AHCJ Chapter Guidelines
Based on the resounding success of local AHCJ chapters in a number of regions to gather members, recruit new members, and offer valuable events to the AHCJ membership, the national organization would like to take an opportunity to solidify the relationship between it and the local chapters. We applaud the efforts of the leaders of these local chapters and would like to support their further efforts and those of chapters not yet formed.
Below are a set of guidelines to be followed by groups of members who wish to be recognized as official local chapters of the AHCJ. With such a designation, the national organization will, for example, offer support such as announcements on its electronic mailing list and on the website and help in recruiting local members by offering targeted email lists. In setting up a local chapter, the national organization can assist in:
- Publicity (through electronic mailing list, announcements on its website, and targeted emails)
- Organizing events
- Funding, when appropriate and available
- Advice and leadership, when necessary
While the national organization encourages local chapters to gather AHCJ members together from a particular region, it recognizes that it is not always possible – or beneficial – to restrict attendance at such events. For example, these events might be used as recruiting tools for the national organization. Therefore, eligibility for attendance to local chapter events will be left to the discretion of the officers of these chapters (see below for more on leadership) instead of being subject to the criteria for national membership. Regardless, attending local chapter events will not constitute membership in AHCJ.
The local chapter should have in place a Steering Committee with at least two members. They may be co-chairs or a chair and vice chair. The entire Steering Committee should be made up of members of AHCJ. How these officers are elected or appointed will be at the discretion of the local chapters.
Electronic mailing list
The national organization encourages the use of emails for communication from local chapter leadership to area members. Such emails allow a chapter leader to broadcast news about chapter events or other material of interest to local members.
However, it does not permit creation of listserves that allow recipients to post messages for two reasons. First, there are liability issues – for the national organization as well as for the individuals running the local chapters. The national organization cannot assume such liability for lists it does not control. Second, there is a real and appreciable risk that such electronic mailing lists will dilute the main AHCJ list, which is a significant benefit to national members. If such a dilution were to occur, the members of the local chapter as well as the national membership would not have the opportunity to exchange information via the list.
It will be left to the discretion of local chapter officials to organize events that they believe will be of interest to members. For example, in New York, the local chapter had a tour of the Bellevue Emergency Room; in Washington, D.C., members were invited to a luncheon at which Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke, and in the Bay Area, the chapter hosted talks on the expanding role of pharmacists and how to find a literary agent. The Atlanta chapter has easy access to CDC employees. And, of course, there is always research going on at your area academic medical centers worth hearing about. Whenever appropriate, local organizers should call on members of the national organization’s board to offer suggestions for speakers and events and help organizing such events.
Such events should conform to the highest ethical standards; any potential or real conflicts of interest should be considered and disclosed. As much as possible, chapter events built around guest presentations or news discussions should be on-the-record events. Holding off-the-record sessions sends mixed messages to our news sources and is at odds with what we advocate for as a larger organization. When in doubt, please discuss this in advance with AHCJ’s executive director.
Chapter leaders should send details about all events, as soon as they are set, to the national organization office. The AHCJ web editor will be responsible for putting that information on each chapter's web page and will publicize events through the e-newsletter, the calendar on the website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
After the event
Chapter leaders should assign someone who will be attending to write a wrapup after the event. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive article -- a simple blog post is fine -- but it should concentrate on tips, story ideas or a key takeaway from the presentation. That write-up, along with any speaker materials distributed or shown at the event, should be sent to the web editor the day after the presentation so it can be posted online in a timely manner and show off your local chapter's activities.
Such write-ups not only provide good material for the blog but also go on the chapter pages and add to the chapter roundup in HealthBeat.
Collecting Dues or Fees at Events
Because the national organization already collects dues from all members, local chapters will not be allowed to do so. If there are particular events that will incur a cost for the local chapter, members may be asked to contribute an admission fee at such events to defray such costs. However, every effort should be made to organize cost-free events, and many chapters have done so successfully. The AHCJ office has offered some modest financial support for the past few years, which is often sufficient for snacks and drinks.
You should clear any outside organization support beyond free meeting space – food, drink, money – with the AHCJ executive director before accepting it. We will want such support to mirror the standards of the larger organization. Chapters should be aware of the official funding policy of the national organization.
Relationships with Other Groups
Working with other organizations, particularly those in journalism, may be beneficial for local chapters, and the national organization encourages such collaborations.
Liaisons with National Organization
The board of the national organization would like to encourage local chapters to be in frequent contact, and will designate a board member or Membership Committee member to serve as a chapter liaison. Communications between the local chapters and this liaison can be informal, such as an occasional telephone call or email to report on recent events.
The national organization’s Board of Directors will have final say over any disputes between or within chapters.
A copy of this document, signed by the local chapter president and AHCJ's executive director, will signify agreement to these guidelines and will serve as a charter for the local chapter. A copy will be kept on file in the national AHCJ office. Any violations of these guidelines will result in the termination of this agreement.
Chair, ____________ Chapter
Executive Director, AHCJ