Are You Ready to Form a Chapter?
Before you initiate the administrative processes necessary to create a new Chapter, be sure that you have all the pieces in place to ensure the long-term success of the endeavor. In particular, ask yourself:
- Do you have enough people who have the desire, expertise, and time to devote, on a continuing basis, to plan and execute chapter activities, and to do behind-the-scenes administrative tasks? A new FNPS Chapter should begin with at least four persons to serve as officers, and more than four are recommended to provide adequate start-up support and backup, should any officers be unable to continue in their roles.
- Are members/board members available year-round, or will your Chapter have a summer hiatus?
- From what approximate geographic area do you expect to draw your members?
- What is the demographic makeup of your area? Will it affect your ability to attract and keep members, or influence where/when you meet?
- Is there a centrally located place for the membership and/or board members to meet that is large enough to accommodate the number of expected attendees? Will you need to pay to use the space, either with Chapter funds or in-kind contributions? (volunteer labor, for example)
- What activities (programs, field trips, plant sales, volunteer days, etc.) do you expect to conduct that will further the FNPS mission?
- Will you need funding to get the Chapter started? How much, and from what source(s) do you expect to get it?
- What other similar organizations operate in your area (parks/preserves "Friends" groups, Audubon, Sierra Club, etc.)? Are there cooperative ventures/activities you might conduct with them? Will you be competing with them for members?
The steps to forming a new FNPS Chapter are discussed below. In carrying out these steps, organizers of new FNPS Chapters can get advice and support from:
- This handbook
- The FNPS Executive Director
- The board members of other nearby FNPS Chapters
Steps to Forming a New FNPS Chapter
- Contact the Executive Director for an FNPS Chapter Application and instructions.
- Contact FNPS Administrative Services for a list of FNPS members who may share their experience in forming a FNPS Chapter.
- Review all sections of this handbook related to Chapter Operations.
- Review the FNPS Bylaws, especially Chapter responsibilities related to membership, record keeping, finances, and meetings.
- Select a name for the new Chapter. The FNPS Board of Directors must approve all FNPS Chapter names. The new Chapter's name may represent the local municipality, regional area, or the scientific or common name of a native plant that is representative of the new Chapter's area. A list of FNPS Chapter names currently in use can be found on the FNPS website at https://www.fnps.org/chapters/chapters. FNPS Chapters may choose from the following styles of names:
- ___________ Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society or
- ___________ , a Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
- Organize a meeting (or meetings) of Chapter organizers to do the following
- Complete the FNPS Chapter Application;
- Decide whether the FNPS Chapter is to become a Florida not-for-profit corporation or an FNPS Chapter under the FNPS IRS Group Exemption Letter (GEL). Review federal and state legal reporting requirements to maintain a Florida not-for-profit corporation and a FNPS Chapter under the GEL.
- Develop and adopt a set of bylaws for the new chapter, using the FNPS Chapter Model Bylaws as a template. These must not be inconsistent with the FNPS Bylaws, and a copy of the new Chapter's bylaws must be deposited with the FNPS Executive Director;
- Develop a two-year plan of operation.
- Ask the Executive Director to review all completed paperwork before officially submitting your FNPS Chapter Application.
- Send copies of the completed FNPS Chapter Application to the FNPS Executive Director, Secretary, and Administrative Services.
- Wait for the FNPS Chapter Application to come before the FNPS Board of Directors for approval. Application approval requires a majority vote of the FNPS Board of Directors, which usually meets monthly. The FNPS Chapter becomes an official FNPS Chapter at the time when the Board votes in favor of approval.
- Request Chapter start-up expenses: Within 60 days of its establishment, a new FNPS chapter, may request start-up expenses in an amount not to exceed two hundred dollars ($200.00). This request must be made in writing to the FNPS Executive Director.
Chapter Formation Overview
Upon adoption of chapter bylaws, FNPS chapter organizers shall elect their (prospective) officers and their FNPS Chapter Representative. Generally, FNPS Chapter officers include a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The Chapter Representative acts as the Chapter's liaison to FNPS, via participation in the Council of Chapters. The number of officers (and board members, if any) is determined by the Chapter organizers and set forth in its Chapter Bylaws. Officers may not hold more than one office; however, the Chapter Representative may also be an officer of the Chapter. As the FNPS Chapter grows it may find that it needs more board members and standing committees, and should structure its bylaws to accommodate anticipated growth. While officers may serve in other capacities--for example as newsletter editor, committee chair, or field trip leader--it is preferable to delegate these responsibilities to other Chapter members whenever possible, in order to develop a wider network of volunteers.
Initial Chapter Members
Initial FNPS Chapter members may come from two sources, (1) existing FNPS members, or (2) new members. FNPS Administration can assist in identifying those FNPS members who reside in proximity to the proposed new Chapter and may want to join it. Those existing FNPS members who request that their affiliation be changed to the new chapter, and those persons submitting a completed FNPS Membership Application/dues with an FNPS Chapter Application, meet the criteria for being members of a proposed new chapter. While new members who do not specify a chapter upon application are assigned to one by FNPS Administration according to zip code, FNPS members are not required to belong to a chapter, nor are they required to belong to the chapter in whose territory they reside, and FNPS members can request FNPS Administration to remove or change their chapter assignment. See membership management.
The Starting Point for Chapter Structure and Finance
Once a new chapter has been approved by the FNPS Board of Directors, several decisions have to be made regarding the FNPS Chapter's legal structure and finances. The following activities will require some thought and coordination, so be sure to review the information on Chapter Structure, Chapter Finances, and Chapter Reporting.
- First step. Apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), using your official chapter name as approved by the FNPS Board of Directors.
- Get Official. Once you have your EIN, you need to register with the state of Florida as an entity of some sort. Depending on the structure you choose, you will either need to apply for a Fictitious Name (if not incorporating) or a Corporate name (if incorporating).
- Open a Bank Account. An EIN number is required to open an account.
- Soliciting and Receiving Donations. All FNPS Chapters must register as a charity with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and renew annually in order to legally solicit funds as a charitable organization in the state. https://www.fdacs.gov/Business-Services/Solicitation-of-Contributions#
- Getting Under Cover. The chapter may elect to become a part of the FNPS umbrella 501(C)3 organization by participating in the Group Exemption Letter program (GEL) or may incorporate with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity.
- Merchandising and Plant Sales. If you want to sell things, you will need to collect Florida sales tax and county surtax, so of course you will need to register with the Florida Department of Revenue to do so: https://floridarevenue.com/taxes/eservices/Pages/filepay.aspx