So far this resource has discussed the roles of officers, boards, and committees, but what roles do the members play? After all, the members are the ones who run for office, serve on boards and committees, and come to meetings to present ideas. Unless members take an active role in the organization, it can't function or even exist.
In organizations there are members who seek active roles and those who sit on the sidelines and "let the next person do it." It is important for the betterment and advancement of the organization to engage all the members in active participation in all the functions of the club. Unfortunately, in many organizations only a few people are allowed to rise to the top. This causes cliques to develop, creating division among the membership. When only a few members are considered leaders or are asked to serve on committees, resentment and ill will are created, and, worst of all, other members' talents are left untapped.
For an organization to grow, to be successful, and to be truly democratic, all the talents of the members need to be recognized, cultivated, and used. An organization should allow the cream to rise to the top, but it should also recognize that everyone can be trained and cultivated for leadership roles in organizations.
This chapter looks at ways to involve new members, the duties of a member, and situations requiring a member to assume special responsibility.
Here are proven techniques for incorporating new members immediately into the organization and making them feel welcome and useful:
Make sure that each new member receives a copy of the bylaws and other documents that govern the club.
Listen to the member. Why did he or she join the organization? If the member's needs are not being met, he or she will probably not renew the membership.
Assign the new member a mentor, someone to explain how the organization operates and to advise where the member can best use his or her talents.
Give a training session on parliamentary procedure and explain that at meetings all members are encouraged to present ideas to the club in the form of motions.
Immediately appoint the new member to a committee where his or her talents are useful and where the member is interested in the work.
Toastmaster's International is an example of an organization that immediately includes all new members. At every meeting, each member is assigned a task or is able to participate in some way. This practice trains all members for leadership roles. If the same people always do the work, always are elected to office, or always get the limelight, the result is a schism in the organization, which may ultimately destroy the organization.
The biggest mistake an organization can make is to have a probationary period for new members or to set up barriers to service. If you wait too long to include the new member, eventually you may not have new members.
Members have many duties and responsibilities. Here are a few:
Members should attend meetings, be on time, and know the rules of parliamentary procedure. It takes two to tango, and to make a meeting go smoothly, both the presiding officer and the members need to know the parliamentary rules.
Members need to prepare themselves for leadership roles.
Members should accept committee assignments and perform the tasks given to them in a timely manner.
Members need to work harmoniously with other members even though they don't always agree with them.
In debate, each member has the right to sway the membership to his or her point of view. If a member votes with the losing side, the member must respect the fact that the majority rules and cheerfully carry out the membership's wishes.
Members must be impartial, fair, and courteous in meetings. This means respecting the rights of others, especially in debate. Members should call out a point of order only when a serious breach of the rules has taken place. Members should listen attentively and courteously to the other members and wait in turn to speak. All members must ensure that majority rule does not become mob rule by protecting the rights of the minority and by not gaveling through or railroading through any business. It is important that each member diligently follow this principle, because today one member might side with the majority, and tomorrow side with the minority.
When the bylaws or other rules of the organization are not being followed or when members' rights are being taken away in a meeting, members have a responsibility to courteously call the violation to the attention of the membership.
Every now and then a presiding officer does not respect the rights of the members and will not entertain a legitimate, seconded motion because he or she does not agree with it. In such situations, a member can pursue the following actions:
Raise a point of order.
If the chair rules the main motion out of order, appeal the decision. (See Chapter 9, "Appeal from the Decision of the Chair (Appeal).")
If the chair ignores the point of order, the member can make the motion again. If it is seconded and the chair still ignores it, the member can place the motion before the assembly, ask for debate, and take the vote. This means that the member stands in his or her place and takes over during this part of the meeting until the main motion is disposed of - either permanently or temporarily. The member has a right to do this under Robert's Rules of Order. This is a good example of the principle that power is vested in the membership, not in the leadership.