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Nonprofit groups promote a vast array of causes, missions and passions, such as public speaking, honoring and remembering military veterans, law enforcement and motorcycle riding. Sergeants at arms help these organizations by assuring orderly and productive meetings of boards of directors and members. Directors or officers elect or appoint sergeants at arms for fixed periods of time, such as a year. Depending on the organization, the position may be unpaid or paid.
Preparing for the Meeting
The sergeant at arms must have the directors ready to conduct business. Meeting preparation includes security, gathering chairs and tables, having name plates for the directors and checking the sound and other equipment. For some organizations, such as the American Legion, the meeting setup involves the specific placement and arrangement of flags, banners and a Bible. The sergeant at arms also has sign-in lists and cards for members who may attend board of directors’ meetings.
Directors cannot conduct business or achieve their organization’s mission in chaos. The sergeant at arms maintains order and enforces standards for proper behavior and security for the event. With a courteous demeanor, the sergeant at arms calls for quiet and for attendees at meetings to be seated when needed. For those who disrupt proceedings, the sergeant at arms is an escort out of the room or building. The sergeant at arms must keep out nonmembers if the organizations restrict who may attend. For some organizations, this office includes parliamentarian duties or is a stepping stone to higher offices, such as president, vice president or director; thus, the sergeant at arms must know the rules, such as Roberts’ Rules of Order, for the conduct of meetings.
Property and Record Keeper
The sergeant at arms maintains custody and control of the documents that chronicle the attendance of directors at meetings and the organization’s history. After a certain number of years, the organization might choose to destroy some meeting or business records under the sergeant at arms' supervision. Organizations trust the sergeant at arms with its property, such as banners, flags, equipment and books. The sergeant at arms must find a safe place to protect the property from the elements, vandals and damage; this includes activating and checking on the security system. Inventories tell the organization what equipment, supplies and keepsakes it owns and uses and what it needs to order; when the sergeant at arms' term of office expires, the inventory and property are transferred to the new position holder.
An organization can gain members through a knowledgable and welcoming sergeant at arms. Before board meetings, the sergeant at arms greets visitors and invites them to join through handing them applications. American Legion organizations assign the sergeant at arms to chair welcoming committees. In some organizations, a sergeant at arms may hand out door prizes or sell merchandise to raise money for the organization.
- Virginia Building and Code Officers Association: Description of Duties for Officers, Region Chairs and Committee Chairs of BOCA Chapter 15
- The American Legion: Department of Florida: Sergeant-at-Arms and Protocol Manual
- United Motorcyclists of Vermont, Inc: Bylaws
- Toastmasters International - Arizona: Achieving Success at Sergeant at Arms
- LCC Alumni Association: Constitution and Bylaws
Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.
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