How to Start a Branch & some helpful contacts

So you want to start an American Begonia Society Branch in your area. It takes 7 people to form a branch. Along with your enthusiastic team you have the Membership Committee, ABS Treasurer and ABS Branch Relations Director to help you. Your first call will be to the ABS Branch Relations Director for guidance and direction. Below is useful information as well as a list of ABS contacts to help you get started.

   ABS Branch Relations Director
   ABS Treasurer
   ABS Membership Committee 

The Branch Relations Director will also connect you to one or more of the ABS Membership Committee members that will be assigned to your team.


While you work through the process, several things will need to happen. We’ve created a checklist to help keep your progress on track. Print it out or download and keep this as a guide. A short explanation on these items follow:

  1. Determine your board – you need a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and National Director. The National Director is your liaison to the American Begonia Society, is a member of the ABS Board of Directors, represents your branch in Board meetings and votes, and completes an Annual Branch Report to keep ABS informed on the status of your branch. (See 5 below)
  2. Decide on your Branch Name. It usually includes the area that you’re located. Don’t forget to create an email address for your branch. 
  3. Branches are under the umbrella of ABS and its national nonprofit status as a 503(c)(3). You will need work with the the ABS Treasurer to request your branch IRS Tax Identification number as a subordinate organization under Group Exemption No 4014. This will include working with the ABS Treasurer to complete and file the IRS FORM SS-4 The hyperlink above has fields completed that must be used on your form. 
  4. Prepare your Constitution and Bylaws. These documents are a guide to how your branch is managed. The Branch Relations Officer will provide you examples of branch bylaws and guidance to develop these important documents. There are several samples available in the checklist mention above as well.
  5. Complete the items and forms found in the checklist mentioned above.
  6. Review all the resource subjects in the How to Start a Branch category, including Duties of Branch Board.
  7. Open up your branch checking account with a local bank.
  8. The website resource category Membership Recruiting & Retention  contains several resources and topics for recruiting and retaining members as well as help with your branch meetings.

Here is your link to the Start a Branch Checklist.

Committees and Filling Their Positions


Running a successful branch requires an engaged membership. Fresh ideas and knowing what your membership is looking for so you can deliver is important. So that the leaders of your group aren’t doing everything, set up committees for the committee categories most important for your group.  The most essential committees that need to be considered for any branch are listed in bold under the category title. It’s important to get your membership and board involved in these committees. 

   Hospitality, Ambassadors or Sunshine Committee
   Refreshments or Monthly Birthday Celebration
   Opportunity Table (raffles) and Begonia Sale Table 

   Monthly Meeting Topics and Workshops
   Field Trips
   Begonia Shows and Sale Events
   Holiday Celebrations

   Process new members & renewal
   Membership roster
   Membership drives
   Membership retention


Posting to Facebook, Instagram
Promoting your meetings and event
Webmaster to update website

   Save our Species Conservation initiative
   Community Projects
   Mentor Programs for newbies
   A Grower Program to help supply plants for sales 

It’s the Branch President’s responsibility to establish which committees are important to fulfill the branch goals. These can change year after year depending on the direction of your club. Are you a new club? Are you in need of something new, like a community project? Are you planning a public sale or show?

Once you establish which committees are required to run your branch, it’s time to fill them. It’s time to get your membership involved! It’s virtually impossible for one leader to put meeting topics, handle dues and new members, plan events, etc. There are several ideas we present to inspire your members to help with the leg work needed to implement your goals.


It’s important to know who your members are. What do they do for a living? What do they like to do? What are their strengths? Are they good communicators, planners, organized? Do they have technical skills? Or do they just want to grow begonias? Would they want to mentor or propagate and grow for branch plant sales or public sale events for fundraising?

You’ve got to ask your members how they wish to help. A call out to the membership is a start, but one on one interviews will bring more commitments. A survey to general membership is a very helpful tool. Asking your members what they want in a club and approaching those with suggestions to help attain that goal is another source of possibility.

Gathering help from membership creates the opportunity to work together for a common goal and makes your branch interesting with new ideas and cooperation. Generally board members will chair a specific committee. Finding energetic and willing members are a launch for those members to become more involved in leadership and possible board roles for the future.

Here is a survey that has worked in the past. SF Branch Survey for Committees

Duties of the Branch Board

Branches of the American Begonia Society are under the national umbrella as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and will use the ABS Federal Tax ID number. 

 A Yearly Branch Activity Report form will be sent to each Branch National Director around the end of the ABS fiscal year, August 31. In additions to a yearly status on meetings and updates, a list of that branches’ Executive Officers will be requested with their contact information. The completed report will be send to the Branch Relations Chair.     


The Board of Directors is the governing body of an organization. The Board includes your officers (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer and National Director), Directors and committee chairs are outlined in your Bylaws. Generally each board member will lead a committee that is responsible for different tasks required to run your branch. Examples are Membership, Programs, Sales/Fundraising, Social Media/Publicity, etc. 


The President conducts all meetings, is an ex-officio member of all committees except for the Nominating Committee, and is often an additional signer on the branch bank account.


The Vice-President assists where needed and in the absence of the President. In many branches the Vice-President is chair of the Program Committee.


The Secretary keeps minutes of all meetings, including Board Meetings and Branch Meetings.


The Treasurer receives all monies collected, makes deposits and disbursements, maintains financial records. submits regular financial reports monthly to the Board and membership. The Treasurer is responsible for filing federal and state tax forms and associated paperwork necessary to the continued functioning of the Branch as a nonprofit. 


Your National Director (ND) is the liaison between your branch and National, and serves on the ABS Board, including voting. The ND  must designate a proxy if unable to attend an ABS Board Meeting. Your ND should be acquainted with the business of the national parent entity and report updates to your branch. The ABS Branch Relations Director will distribute an annual report form to ND’s near the end of the ABS fiscal year (July 31); the report will ask for a range of branch information and activities within that year.  

Leadership & Having Fun

Being a leader is multifaceted and means many things.

  • Developing members to take on leadership roles
  • Provide members with support and connect them with like minded people
  • Provide a culture of community and networking
  • Having fun through collaboration and working with others

Creating a culture of respect, support, excellence, commitment and friendliness benefits your members and your branch’s mission and vision, reputation and member loyalty. Effective leaders create a vision for the future, work well with their committees and members, and enable the branch’s success.

A vision can’t be attained without other member’s contributions. This includes your membership as well as your board.  Leaders must be able to motivate and collaborate with people that can deliver your objectives. As such, much of effective leadership relies on people skills.

Respect for individuals and knowing how to bring out the best in them as the work together is important. Team dynamics is important here, knowing your team, whether board members or committee members, or your general membership, and handling problems quickly allows you to get the best value from your resources and move forward.

Pay close attention to how members feel about their assigned duties, what motivates them personally. Use a proactive approach and appropriate steps to have engagement and retention. Put some fun into your approach! Create community.

Effective leaders also look for leadership potential in others. Developing leadership skills within your group creates an environment that ensures long-term success.

Delegating and monitoring tasks and objectives should be done in a proactive manner. Equip your team members with the necessary skills and abilities to attain their success and achieve the vision of your branch. Give and receive feedback regularly, though training and coaching, encouraging collaboration and skill sharing across your membership.


  1. Think globally
  2. Appreciate cultural diversity
  3. Develop technological know-how
  4. Forge partnerships and alliances
  5. Share leadership

Today, knowledge sharing, creativity, and taking the initiative to anticipate and resolve your branch needs are required for any organization to survive. A people-centered leadership approach, where leaders are willing to work in the best interest of all is proven to be most effective.

Running Your Meetings


No one wants to be bored. Have a plan and leave your audience wanting more. Keep your meetings short and to the point. Make sure you have a member activity so they are involved.

Most branches have informational meetings, which are conducive to a classroom set-up. It’s important to have the subject matter planned and the speaker prepared to present the information. Make sure you have provide time and opportunities to ask questions.

Meetings can also be planning focused or workshop oriented.  A U-shaped set-up is usually best in this situation. These meetings are interactive with discussion and decision making among all attending.


Having a meeting plan is important to keep your meeting focused and on point. It helps to have an agenda that is consistent with each meeting as members have an expectation of what is next and what will be covered.

  • Generally, putting business in between a speaker or break time works. You won’t loose your audience with dull albeit important information.
  • Mixing up your agenda with a plant sale, show and tell and opportunity table is helpful in keeping the energy level up.
  • Workshops are an opportunity for collaboration and mixing members up with each other, creating community and new friendships. 
  • Having a more senior Begonian speak about a favorite begonia, it’s history and attributes is interesting to other members and can be a static agenda item.

Consider interjecting a game from time to time. This is an exceptional way to get your members involved and energized and can be fun! There are lots of quick guessing games that can be found on the internet.  There are lots of Begonia facts that can be used for this idea.

Here are some problem solving techniques:

  1. Have a couple of board members sitting with the general members during the club meeting. 

This keeps a less informal and friendly atmosphere where everyone is equal. Board members can also interject with the people around them to keep private conversation down while a speaker is presenting, which is very disrespectful and distracting to the speaker.

It also doesn’t hurt to remind everyone before someone speaks by saying “Hey guys, next, our Treasurer is going to say a few words about this event, so let’s give him all our attention!!”

  1. Have a board member stand near the door of the room.

This might discourage people from leaving early. Having the VP or someone stand by the door makes it more difficult psychologically to decide to leave, because there is no way to sneak out. This is also helpful because the light switch is often by the door, which comes in handy when the lights need to be flicked on and off to signal a start of a meeting or a new agenda item.

  1. Look for the quiet members.

Make sure to go over before the meeting starts and chat with them. As a board member, your friendship will make them feel included and special.

When you are having people sign up for committees for an event, for example, this is a great time to really hook the shy ones into your club family. Try something like this: “Ok, who wants to be part of decorations? I really need some help! What about you, [insert quiet member name here]? Can I count on you? Let me put you down here!”

Remember, the vocal members are wonderful, but don’t underestimate the talents of the more quiet ones.

  1. Remember details and names of potential members.

This makes people feel welcome and connected.

  1. Make members heads of committees within your club.

Successful clubs make their members feel valued. If you are planning a big event as a club, don’t put all the stress on yourselves as a board. Make committees for decorations, food, etc. Then choose an Board member and one general member to be the heads of each committee.

Never stop thanking members for showing up club meetings, and for all their help. Do everything you can to put each member in the spotlight at some point.

  1. When doing group activities, find ways to really mix it up.

Cliques will inevitably form within your club. Break them up. Pair people together that don’t normally talk. Never make groups by dividing the room: everyone who sat together is already friends. Come up with creative ways to count off into groups.

Everyone should know everyone in your club. It is an opportunity to meet new people, even if you don’t necessarily connect with them at first. The club should feel cohesive, not divided.

Election Protocols

This can be as easy or difficult as you wish, or as informal or stringent in other words. Your Bylaws could include election requirements, so take a look at them and adjust accordingly. If not outlined in your Bylaws, all questions of order and procedure should be in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order, newly revised. Here’s a link from Roberts Rules, Chapter 12, Nominations and electionsWikiHow also has a good resource for election information in plain English. 

The Nominating Committee
Typically, the current President will appoints the nomination committee, which submits the names of candidates for various offices to the  membership at a nomination meeting. The meeting typically takes place 1 to  3 months before elections.

Nominations may be made from the floor of the nomination meeting. Once nominations have been closed, no more nominations may be made. If the nominee/s are unable to serve, and there is no other nominee, the nominating committee may submit, at the election meeting, names of additional nominees for that office

To be eligible for club office, the member must be an active member in good standing with dues paid current. 

General Voting Guidelines
Elections can be several ways by those present and eligible to vote. Show of hands, Voice Vote, Ballot or Roll Call. A quorum of the majority of members in good standing is required. Your majority is identified in your Bylaws. Members present must be in good standing. The President is entitled to one vote.

Majority Vote
The member receiving the most votes has a plurality.

Running your Election Meeting
This is done in-person at a General Meeting and there are processes for online meetings.
Count the votes and announce results identifying the name and position of the party with majority votes. Raise a Motion to confirm the results. Ensure the Secretary has entered results in the minutes.

Installation of Officers
Not required but traditionally held at the first meeting of the fiscal year. 
This meeting is an opportune time for your club to:

  • Express gratitude to the previous board members as they complete their term of service for serving the club. It may be appropriate to present outgoing board members with small tokens of gratitude.
  • Honorably transfer authority and responsibility from current leaders to newly elected directors and officers at the beginning of each fiscal year. Some clubs have a strong tradition of “passing the club gavel” from outgoing president to incoming president.
  • Recognize club members who have provided excellent leadership and service to the club the previous year. This is for those members who may have provided extraordinary efforts to large projects.
  • Celebrate the club’s service and positive effect on its community. It is appropriate to recount all of the club’s service success over the past year.
  • Acknowledge members who provided outstanding support to the club’s service. If the club has a strong community benefactor assisting the club in its service, it is appropriate for the entire club to extend its gratitude.
  • Recognize long-time members of the club for their dedication, service and leadership (could recognize all original charter members).
  • Provide an opportunity to share the club’s goals and chosen program of service for the upcoming year to the newly elected club president to inspire the club members to commit to making its community a better place to live.
  • Celebrate club milestones, such as the club’s anniversary or long-lasting community service programs.

Setting Up Virtual and Hybrid Meetings

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