Section 2: Forming a Chapter
A step-by-step guide to the application process, how to write/adapt your bylaws, and the first things to do once you're a chapter.
Chapter Application Guidelines
Any group of DSA members in good standing who want to form a new DSA Chapter may do so by taking the following steps:
- Identify a group of five (5) or more DSA members who meet the following criteria:
- All of them live in the same state or region of the United States of America and a DSA Chapter does not already exist there.
- Their homes and/or workplaces are located near enough to one another that all will benefit from establishing a DSA Chapter and enjoy the opportunities DSA Chapters provide for their members.
- They all share a commitment to advancing the vision and the mission of the Dalcroze Society of America.
- Hold a preliminary meeting in order to:
- Forge a shared vision of what it will mean to have a DSA Chapter in their area.
- Gauge the strength of their intention to work together to establish and maintain the Chapter and their capacity for following through on this intention.
- Identify the DSA members who will take up key leadership positions and hold these positions long enough to establish this new entity as a functional body. At this stage in the process, these members do not need to be formally elected as officers by the membership in order to move forward. That action comes later. But they must be DSA members.
- The proposed DSA Chapter leadership will then take the following steps:
- Review the Chapter Bylaws draft/template and amend it so the chapter membership will formally adopt it as the Chapter’s Bylaws.
- Secure the membership’s formal approval of the Chapter Bylaws for adoption as the Chapter’s governance model.
- Submit the amended draft/template to the membership for their review.
- Call a meeting in which the membership votes on a motion to approve the Bylaws for adoption.
- At this meeting, someone must be designated to take Minutes (notes) that provide a formal record of the motion to approve and the results of the vote.
- Apply to the DSA Board of Trustees for an official charter as a DSA Chapter. The application will include:
- A letter of application (cover letter) that lists the names of the DSA members seeking the charter.
- The Chapter Bylaws these members voted to approve.
- The Minutes from the meeting at which the membership formally adopted the Chapter Bylaws.
- If any disagreements should surface in the course of the Chapter Bylaws approval process, the Chapter will negotiate with the DSA Board’s Governance Committee to arrive at the final set of Chapter Bylaws. The governance model the Chapter ultimately adopts should reflect the Chapter leadership’s and DSA Board’s shared understanding.
- At its next meeting, the DSA Board of Trustees will then vote on a motion to officially approve the Chapter’s charter. The Minutes from this meeting constitute formal recognition of the Chapter’s official status as a DSA Chapter. The Chapter Outreach Committee Chair then meets virtually with the new Chapter leadership and recognizes the group’s new status as a chartered DSA Chapter.
- Hold an official meeting to formally initiate operations as a DSA Chapter and officially elect officers to the leadership positions set forth in the Bylaws.
- In addition to electing its President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary, the chapter should also nominate the DSA’s Executive Director to serve as a non-voting member of its executive board, ex officio (i.e., as a function of his or her role as the DSA’s Executive Director). Doing so will facilitate interactions with the bank (see below), which will require proof that the DSA grants the chapter formal authorization to open a business account on its behalf.
After the DSA Board of Trustees formally recognizes a DSA Chapter, the Chapter Secretary will be responsible for uploading all Chapter Board meeting Minutes to the DSA’s Google Drive, and informing the DSA Secretary. To learn how to do this, contact the Chapter Outreach Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chapter Bylaws Template serves as the basis for all Chapter Bylaws. In the application process, the chapter may propose amendments to the DSA’s Chapter Outreach Committee.
A chartering chapter must request their own copy of the Chapter Bylaws Template, which can be adapted to fit your chapter's specific needs. The template will be shared as a Google Doc, which you can edit in "suggestions" mode. This means that any changes you make will be automatically tracked, so the DSA Board can easily see and approve modifications. Please note, areas highlighted in red cannot be amended by a chapter.
Email chapters[at]dalcrozeusa.org to request your personal bylaws template.
How to amend Chapter Bylaws
Once a Chapter adopts its Bylaws, the document will generally remain stable over time. However, the need to amend them arises now and then. The Chapter Board and its membership must follow the DSA’s formal policy for introducing changes to the Chapter Bylaws that the Chapter adopted in order to receive its charter from the DSA. The Chapter Board must first propose such changes as amendments to the Chapter Bylaws. The formal motion to amend the Chapter Bylaws must appear in the Minutes from the meeting at which the Chapter Board voted to amend the Bylaws. The Chapter Board must inform the Governance Committee Chair of the proposed amendment when it submits these minutes for review.
All chapters must legally be titled “The XXX Chapter of the Dalcroze Society of America. However, they may refer to themselves as “XXX Dalcroze.” Such as: “New York Dalcroze,” “Rocky Mountain Dalcroze,” “Philadelphia Dalcroze,” etc.
The Chapter Treasurer will need work with the Chapter’s Executive board to develop a budget, which the Chapter Board will then vote to approve. The Chapter Secretary will need to upload the budget to the Chapter folder in the DSA’s Google Drive and share a link to the new Google Document with the Chapter Committee Chair. This critical step enables the DSA Treasurer to aggregate all income and expenditures of the DSA as a whole, which in turn enables the DSA Board to comply with the IRS tax code. The DSA will not disburse any money to the Chapter until the Chapter Secretary has uploaded to the Chapter’s folder in the DSA’s Google Drive the following documents and sent a link to these documents to the Chapter Outreach Committee Chair:
- The spreadsheet detailing the budget projections
- The Minutes from the meeting at which this motion was passed.
Ideally the above will all take place before the first meeting of the new fiscal year, in July.
As the fiscal year proceeds, the Chapter Treasurer is responsible for entering the correct figures into the budget’s “actuals” column within 30 days of receipts or disbursements. The Treasurer will also need to retain all documentation of expenditures (receipts and invoices) and scan and upload them into the Chapter folder in the DSA Google Drive.
Changes to the budget can be made during the year via a budget amendment. The budget amendment is an easy process: the financial change is proposed and justified to the Chapter board. After all questions have been satisfied, a vote is held to approve or deny the change. The budget amendment details, justification and vote should be recorded in the minutes.
Under no circumstances can a DSA chapter provide reimbursement checks made out to individuals without proper documentation. Proper documentation can be one of the following: a filled out and signed reimbursement form with original receipts, a contract, or an invoice.
Disbursements may only be made if they are budgeted expenses. If an expense arises that is not budgeted, the expense must be approved as a budget amendment at a chapter meeting (and recorded in the meeting minutes). For more detail about Finances, see the section on Chapter Finances.
Now That You’re a Chapter
There are four major steps you’ll need to take now that the DSA has chartered your Chapter:
- Establish a physical mailing address: The Chapter Secretary is typically responsible for receiving all correspondence directed to the chapter. However, because it is the Treasurer that generally receives official correspondence, including checks and invoices, for practical purposes the Treasurer should be responsible for establishing and maintaining the chapter’s physical mailing address. This can be a P.O. box or the Chapter Treasurer’s private residence.
- Open a bank account
- Design your budget.
- Begin planning and administering the events and other activities that will serve the DSA members who are local to this Chapter, as well as bring in newcomers.
In the next section, we will go into greater detail about how to handle each of these areas.