The elected secretary has often been identified as "the custodian of all official chapter documents" and "responsible for the impartial recording of all chapter activities and projects." Although this may be true to some extent, the position of secretary has advanced to that of active member of the executive committee and in many cases, training ground for advancement. In short, the secretary serves as the coordinator and manager of the association's governance communication process. The official role of the elected secretary is broadly defined in the bylaws of the volunteer organization and may read something like this: "The Secretary shall be a member of the Board of Directors and shall serve as its' secretary. The secretary shall report and maintain minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors, and other meetings when directed by the President. The secretary shall be responsible for the organization's correspondence as directed by the President and shall mail all meeting notices. The secretary shall mail all ballots and coordinate the election procedure and shall maintain an up-to-date roster of all state chapter members. A report describing the organization's activities during the proceeding year shall be presented annually to the membership." As you review the responsibilities outlined in your affiliate's bylaws and meet with the current secretary you will come to understand the role of the secretary as historian, recorder of minutes and coordinator of reporting for activities of committees, council, task forces, and other such groups. The secretary works with the presidential officers to set agendas for board and membership meetings so a strong understanding of the chapter's administrative regulations, plus the ability to closely coordinate activities, is necessary if the person serving is to be effective. The secretary is an important position and can have a positive impact on the ultimate success of the organization. The secretary's duties require some familiarity with the organizational history, current and past activities and programs, successes, and failures. The secretary should know the membership and officers and capable of communicating with all members. Knowledge of the organization's policies and procedures and some understanding of parliamentary procedure will be an asset to the president and president-elect in carrying out their roles effectively. TRANSITION A smooth transition is essential to maintain continuity in the activities of the secretary's office. If possible, the overlap period between outgoing and incoming secretaries should allow for at least one board meeting and certainly no less than two months. This will allow the incoming secretary time to clarify any matters relative to files, records,
administrative guidelines, and procedures of the organization. A smooth transition will also assist the new president in a speedier implementation of plans and programs for their term of office. (ed. note. The amount of time for on-the-job training depends on the degree of sophistication of the organization in size, scope and level of staff support available.) One of the new secretary's first responsibilities will be to is to notify ASHP and other associations the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the association's new officers and committee chairs. This will ensure that new officers are added to ASHP's mailing list to receive timely information on organization management and other matters of interest. FILE REVIEW The files for review should contain, at minimum the information listed below. These files contain important legal documents that must be maintained in easily retrievable form. As the direct result of this review, the secretary will know: (If your affiliate has paid staff, it may be easily accessible through that office.) * Where to find the current and approved copy of the association's Constitution and Bylaws. If the chapter is incorporated, where the copies of the Articles of Incorporation and copies of the annual reports are filed. Where to find the latest audit, income tax report (IRS Form 990 or 990T) and copies for the last seven years. The original IRS letter of determination and EIN number should also be on hand. Where to find the current membership roster with full names and addresses. Where copies of the minutes for affiliate board meetings for the past five years can be found.
The organization should have a filing system with file classifications appropriate to the needs of the organization. The beginning of a secretary's term of office is the time to review active files for each committee with final reports of completed activities placed in permanent files. Board and committee files should contain copies of meeting minutes, correspondence, recommendations, reports to the board and other information pertaining to overall committee activities. Final reports should be attached as an appendix to the minutes of the appropriate Board of Directors meeting. Files awaiting responses to earlier correspondence, (temporary files, information files, and routine correspondence files) will require regular secretarial review.
As the two secretaries begin their review of the filing system completed items of historical and legal significance should be archived or filed in permanent files. Some items which are no longer required should be placed in a file for the president elect to review. This file can serve as a reference for sample correspondence (e.g., thank you letters, appointment letters, and letters pertaining to liaison with other organizations). The president-elect will be able to obtain name and address information on previous liaison and correspondence contacts. There also might be memoranda and correspondence which will provide a better understanding of recent operations of various committees and other management team member activities. However, once reviewed, if the material is no longer of value it should be discarded. REFERENCE FILES As the reference librarian for the association the catalog of various reference materials will also need review. This list should include reference materials available to committee chairs as well as board members and other officers (e.g., affiliation criteria, program planning manuals, legislative aids, legislative alert guidelines, membership recruitment plans, and samples of model legislation). The secretary should develop a mechanism to periodically inform members of the availability of the material, perhaps through a newsletter article. ADMINISTRATIVE GUIDELINES The secretary should have a strong understanding of the Board established administrative guidelines which govern the secretary and the other members of the management team. These guidelines and job descriptions should be reviewed and discussed with the President to ensure accuracy. Operational changes during the past year, should be reflected in the administrative guidelines, and a new job description drafted for Board approval. In short, the secretary is the communication hub of the organization serving both as a repository for historical and legal records as well as a communications checkpoint for dissemination of information regarding activities of committees, the Board of Directors, and other groups. Without adequate guidelines and direction, the role of secretary will not function effectively. It is necessary for the secretary and the entire Board, to periodically reflect on the role, authorities and responsibilities of each officer.