Local Cultural Councils are managed by volunteers from the community who have an interest in and support the arts, humanities, and/or interpretive sciences. The more diverse its membership, the better an LCC can serve the many communities in its town or city. Members must elect or re-elect officers annually.
Regularly update the online member list to reflect membership changes, along with addresses and phone numbers, so that members will receive newsletters, training announcements and other updates. Keep accurate records of appointment dates so that new appointments can be made as terms expire. Work with the town office to keep the list up to date.
Every community, no matter how large or small, is home to people who, if asked, will serve and serve well. National research reveals that the number one reason people don't volunteer is that they are not asked. Do not assume that certain segments of the community do not want to be involved; invite people of all social and ethnic backgrounds, industries, ages and abilities to participate in council membership.
Local councils consist of at least five but no more than 22 citizens appointed by the top appointing official in the community (i.e., the mayor, city manager, board of selectmen or executive officer). All appointments must be recorded by the city or town clerk.
Council members should have a demonstrated interest or record of service to the arts, humanities or interpretive sciences. The chief appointing authority, members of the local appropriating authority, and other elected public officials cannot serve as council members.
The term of membership for a council member is three years; members can serve a maximum of two consecutive terms or a total of six years, unless the appointing authority removes a member before the expiration of a term. Members must remain off the council for a one-year interval before serving additional terms.
Each council must annually elect a chair, secretary and treasurer. To preserve continuity of operations, the terms of individual council members should be staggered (that is, there should never be 100 percent turnover of members in a single year). Staggering appointments is beneficial so that the council will always have some experienced members each year. Local councils may also elect to designate former officers or members as non-voting, ex-officio council members.
State guidelines do not require that LCC members live in the town on whose council they serve, or that they are over 18 years of age. Some cities and towns, however, do have local residency or age requirements. Check with the municipality's local appointing official or city solicitor. Remember, members can recruit and make recommendations, but only the appropriate officials can appoint and swear in new members.
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Roles and Responsibilities
All new members are required to complete the online basics training within three months of appointment to ensure a basic understanding of the program's requirements, grant making practices and active participation in council operations. MCC staff may also make site visits to individual councils who need further orientation, as time and schedules allow.
Members are personally responsible for disclosing any conflict of interest they may have with an application and following the appropriate procedures.
Additionally, as a result of the Ethics Reform Bill the state legislature has implemented mandatory educational requirements that apply to all Local Cultural Council members as "special municipal employees" as defined by M.G.L. Chapter 10 Section 58. The State Ethics Commission has on its website an online training program that provides a general introduction to the conflict of interest law, including information on the requirements of the law that apply to former public employees. Upon appointment, and every two years thereafter, all current state, county and municipal employees, including LCC members, must complete this training.
This is not a requirement of the MCC; this is a requirement of the State Ethics Commission. Upon completing the training members should provide documentation directly to their appointing authority.
Local councils are guided, in part, by three annually elected officers: a chairperson, treasurer and secretary. Additionally, many councils share the work and leadership through a co-chairperson arrangement.
Involving all members in some aspect of council operations is the most effective way to ensure long-term stability of the council. Local council tasks can be divided a variety of ways, depending on the number of council members, individual skills and interests, and available time. Some councils choose to elect members to serve in other roles, such as publicist, school liaison, grants coordinator, etc., to further delegate tasks.
Develop simple job descriptions for each officer or coordinator position. This will help clarify tasks and make best use of members' limited time. Job descriptions can also help new members get informed and involved quickly. See Sample LCC Job Descriptions. A single job may be done by more than one person. Additionally, a detailed checklist of sample grant cycle assignments is available. Use it 'as is', or adapt it to delegate and share tasks.
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Tips for Recruitment
While the authority to appoint LCC members rests with the municipality, we encourage councils to see themselves as an initiator in recruiting new members. Work closely with the municipal appointing authority to make sure that new members meet the needs of the council. It is always good to have more than five members so that if one person drops out, the council still meets the minimum requirement and remains a legal council.
Figure out what skills current members contribute to the council, and what additional skills are needed. Consider whether the council's member makeup:
- Demonstrates competence with computers and internet
- Demonstrates competence with finances
- Represents the diversity of the community
- Represents the artistic and cultural community in the town or city
Before talking to a potential member:
- Think about how to describe the council's work and why it is so important.
- Think about what different members have gotten out of serving on the council. Keep in mind the things that drew current members to the council; they might be attractive to a potential member.
- Identify some of the more important events and accomplishments the council has enjoyed.
Councils find that a personal invitation is the most successful way to recruit members:
- Ask friends or acquaintances, especially those who have an interest in the cultural life of the community and quality-of-life issues.
- Attend a funded project and talk to the people there about the council's work. Be available to audience members who might be interested in volunteering. Gather attendee names and contact information.
- Identify and invite an individual with a specific skill or expertise the council needs, such as financial accounting, publicity, web design, public advocacy or event planning experience.
- Ask past LCC applicants.
A number of publicity and visibility strategies might help in the recruitment process:
- Use local newspapers, cable access channels, radio, or locally distributed magazines to recruit volunteers. Send a short press release or write a letter to the editor. See a sample press release to recruit new members.
- Prepare council information and membership flyers and distribute them throughout the community and at cultural events. The MCC has designed fliers for LCCs that can be tailored to use in their community. Learn more.
- Contact local businesses or corporations that might print notices in their in-house newsletters and/or post notices on their bulletin boards. Chambers of commerce are good sources because they usually publish regular newsletters and have access to the business community.
- Submit a notice to any town newsletters, reports or other information pieces that are mailed to residents, or maintain web sites or online forums that post community news. Announce the need for members at well attended selectmen or city council meetings.
- Offer a brief presentation about the council at meetings of local clubs and organizations. Explain what the council does and express the need for new members. Download and customize the LCC PowerPoint presentation (8.2M) to share.
Inform the following groups of your need for interested volunteers:
- Local school or college/university art, science or humanities teachers
- Town conservation and planning commissions or revitalization committee
- Local high-tech or biotech businesses (many people in these fields have an interest in sharing their knowledge about science and technology)
- Religious groups and institutions
- Cultural organizations
- Senior citizen groups (Council on Aging, senior centers, Green Thumb program and local nursing homes)
- High schools or student groups many schools have seniors who might be looking for community service experience and could bring a new perspective to the council
- Organizations that represent people of color or specific ethnic groups (NAACP, Brazilian Association, etc.)
- Organizations that represent people with disabilities (associations for the blind, associations for the deaf, local ARCs, centers for independent living, etc.)
- Civic groups (Rotary, Lions, etc.)
- Main Street organizations
Post a call for members on Massachusetts Service Alliance's (MSA) web site.
Massachusetts Service Alliance connects volunteers with opportunities from across the state. Councils may use this resource (via the MCC's agency profile) whenever they are seeking new members and can leave it up for one year. Get directions for creating a volunteer posting on the MSA web site.
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Changing leadership can create challenges because it can be difficult to transfer the knowledge gained and relationships formed by the council chair while in office. Chairs and other officers must have a good understanding of both state guidelines and council priorities, procedures and legal requirements. Consider the following strategies to encourage members to serve as chair or in other leadership roles:
- Avoid having the chair be responsible for most of the council's work. Divide up tasks and create written descriptions as suggested previously.
- Recruit a successor to the current chairperson one cycle before needed, as a co-chair, so he/she can "shadow" the chair during his/her last cycle.
- Consider co-chairs who can share leadership and split the task of orienting and involving members in tasks.
- Consider cycling the chair position annually. Many councils have found it helpful to elect a chair and co-chair for a year, after which the chair cycles off to become a regular member, the co-chair replaces the chair, and a new co-chair is elected. This helps make the chair position less intimidating and ensures that all council members are familiar with all aspects of council work.
- Invite retired members to serve ex-officio and provide continuity as membership turns over. These members can support the work of the council but cannot discuss or vote on applications during their year off.
- Collect and organize important information that a new chair will need: state guidelines and council priorities, current list of members with contact information, current contacts in the municipality, name and number of the council's MCC staff contact, correspondence with the MCC and local sources, list of approved and denied proposals, minutes of meetings and any other council documents.
- Keep files organized throughout the year so that volunteers assuming new roles and responsibilities will find the transition smooth and problem-free. Handing over the jumbled contents of a file box to a new chair will likely contribute to that member's quick resignation.
- Annually review the LCC Program Guidelines with veteran members and newcomers alike. Include an orientation with a social component to make new people feel welcome and to build team spirit.
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Resources for Members
The MCC Communities Department is here to support councils in their work and to ensure that members have the tools necessary to succeed as a council. Below are some key resources for members:
LCC Online Office
The MCC has developed the Online Office to help councils manage their work. The Toolkit portion of the Online Office features the latest LCC news and events, tips for running a council and more. To access the other features of the Online Office, LCC members are provided with a council-specific password that allows them to record information about grant applications, grant decisions, council finances and to manage their member list. Once a year each council is required to complete and submit the Annual Report to the MCC through the Online Office.
The LCC listserv is a discussion group focused on issues that relate to LCCs. The listserv has become a forum for councils to share best practices, success stories, advice and questions. Any member can post their thoughts and/or questions, or just see what other LCC volunteers have to say. To subscribe to the listserv, send a blank email from the address to which you would like to receive listserv messages to: email@example.com.
The LCC Basics Training is an excellent introduction to the LCC Program and an informative refresher for returning members or new chairs. The training covers the roles LCCs play in their communities, the essential requirements of the LCC program, and the step-by-step process used to administer the grant cycle. Members who serve on the council for several years are encouraged to take the training every few years as a refresher.
The MCC brings the LCCs together on a regular basis to celebrate the good work of the LCCs around the state and to advocate for the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences in their communities, through panels, workshops and informal gatherings.
MCC Staff Contact
One of the most important resources as LCC member is your MCC staff contact. Each staff contact is available via phone and email to answer your questions and give advice. To find out who your staff contact is, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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