HOW TO START A CHAPTER

How to start a WIFTI Chapter

 

Background
The first Women In Film Chapter was started in Los Angeles in 1973. Today, there are some 40 Women In Film (WIF) and Women In Film and Television (WIFT) organizations worldwide spanning 4 continents, 18 countries and 13,000 global members. WIFTI (Women In Film and Television International) is the global network comprised of all these member Chapters, dedicated to advancing professional development and achievement for women working in all areas of film, video, and other screen-based media. All dues-paying individual WIFTI/WIF members whose Chapters have joined WIFTI and are currently up-to-date with their membership dues, may take advantage of the benefits WIFTI offers.

What Is Women In Film & Television International?
Organizations are either called WIF or WIFTI (either in English and/or their national language) dependent on the media industry which is most predominant in their area. They are non-profit membership organizations uniting women working in the film, television and other screen-based industries including executive, creative, and technical fields. Every affiliate organization has been set up and has evolved differently to address its own unique issues and membership needs. Many of the larger organizations have offices which employ full-time staff with voluntary backup, but many of the smaller organizations work purely on a voluntary basis. Despite all of our cultural and organizational differences, we are all united under our common aims:
1- Provide a forum for industry professionals;
2- Offer a network of contacts - both nationally and internationally;
3- Promote and safeguard the interests of women working in the screen-based media worldwide;
4- Champion women's diverse achievements in all areas of the industry.

How Have Affiliate Organizations Begun?
Most organizations first secured the commitment of a number of prominent women in their domestic film and television industries who were encouraged to become founding members, join the first Board of Directors and to attract other prominent women to join the organization. This initial step has proved to be very important in convincing both commercial and government funders to support the launch of a Women In Filn & Television International organization in their state or country. Most Chapters initially tried to secure the following:
1- Set achievable objectives. Start off small and then grow.
2- Elect a Board of Directors (Sample board positions may include Directors of: Communications, Public Relations, Membership, Programs, Special Programs, Professional Development, Jobs & Opportunities, Grants, Fundraising, plus a President, Secretary, and Treasurer)
3- Have a female attorney on their Board to draw up by-laws and legal structure.
4- Lay out a two-year business and financial strategy.
5- Set criteria for membership requirements.
6- Form and develop strong relationships with other key industry organizations, companies and professional executives to promote.
7- Employ a part-time administrator/secretary (if funds permit)

Legal Structure
All WIF or WIFTI organizations are structured differently to best serve their individual circumstances and you should consult an attorney in drafting documents for organization. As every WIF and WIFTI are non-profit organizations, they have to follow the different legal criteria of their state or country. For example: a) You may or may not be able to accept men as full or associate members; b) You may or may not be able to engage in political activity; c) You may or may not be able to accept government funding. Other decisions like the level of professional entry for members are at the discretion of each individual affilliate organization.

1- Your group must agree with the WIFTI mission to promote and enhance opportunities for women working in screen-based media.

2- You must be a not-for-profit organization. (For more information on U.S. non-profit status go to the IRS website). Once this paperwork is filed and a copy sent to the WIFTI office, the chapter can be listed on the WIFTI website. After a grace period of one year from the filing date, membership dues are payable to WIFTI. Before filing the paperwork, the Chapter is considered to be an emerging Chapter and is not officially affiliated with the WIFTI network of Chapters. The association of the Chapter with WIFTI cannot be used to promote events, programs, etc. until they have filed the necessary paperwork.
3- You must be a membership organization and have at least 25 members. (Membership dues and eligibility are determined by each Chapter. )

4- Your members must work in film, radio, television and/or new media.

5- You must have a Board of Directors or governing body that is elected by the membership. Should you decide to proceed, WIFTI can provide you with copies of the by-laws from other Chapters to help you formulate the by-laws for your new group.

How To Attract Members?
All WIF and WIFTI are event-led organizations. They run a monthly/bi-monthly roster of events and their members pay an annual subscription to participate and attend these various events ranging from: workshops, fundraising events, training sessions, industry networking and screenings.

Most Chapters have established voluntary work committees to develop and co-ordinate events. Some of these committees may include:
1- Social Committee - to host monthly networking events, industry breakfasts and special parties;
2- Awards Committee - to co-ordinate the annual fundraiser for their chapter;
3- Sponsorship Committee - to develop and plan a sponsorship strategy;
4- Training Committee - to set up relevant training sessions for members;
5- Screening Committee - to arrange for monthly screenings of films and members' work;
6- Mentoring Committee - to establish mentoring programs;
7- Workshop Committee - to host events with key industry figures;
8- Newsletter Committee - to develop and publish a quarterly newsletter or magazine for their members;

If you are interested in forming a WIF or WIFTI organization, please contact WIFTI through this website. We will gladly furnish samples of by-laws & organizational materials from some of our member Chapters and put you in contact with our current Membership Chairs whose responsibility it is to guide and assist the formation of new chapters.

The WIFTI Board of Directors invites you to consider joining our exciting global network! 

Summary of WIFTI Chapters' Board Organization
 
Introduction
 
As a service to WIFTI Chapters worldwide, WIFTI has summarized information about how WIFTI Chapters have chosen to organize themselves. The hope is that this information will help WIFTI Chapters as they start the process of structuring themselves for the first time or as they re-structure how they are organized. The information contained in this summary does not take into account any legal considerations which impact on Board structure in particular countries (which must be researched locally by each WIFTI Chapter).
 
Process
A questionnaire asking about Board structure and practice was sent out to all WIFT Chapters worldwide in February, 2004. Responses were collected between February and May 2004. 
 
Responses
Seventeen WIFTI chapters completed questionnaires - 8 from the United States, 3 from Canada, 2 from New Zealand, and 1 each from Australia, the UK, Ireland and Denmark. A summary of the raw data from the questionnaires is attached as Appendix B.
 
Number of Directors
Each Chapter was asked for the maximum number of Directors that were permitted under the Chapter's by-laws and what the average number of Directors was. 
 
The maximum number of Directors established by each Chapter's by-laws varied somewhat with Chapter size. On a purely numeric basis the smallest maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws was 5 (Dublin, Ireland) and the largest maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws was 25 (Washington, DC). Most often the maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws varied between 11 and 16 Directors (12 Chapters).
 
The average number of Directors on a Chapter's board of Directors was usually less than the maximum number of Directors permitted under the by-laws (in 10 of 17 Chapters). Four Chapters had an average number of Directors which were the maximum number permitted. Three Chapters either didn't answer the question or answered it incorrectly.
 
Director's Election and Term
Most of the Chapters (14 of 17) specified a length of time or term for the Directors to serve. The large majority of Chapters specified a term of either 1 or 2 years.
 
Four of the Chapters prescribed a maximum number of terms which a Director could serve on a WIFT Board and two additional Chapters set a maximum number of terms (2) for the Board Chair or President.
 
Directors at all but three Chapters were elected either by full members or the whole WIFTI membership. At two Chapters, a combination of whole membership vote and appointment by the Board of Directors was used. Appointment by the Board was used if there were Board openings and members available that stated an interest in being on the Board and/or who had necessary or appropriate skills. At one Chapter, Board members were appointed by the current Board by vote.
 
How do the WIFTI Boards ensure that Women with Appropriate Skills are Elected?
 
Boards tended to use a variety of techniques to ensure that they attracted suitable candidates for the board. Often some combination of targeted recruiting was done by the current Board (combined, sometimes with WIFTI staff) with the Board's executive taking the lead. As one Chapter stated:
 
Keeping the Board's needs in mind, the past President is responsible for recruiting strong candidates and takes suggestions from the Board. The Executive Director and past President speak with interested parties to convey bylaw requirements, Board expectations and the emphasis on accountability.
 
Candidates biographies and comments about their intentions (either verbally or in writing) were provided to the membership to inform their voting selections. Some Chapters required and distributed a letter of support from another member that also described the candidate's qualifications.
 
Some Chapters had nominating committees (comprised usually of current Board members) which nominate qualified women for each open position. 
 
The Board of one Chapter selects and recommends new Board members for election by the whole membership (the questionnaire did not state whether or not additional Board candidates could be nominated from the floor by the membership to compete with the Board selected candidates).
 
At least three Chapters felt that they weren't in a position to ensure that appropriately skilled women joined their boards due to the scarcity of women applying and/or the high Board member minimum set out in the chapter's by-laws:
 
It would be a great idea to do this [ensure women with appropriate skills are elected] but in practice it doesn't work for us. Because of our high Board minimum we often need to take anyone willing to stand.
 
The Management Committee can appoint members and generally does not have the luxury of looking for people with appropriate or complimentary skills. We therefore fashion the output of the organization to suit the mix of people who join the Management Committee.
 
             
Specific Portfolios and Committee Work
Five Chapters required Board members to run under a specific portfolio such as Programming Vice-president, Treasurer etc. One Chapter stated that the requirement for each Board member was very important with us as some jobs are more time consuming than others?. 
 
Ten of the seventeen Chapters that responded require their Board members to sit on committees. One Chapter also required each Board member to raise $3000 US for the organization through monetary or equipment donations, in-kind services, ad sales, event ticket sales etc. 
 
Of the Chapters in which sitting on a committee was not a requirement, most Chapters indicated that it was strongly encouraged for their Board members to sit on committees. One Chapter which did not require Board members to sit on committees stated:
           
It's a good idea if you can allow for flexibility of time commitment due to fluctuating Board member availability ie many of our Board members are mid career and become unavailable when in the throws of production.
 
Twelve of the seventeen Chapters that responded have standing committees which range quite widely in type. The most common standing committees were: finance, fundraising or funding, programming, membership and special events. At one Chapter where Board involvement in committees wasn't mandatory, committee chairs who do not sit on the Board send in a short report to be read at each month's Board meeting. At chapters which didn't have standing committees, Board members would take on responsibilities or set up ad hoc committees as required.
 
Board and WIFTI Staff
 
Just over half of the WIFTI Chapters employed some sort of staff either on a full or a part time basis. A couple of the Chapters also used interns in addition to the regularly employed staff.
 
The large majority of the WIFTI Chapters are relatively active in WIFTI operations but tend to stay away, if possible, from the day to day details. One Chapter commented:
 
The Board does a fair amount of work that would be done by staff if we had enough staff people to do everything. They plan programs and produce events. But they do not get involved in day to day management of staff or prioritizing staff tasks. The ED does that. They also do not negotiate financial deals. This is working quite well  it is the best of both worlds.
 
A common conundrum is that there isn't enough money to fund the appropriate number of staff.  The only challenge that exists is that there is more work than one person can handle but not enough funding to support the hiring of more staff. 
 
One Chapter commented on the difficulties when board members are involved heavily in day to day operations:
 
Our Chapter has 2 staff members and uses interns. In earlier times, the Board did much of the work which affected Board duties and caused major burn out for the VPs. We hired an Executive Director, then a Membership co-ordinator, then brought interns in. The Executive VP present position was later created to support the President, act as her back-up and help oversee operations by communications regularly with the Executive Director in all areas. Although the Board is very active, they chip in where needed.
 
Where there are no staff, the Board fulfills all of the day to day functions that are required.
 
 
Other Comments
 
Seven of the Chapters submitted additional comments which are quoted, verbatim, in the attached Appendix C.

                                                            Appendix A
 
How is your Board of Directors Organized? 
  1. Chapter Location: 
  1. Maximum Number of Directors According to your By-Laws:
  1. Average Number of Directors (if less than by-law maximum): 
  1. Length of Director's Term: 
  1. Is there a maximum number of terms any director can serve? If yes, what is it? 
  1. How are Directors elected (by the whole membership/by appointment of the Board and ratification of the membership/other)? 
  1. If the Board is elected by the Membership as a whole, how does the organization ensure that persons with the appropriate skills are elected? 
  1. Does each Board member run for a position with a specific portfolio (e.g . Treasurer/VP/President) or do they run for a Board position generally (with the position specifically being agreed upon later by the Board)? 
  1. Is each Board member obliged to sit on at least one committee? 
  1. If your Chapter has a staff, how involved is your Board in your Chapter's day to day operations? Is that level of involvement working?
  1. Does the Board have standing committees, and are these committees responsible for reporting back to the Board on, for instance, state of finances, programming, or whatever the portfolio is? 
  1. Anything else about how your Board is organized that you would like to tell us as we consider how our Board is set up?
      Appendix C
 
Anything else about how your Board is organized that you would like to tell us?
 
It's a very organic process. The Management Committee is very personality driven. We have management plans, aims and goals and mission statements. These are generally refined at annual planning days but how the organisation is run is entirely dependent on who comes forward to help, what their own agenda is, their experience and their motivations. Leadership is an extremely important issue and if the organisation does not have a strong executive or president then it will flounder. This has happened from time to time and it takes time to recover from this kind of situation.
 

We would like to do and be so much more than our resources allow and I guess for WIFTI NSW part of being successful is working within the limits of those resources whilst still maintain the quality of the services.

As we only have one full time staff member, our board is an extremely hardworking board (we organize all events, finances, sponsorship, publicity,and when possible, policy). If you have the luxury of more staff members, I would recommend keeping the # of directors lower. While it is necessary to ensure all events are properly handled, it can make it unwieldy for making general organizational decisions / policy directions. 15 differing opinions rarely come to consensus (sometimes our executive of 4 can't even come to consensus!)
  
It is extremely difficult to predict how hard a board member will work, regardless of their antecedents. I believe that having a paid staff person, whether full or part time, is instrumental in achieving an organization?s goals and keeping that organization on track. Getting people who are committed to the goals of the organization is also imperative - people will do a lot for love of a cause.
 
I think having the President and the VP's for 2 years is very important.  The first year seems to be a warm up year and the second year rolls from the plans of the first year.
We have a VP of Communications over the Newsletter, Web and PR Board Members, Membership has worker bees that do the database and oversees the job Opportunities Board Member.  By having Pres and VP 2 years one has an opportunity to train up the other Board members to take over.        
 
TREAT THE ORGANIZATION LIKE A BUSINESS, NOT A CLUB
 
Bring a healthy balance of diverse professionals from various leadership roles of the media industry: accountants, lawyers, local and international producers, distribution executives, directors, etc.  Beware too many dynamic producers who think big and want to achieve much. The board must always consider financial, staffing and volunteer limitations.     
 
Always keep a recruiting eye on active volunteers: We often find strong Board members by observing who the worker bees are in the Programming committee.
 
Plan out the year and all associated tasks: The first two months of each new Board is dedicated to outlining the events and initiatives for the year , which are discussed and approved at a retreat. The results reflect ideas from membership polls, addressing 4membership needs, repeating past events by popular demand, collaborations with other organizations or businesses, etc. Things come up during the year which offer an opportunity for the organization to make money or indirectly provide a service to our members. If there are enough resources and time available, the board will take it on. 
 
Put structures and systems in place:   Often, Boards have an imbalance between the movers & shakers and the slackers. After we set up a system of committees and accountability, our entire board became very active. We increased our productivity, effectiveness, organizational visibility, credibility and the quality of our services. 
 
 *Examples: Delegation of committees and tasks, Board reports prior to meetings, limits on unexcused missed meetings (3 in a row), etc.  
 
Take the time to network with and learn from the other Chapters.
 
Use your biggest fundraiser of the year to attract press and celebrities. It will help bring in sponsors. Include industry awards as well as recognition awards for individuals or companies who have contributed greatly to the organization. 
 
Our Board is very active, meeting once a month for two hours, usually two days before our regular monthly meeting. Board members are also active online in between meetings, communicating ideas and supporting each other in our duties. Our Board is also very accessible to individual members throughout the month. 
 
We have been struggling in recent years with the type of Board member we want to attract. We did engage in targeted recruiting for skills or diversity but it was felt in the last few years that we needed more senior women in the industry on our board to open fundraising doors and raise the Chapter's profile. We originally thought that such women wouldn't have the time but after some prolonged arm twisting, to our surprise, they said yes. The addition of more senior women has really made a difference not only to the wealth of experience on the Board but also to how we are perceived. Senior women or no senior women? we are still struggling with the appropriate division of labour between board and staff.
 
We recommend having a Board job description and an organizational manual with all relevant info before someone starts. It is also important to have check-ins so people can have a chance to express how things are going. We tend to take on a lot of work and great people burn out too fast.