To begin with the obvious, the life-blood of any branch is its membership. However, that life-blood needs a heart to ensure the vitality of the branch, and that heart is the branch committee: a group of dedicated individuals who regularly give their time and effort to the smooth running of a successful branch. Within that committee there are three essential roles: those of chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Individual branches may, of course, appoint further officers, such as vice-chairperson, membership secretary, events secretary, publicity officer and so on, but the three prime executive officers are essential to the existence of a branch, for under the constitution of the HA, if any one of these three is not appointed, the branch cannot function, even though membership numbers might be strong. The appointment of chairman, secretary and treasurer is crucial.
Chairing the deliberations of a branch committee is a key role in the management of the branch as the chairperson ensures that the committee will function in a proper manner, that there is clear discussion of all relevant matters, and that effective decisions are carried out according to the intention of the committee. The role of chairperson can be time consuming, involving, among other things, work between meetings, and the representation of the branch as its figurehead. It is the chairperson that assumes direct responsibility for the functions of the branch and, on occasion, the role might require diplomatic and leadership skills of a high order.
The extent of the secretary’s role depends, of course, on the size and dynamism of the branch. The secretary is the person that ensures that meetings are effectively organised and minuted, deals with correspondence and keeps the records of the branch up to date and secure. In many cases, the secretary, like the chairperson, might represent the branch at functions outside the immediate environs of the branch committee.
Overall, the role of the treasurer is to maintain an overview of the financial status of the branch, to ensure that proper financial records are kept and that procedures laid down by the HA and the branch committee are adhered to. However, it should be noted that the final responsibility for financial matters should rest with the branch committee as a whole.
Branch officers need a good understanding of the branch’s work: an understanding that includes awareness of the HA’s vision, values and mission. They must be seen to uphold the values and objectives of the branch and of the HA at large and to strive to further the successful activities of the branch.
It is clear that the responsibilities of branch officers, together with those of branch committee members, must not be taken lightly. Having said that, it is seen throughout the HA’s branches that people of commitment and integrity are willing to step forward to imbue their respective roles with a passion for the promotion and enjoyment of history. Sincere thanks go to them for their commitment to the ethos of the Historical Association.