The treasurer will be the one responsible for signing the checks and must understand what the accountant is working on. It is important for the treasurer to verify the amounts of checks before signing them. This also makes it easier in the future when an audit occurs.

6. Most offices do not do any tax filing unless an accountant does the bookkeeping. The office will usually store all important documents such as incorporation papers, papers declaring the tax exempt status (501 C 3), the Constitution and By-laws, and any other papers necessary for the organization. However, most secretaries and treasurers keep a current copy of the most recent minutes and treasurers reports since they might be the ones questioned about them.

7. It is important, when taking over the position of either secretary or treasurer, to make sure it is understood what responsibilities are usually given to the office personnel.

8. If the office takes care of the membership and mailing lists, it is important for the secretary and treasurer to get new members' names and addresses to them as soon as possible to keep their records up to date. The information needed for these lists is given under the section labeled "Membership Lists" and "Mailing Lists."

9. Offices should try to accumulate a disk library of all their records. Not only do these disks take less room than paper records, but they are usually more accessible. If copies of these are kept in a different location from other records, no records will be totally lost if damage or loss occurs due to flood, fire, earthquake or misplacement through moves. This office can serve as a more permanent storage location.