Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Guide by Sir Urdok Ironhand
One of the most common questions people have asked since Hearthlight was conceived is “How do I create a chapter?” We demurred for a number of reasons, some structural (how Hearthlight would operate as an LLC) and some practical (developing a list of what we would expect from new and existing chapters). It would have been unfair of us to make demands on potential chapters without having a clear objective for them to work towards.
Through the hard work of the Chapter officials and the Board of Directors, we have established and tested our process of developing and welcoming new Chapters, and I am proud to share it with you today.
The first step in the process is to decide that you are ready to commit to running a Chapter. Are you willing to take the necessary steps to follow Hearthlight’s values and mission statement? Are you willing to hold regular elections? Are you able to document attendance, how money is earned and spent, and chapter votes? Are you willing to host regular events?
As a Chapter President for nearly a decade, I can tell you that, while none of these are particularly onerous tasks, being consistent with them is a constant stream of work. One person cannot and should not handle it in the long term. No matter how driven you are, you will need a team.
After you have decided that you are willing to put in the work, the next step is to reach out to Hearthlight via the website. Once you have done that, one of our team members will open up a conversation with you. If you are establishing a brand new group, we will tell you what we are looking for and work with you to establish a time frame for implementation and review. We understand that being told, “Do x, y, and z and come back in 6 months” can be frustrating, but we are building an active and growing organization. That means making sure all of our active Chapters are rewarded for the work they do, and incoming Chapters are helped to achieve the same standard.
If you are an established group, the first thing we will look at is how you reached the decision to join Hearthlight. Specifically, we will be asking, “Was that decision reached through a fair and open process?” This is a key question for us. We are committed to operating as a representative organization.
When we look at how elections are held, we are checking to make sure they are trackable, democratic, representative, and show equitable choice. Trackable means there is a way to record who participated and the final tally of votes. We do not need to know how each member voted (and in fact we encourage chapters to adopt anonymous voting methods). Democratic means that every eligible person’s vote has the same weight and that all votes are counted equally.
Representative means that the voting body of a chapter reflects its active membership. This means elections must occur regularly, and in a way that is accessible to all members. While we do not require it, online voting methods are considered best practice here.
Equitable choice means that the requirements to hold office are reasonable and not arbitrary or exclusionary.
Hearthlight is committed to allowing our Chapters to have as much local control of their affairs as possible. To this end, we only ask Chapters to meet four criteria related to how they establish membership. Membership in a Chapter must be clearly defined, trackable, reachable, and non-permanent.
What this means is that a Chapter must lay out membership criteria that are clear and can be objectively confirmed (such as participation in events), that membership must be able to expire, and that the Chapter must ensure its participants have a fair chance to achieve and retain membership.
As an example, let’s imagine a Chapter called Urdokia. Urdokia lays out that in order to vote, participants must come out to 6 chapter events out of a 12 event schedule.
This is trackable: you can have a sign-in sheet at the gate. It is clearly defined: show up 6 times. It is reachable: you only need to make an event every other month on average. And it is not permanent: you need to keep participating to maintain your membership.
Now imagine a chapter called Awfulonia. Awfulonia holds that you must come out to 12 events every year or be “of great service to the Chapter” to be a member. Awfulonia holds only 12 events a year. People who are deemed to be “of great service” will be considered members for life.
This is not clearly defined or trackable: “of great service to the Chapter” is vague and can be twisted to mean nearly anything. It is not reachable: car trouble or the need to skip practice due to a personal or work-related reason knocks you out of the running for the year. It can be permanent: once you are “of great service” you can stop showing up entirely, but continue to be eligible to vote in elections.
Officers and Duties
We expect chapters to clearly lay out the expectations for their officers, to have a system of accountability for those officers, and for the duties of those officers to be realistic.
Safety and Discipline
We expect chapters to have codes of conduct and discipline policies that are compatible with Hearthlight’s mission statement and commitment to safety, inclusion, and accountability. We are looking for policies that protect victims/survivors, are fair and transparent, and have mechanisms in place to protect reporter anonymity.
While this may seem like a lot, much of what we ask for are things that many groups already have in place. We have a library of model documents and the experience of seven chapters to draw on to help people get started. This is not an exam, but a collaboration. Hearthlight wants to give your Chapter the tools it needs to grow and thrive in the long term, and we are willing to work with you to make that a reality.
To start your chapter's journey in Heartlight, click here.
Yours in Service,
Sir Urdok Ironhand