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Roles & Responsibilities: Professional Chapter Secretary

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Job Description

As the recording officer for all membership and chapter executive committee meetings, your primary responsibilities include recording minutes at chapter and board meetings and maintaining a permanent file of all reports. The secretary holds information critical to the chapter's success and serves as a liaison between chapter members, officers, the board of directors and SME Headquarters. The secretary is responsible for the distribution of minutes and chapter correspondence, and plays an integral role in how the community, members and prospective members perceive the chapter.


  • Create and distribute meeting notices to all chapter members.
  • Work with the chair and a designated team, if necessary, to generate agendas for each chapter or executive committee meeting.
  • Work with SME Headquarters to ensure timely notice of all chapter meetings in the master calendar.
  • Transcribe notes of all chapter meetings and compile minutes in finished form within 30 days, or before the next meeting, if sooner; fax or email copies to the chair for review and approval before distribution.
  • Ensure the distribution of the minutes to all board members.
  • Order supplies for the chapter, as needed (office supplies, SME products, etc.).
  • Act as the custodian for the chapter's charter, bylaws, other legal documents and all of its historical records.
  • Notify officers and committee members of their appointments, as needed.
  • Endorse all formal written reports.
  • Update and maintain these documents whenever deemed necessary by the SME Board of Directors or your chapter's board of directors and distribute revisions to all members, as needed.
  • Make important documents available at all executive committee meetings (committee lists, SME governance documents, minutes of recent meetings).
  • Confirm attendance information and ensure a quorum during meetings where official business is conducted.

Reports You are Responsible For

Name Purpose Distribution Deadline
Meeting notices Distributed via email or posted online, the meeting notices inform members of the dates and times of important meetings. They are also used to update the SME Headquarters master calendar. 60 to 90 days before each meeting.
Meeting agendas With the input of the chair and other chapter officials, the secretary and his/her team generates the agendas that keep meetings moving successfully. It is imperative that all officers have an opportunity to provide their input. Five (5) days before general meetings, one (1) day before executive committee meetings.
Meeting minutes As the official record of the chapter, each set of meeting minutes must include:
  • Chapter name.
  • Date and place of meeting.
  • Names and functions of all attendees.
  • Approval of previous meeting's minutes.
  • All main motions (except those that were withdrawn).
  • Meeting hours and time of adjournment.
Within 30 days of any meeting (or before the next meeting, if sooner).

Getting the Job Done: Tips & Details

Quick Tips

  • Bring the following to all meetings:
    • Minutes: bring enough copies to distribute as handouts to all members.
    • An up-to-date notebook of chapter reports for reference: minutes, treasurer's reports, membership reports, printed communications, etc.
    • List of committees.
    • SME Governance Document — for any procedural issues that may arise. 
  • Make it easy to document attendees by organizing a "check-in" area at all chapter events, (i.e., meetings, seminars, outings, etc.). Make badges for attendees, as needed.
  • Build a team to assist with agenda preparation and meeting notices to ensure that they are effective.
  • Remember the seven-year rule for legal documents: keep minutes and financial data for seven years. Periodically review files for age and relevance.
  • Consider potential uses during upcoming anniversaries (e.g., the chapter's 25th or 50th anniversary) when determining what historical documents to keep.
  • Periodically invite members to access to chapter records as a reminder that this is their right.
  • Endorse formal written reports by writing the official date of acceptance by the chapter executive committee on the report and noting any further actions taken.
  • Call your membership consultant whenever you need additional assistance or further information. If you do not know who your membership consultant is or how to reach him/her, call SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or send an email to

Checking for Quorum: Every Time Your Chapter Votes

A quorum must be established to conduct the general business of the chapter and whenever nominations or elections will take place. At a regular meeting, either 10 percent or 15 voting members, including a majority of the chapter officers, must be present to constitute a quorum.

Agendas: Guiding an Effective Chapter Meeting

While the agenda is ultimately your responsibility, relying on a team for input and/or for agenda creation will make things easier and ensure an effective agenda is generated for each meeting. Agendas ensure that every member knows the business that is to be discussed at the meeting and can follow along. Decide in advance who will prepare the agenda for each meeting. If you are unable to make a copy of the agenda for every member, take time to write the agenda on a chalkboard or flipchart before the meeting begins.

Use the order of business shown here or adjust it to suit your chapter's needs — for executive committee meetings add old business, new business, committee reports, etc.):

  1. Call to order (indicate time).
  2. Approval of the previous meeting's minutes.
  3. Introductions (officers, new members, guests).
  4. Specific items of business.
  5. Special announcements.
  6. Speaker presentation.
  7. Upcoming meetings.
  8. Special events.
  9. New business.
  10. Adjournment (indicate time).

Take Note: Meeting Minutes

Minutes may not be the most exciting things you ever read or write, but their accuracy helps the chapter operate effectively and, when completed and approved, they become the official SME chapter record of business transacted at each meeting. The following hints can make taking responsibility for meeting minutes easier:

  1. Ensure that official meeting minutes are written and distributed within 30 days of the meeting, or before the next meeting, if sooner.
  2. Remember that minutes should include all that was done at the meeting, as opposed to all that was said.
  3. Be sure to note the date and place of the meeting and whether it is a regular meeting or a special event, such as a banquet or a summer picnic.
  4. Write down each motion, the name of the person who made it, the name of the seconder and the resulting vote.
  5. Keep a summary of announcements made by committee chairs, advisors and special guests.
  6. Take attendance at every meeting through a regular check-in table and write down the total number of members and guests present.
  7. In your list of attendees, underline the names of members who make or second motions, or who are involved in discussions during the meeting.
  8. Be sure you get the names of those who volunteer for activities or committees. This list is extremely valuable when it comes time for you and your other chapter officers to tap into people for more involvement or future leadership positions.

Membership Records: Past, Present & Future

Chapter membership lists are much more than names and addresses. To be complete and valuable to the chapter, membership records should also include email addresses, the date each member joined and a record of his or her degrees, certifications and awards, as well as a list of the committees they have served on and the offices they have held. Keep your records up to date by continually reminding members to update you when they have changes or new achievements.

Correspondence: Your Chapter at Its Best

Writing and sending invitations, letters, requests for information and thank-you notes on behalf of the chapter is an important part of your job. The way the letters look can make or break your chapter's image, and, since you sign them, they reflect on you as well. Chapter correspondence that makes a great impression starts with the SME chapter letterhead and business cards. Click here to view available templates.

Use this question checklist to review your materials before distribution:

  • Does the document have a clear introduction, main body and conclusion?
  • Are all names spelled correctly?
  • Is grammar correct?
  • Are all dates and times accurate?
  • Does it do what you want it to…succinctly?
  • Is all spacing correct?
  • Does it look professional?