Getting the Section Started.
Set an agenda to cover the following topics:
- Name of the club
- Purpose of the club
- Membership — i.e., who can join
- Dues and payment schedule
- Schedule of regular meetings
- Officers needed
- Schedule of elections
- Regular committees
- How to amend the bylaws
You need a name for your club. While important, don’t take too much time on this. Many clubs use acronyms, like the “Centreville Rocket Society” being referred to as “CRS.” Also clubs often include the name of their town or locality in their title. You are certain to have lots of fun coming up with a name you all like. Take suggestions from those present, conduct a straw vote, and put the top two or three names up for consideration at the next meeting. If you do come up with a name that leads to a catchy acronym, be sure to check the list of already-chartered NAR Sections to see if anyone else has already chartered under that name or acronym; the NAR won’t let two Sections have the same name or acronym.
The official purpose of the club is important to you and to outsiders. Outsiders, like park districts and local authorities, want to know that you will provide community benefits. By mentioning safety education, and community service in your bylaws, the community leader will see you as an asset. Besides, conducting classes or demos can be fun for your members.
You’ll probably want to keep the purpose as general as possible in keeping with the aims of your club. Don’t make your purpose so specific that it’s impossible to live up to it or that it excludes too many people’s interests.
Membership is critical. Will you accept only rocketeers from your town? Your county? Only NAR members? Will there be an age limit? All these questions need consideration. Most NAR Sections allow any NAR members in good standing to be members. Some larger Sections allow non-NAR members as well — but remember that you can’t count non-NAR members against the minimum required to charter.
Dues provide revenue for your Section and should be collected from all members. The amount must be set to satisfy two conflicting requirements. First, you need funds to operate a range store, build range equipment, or print a newsletter. On the other hand, you need to keep dues low enough so that as many interested people as possible can afford to join. Some clubs put regular dues in their bylaws, and allow for special assessments for special projects. Some clubs have innovative sources of revenue other than dues, such as range store sales, food sales at launches, income from commercial demonstrations, and so on.If your dues are high, try to spread the cost over a period of time, to lessen the burden on each member. For example, you could charge $1.00 per month instead of $12.00 on the 1st of January.
Set a regular meeting period and a quorum limit. Most clubs meet monthly. Meetings can, of course, be held more frequently than the bylaws call for, but should not be held less frequently. The quorum limit is important, and establishes the legality of any action taken by the club. You should also include provisions to ensure that all club members have had adequate notification of the meeting. These are standard provisions in non-profit organizations’ bylaws and good, common sense. Include such provisions in your bylaws, too.
Officers are the chief administrators of any club. Their duties should be spelled out in the bylaws. Most clubs have a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Some clubs have a single person serve as secretary-treasurer.
- The president runs the meetings and is the chief administrative officer of the club.
- The vice-president assists the president and serves in his stead when the president cannot function for any reason.
- The secretary keeps membership lists, meeting minutes, and handles correspondence and official paperwork.
- The treasurer collects dues and other fees and pays bills.
By spreading the work out over several people, no one gets overloaded.
Regular elections should be established in the by-laws. Due to turnover and simplicity, one-year terms are virtually universal among rocket clubs. Making the first meeting of the year the election meeting keeps the interest up during the winter months.
Committees are a club’s means of getting work done. Different clubs choose to define and staff different types of committees. Small clubs or those first starting often do not have enough members to make up committees. Here are some common ones many clubs use:
- A Launch Operations committee keeps track of the club launcher, PA system, and other flying range equipment, ensures that it is available at club launches, and ensures that launches are conducted safely.
- An Activities committee is charged with organizing non-launch events such as meetings and social events and with promoting and publicizing the club.
- A Newsletter or Website committee is in charge of the club’s communications and makes sure that information is put out on time with interesting and useful content and club event news.
- A Competition committee establishes rocket contests, secures awards and prizes and makes sure all contestants are informed of the results.
The people most interested in a particular committee’s activity are the best choice to put in charge of that committee. When they’re interested, they do a better job. Their enthusiasm can be catching! When you see a committee person having fun doing work for the club, your members can’t help but have fun along with him. When you set up your committees, make sure they meet your needs — you should choose committees that make sense for your club.
You must provide some means to change or “amend” the by-laws. What seemed like a good idea at the start may not work out once you get started. Change the by-laws by a regular procedure to fix these minor mistakes and adjust to changing circumstances. To prevent hasty or foolish changes the amendment procedure should be fairly difficult. For example, “the amendment must be approved by 3/4 of the members present at each of two meetings held al least five days apart with written notice to be given to all members of the meetings and the amendment.”
Use the sample by-laws posted in the files below as a source of ideas. Feel free to modify and adjust them as meets your needs. Just remember to be fair and forthright in your club’s bylaws.
Congratulations! You now have an “official” operating NAR Section!
Running a Successful NAR Section
It takes money to run an NAR Section and all its associated services and activities. Money to do this can come from four places: dues paid by members; launch fees; sponsorships or donations; or sales of something that the Section or its members provide (concessions at a launch ,etc.). Most sections have at least some regular expenses that are the recurring cost of doing business, and new sections in addition have the challenge of getting together the equipment to run launches. Recognizing the value of Sections to the organization’s health, the NAR does not charge its Sections any fees for chartering or for launch site insurance, and it offers cash grants to Sections (described below) for one-time costs such as purchase of launch or safety equipment. This still leaves a challenge for Sections to figure out how to finance their recurring costs. In doing this it is important to budget, manage, and account for income and expenses through a single point, the Section Treasurer.
Dues are usually the first source of a Section’s income. They need to make up the difference between all of the creative other ways the Section can find to raise money and the Section’s annual operating costs. Dues in the range of $10-25 per year are common, with a lower figure for younger members. Launch fees are also common, often in the range of $3-5 per day or $1 per flight (for model rocket launches) to considerably more for Sections that run big high-power launches with large amounts of expensive range equipment; normally Section dues-paying members pay lower fees than others, or none at all. Donations can range from merchandise provided by vendors, individuals, or community businesses that is then sold to members via an annual auction or regular raffle, to actual cash donations from local civic groups for Sections that do significant public youth outreach, or a donation jar at launches for the public and spectators to contribute. Other sources of income can include sales of drinks or food at launches, or resale of popular rocket merchandise for Sections without onsite vendor support at launches.
Expenses for a Section are typically dominated by the cost of acquiring and maintaining launch range equipment. However, payment of a fee of some sort to the land owner for the launch site is also common, and these fees can range up to well over $1000 per year depending on how many people use the site how often for launches. Other expenses may include the meeting room (if no public facility or private residence is available or suitable); launch site support costs (e.g. porta-potty, grass cutting, etc.); printing a paper newsletter or paying for a domain name and host for the website; and supplies or publicity for public outreach.
Section grants are currently available from NAR for safety, ground support and launch equipment, and publicity. Apply here.
When the Section begins to accumulate any significant amount of money, then it is probably time to set up a checking account to hold it and permit accountable disbursement of funds. Normally banks will let non-profit groups set up accounts without too much hassle or expense. Sometimes a copy of the NAR’s tax-exempt status letter from the IRS may be required. The document providing this is in the files below. Sections are not authorized to use the NAR’s Employer ID Number (EIN), they must get their own from the IRS if one is needed for the account. Make sure that the account has two or more authorizers users and check signers, so that if someone moves away or loses interest in the hobby, etc. the Section’s money isn’t trapped with no way to get it out.
As the section grows, and particularly if you are going to have the capability to have people join online through your website, then you will want a system to be able to collect money (dues) online as well. Typically this is PayPal. To set up a PayPal account requires an e-mail address and an associated bank account. Create a convenient email address such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” from the control panel of your club’s web site. Test it to make sure you can receive email at that address. Then go to http://www.paypal.com/ and create an account using that email address. Link your bank account to your new PayPal account. PayPal will deposit a small (i.e. less than a dollar) amount into your account. Log onto your bank’s web site to view your account and discover how much was deposited by PayPal. Feed that amount back to PayPal as verification that you have access to the bank account. People can log onto the paypal.com site and send money to your email@example.com email address.The money will show up in your PayPal account. Many rocketry vendors use PayPal and so the money can stay in your PayPal account. You can log onto PayPal to force the money back into your bank account if you need to write a check off of your bank account.
Section Grants from the NAR
Recognizing the importance of having sections be successful on a sustained basis, the NAR Board of Trustees has established a program of Section grants that provides funding of up to $250 per Section per year for safety equipment, launch equipment, and marketing activities, in that priority order.
For safety equipment, Sections may apply for all or part of the cost of firefighting equipment, rope line, windsocks, first aid kits, PA systems, launch rails, and other equipment deemed by the Section to be useful for improving safety.
For launch equipment, Sections may apply for all or part of the cost of buying or building launch pads, launch controllers, and other ground support equipment.
For marketing activities, Sections may apply for all or part of the cost of brochure design and printing, banners, signs, advertisements, and other costs of publicizing the Section.
To apply, send an email to NAR Headquarters with “Section Grant” in the title, and include the following information:
- Name and number of NAR Section
- Name of Section Officer Certifying Grant Application
- Email and evening phone number of Section Officer
- Brief description of the problem you are trying to solve
- Description of the funding requested; please provide detailed description of any equipment to be purchased (copies of catalog pricing, quotes, cost estimates)
- Description of any matching resources your Section can provide (funds, labor, parts)
There is no deadline; the grants are awarded on a continuing basis.
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