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Important Information for Conveners

For many years, the American Folklore Society has supported the work of sections, which are subgroups of the Society organized around topical interests or demographics; e.g., folk narrative, Latina/Latino folklore, the folklore of women and the roles of women in the field of folklore, or public programs in folklore. The Society’s sections provide a collegial home within the Society for those with particular interests in these and other areas; they support and recognize important work through their publications, prizes, and other activities; and their creation and history is an index of the development of the field as a whole. They are a valuable part of the services the Society provides its members and the larger world.

First and foremost, sections of the American Folklore Society are not independent organizations. They are part of AFS, and are governed by overall AFS Bylaws, policies, and Executive Board decisions. This document describes the various responsibilities of sections to the parent Society.

But the parent Society also has responsibilities to its sections. All AFS sections are eligible for space and time at the Society’s annual meeting for paper sessions or workshops, section meetings, and social events. AFS provides several services to sections:

  • It keeps membership records for sections and provides contact information to sections to communicate with their members.
  • It couples section renewal with AFS membership renewal in both online and print renewal forms.
  • It keeps accounting records for each section that brings in income (e.g., from section dues or outside funding for section activities) and incurs expenses (e.g., for publications or prizes).
  • It provides digital space and communication tools specific to each section on the AFS website.
  • It provides administrative support for key phases of section prize management.


Each section must designate an AFS member to serve as convener, acting as the head of the section, to serve for a term the section decides. Conveners maintain contact with the AFS and are responsible for handling general section business and correspondence. Each section must also designate an individual (either you or a named treasurer) who will receive annual financial statements from the AFS business office. (See also “Section Convener Succession” below.)

Section Finances

Sections must obtain funding adequate to their operating expenses before making payments or pledging to make payments.

Sections may not raise funds in any fashion without approval from the AFS Executive Director. This includes any and all methods of raising funds, including initiating or raising dues, seeking donations, or offering any goods or services for sale. Fund-raising will not be approved unless it can be demonstrated that the funds will support activities that benefit the field of interest in the present or within five years.

If you learn of a source of outside funding — government or foundation grants, for instance — communicate as soon as possible with the AFS Executive Director to work together on a fund-raising plan. Since AFS sections have no independent legal status, all grant applications for section activities must be officially approved by the AFS Executive Board and submitted by the Society, not by the section. Since this AFS approval process usually takes some time, and since AFS wants to avoid conflicts between sections’ fund-raising activities and its own, it is especially important that you involve the AFS Executive Director as soon as you begin planning to raise outside funds.

Section funds may only be used for activities that support research or communications (such as newsletters, blogs, journals, AFS website content, or section-sponsored sessions and lectures at the annual meeting) or professional development (such as prizes, travel support for annual meeting participation, or annual meeting networking or professional development activities), unless a plan for carrying out other activities is proposed to the section by members in writing, and is approved by a majority vote of the section’s members at least one year in advance.

As of 2015, a section may not undertake annual spending initiatives or spend more than 20% of its fund balance on its activities in any given year without the approval of the Section (see below) and of the AFS Executive Director. Annual spending commitments must be demonstrated to be sustainable for at least five years without infringing on the Section’s cash reserve (at least one year of annual operating expenses). To seek an exception to this rule, section members must submit a written proposal to the section at least one year in advance. To pass, the proposal must obtain approval by a majority of votes cast in an online/mail-in ballot. Ongoing events or prizes that predate 2015 are exempt from this rule.

The AFS will provide conveners with section membership and financial reports weeks in advance of the annual meeting and upon request. Please allow one week for processing.

Please be prompt with funds to deposit for the section (i.e., don’t hold onto checks received in October until the following March).

Contact the Executive Director to request payments; we will need you to provide information about the payment (the amount, the delivery method, the timeline) and about the recipient (their name and mailing address are always required; ask recipients to call AFS to give their SSN or TIN if the amount to be paid is more than $600).

Payments are only issued at the request of conveners.

AFS assesses a 10% management fee for all financial transactions to defray administrative costs.

Changes to section names and/or dues take time to implement, and can only go into effect September 1 or January 1. Notify AFS staff immediately if your section wishes to change your name or dues amount; we must receive your request by December 1 for January implementation, or by August 1 for September implementation.

Sections and the AFS Annual Meeting

AFS Bylaws specify that Sections must convene as part of the AFS annual meeting. In fact, the Bylaws state that sections that do not meet for two consecutive years may have their official status revoked by the AFS Executive Board. 

Note: Due to the pandemic, in 2020 and 2021, sections had to conduct their business meetings virtually, using a Zoom meeting created by AFS; many sections preferred the virtual option for accessibility in 2022 and virtual business meetings remain an option in 2023. Contact [email protected] for assistance.

After the AFS annual meeting, section conveners must give AFS any updated information regarding section activities: e.g., the name of a new convener or treasurer, information about a new dues structure, etc.

Sections are eligible for in-person meeting space, but they are not automatically assigned a room. We need your input about your meeting needs, as well as your commitment to convening the meeting. Therefore, you must request meeting space using a Special Event Request form by the annual March 31 proposal deadline. You will find the form on the current annual meeting page during the proposal window.

Sections and the AFS News

You are encouraged to submit information about your section and its activities to the AFS News, a feature of the AFS website that presents news and editorial content. Submit the text that you want to see posted to [email protected]; please consider posting regular updates about your activities, as well as features, news, calls for proposals, prize announcements, etc.

Sections on the AFS Website

Each section has a presence on the AFS website. Conveners are responsible for keeping all the content of their pages up-to-date and accurate.

  • Each section has its own public page, which can be found in the alphabetical list of sections; this page represents the section to the world at large. You must review this page every year; send us any corrections or updates. Think of this as a channel for information for potential new members, people who have not yet joined your section. For example, you should provide information about your activities, your prizes, your publications, and your communication channels, if any, in this public space. Please also review your prize or publication pages, if you have them.
  • As of September 2021, sections’ former private group pages that AFS maintained are currently offline, and AFS staff is working on developing new communication tools to release soon. Content that was available in your old private group has been archived. Contact us if you need access to that material, or have suggestions about how you’d like to use member-only space in the future for things like your meeting agendas and minutes, discussion of plans or projects, and any other resources that concern section members only.
  • Each dues-paying Section is listed in the “Online Store,” where new or returning members can pay their annual dues at any time (not just at AFS membership renewal time, though that is also an alternative). Section conveners should send corrections or changes to this text to [email protected].

If your section already has a web presence elsewhere, or uses other online discussion tools—a Facebook or Google group, for instance, or a listserv—you must provide AFS with that information and update your section pages to help section members find and access those resources. In addition, you must give [email protected], [email protected], and your section’s @afsnet.org address administrative privileges to each channel, and share information about how staff can access them. Once established, you are responsible for keeping any off-site groups in sync with your section’s most up-to-date list of members. 

You must have approval from AFS staff to create any new off-site communication platform or resource, including any channel used for discussion, like a listserv or Facebook group, or any platform to disseminate information, like an independent website. Once established, you must follow the steps noted above concerning sharing access with AFS staff and section members.

Section Communications

Communicating with a General Audience

News about your section should always go directly to section/AFS members first (email to section members, AFS News and AFS social media), before it circulates in other channels, like publore — though the lag time need not be long. Share your announcements with AFS staff first, so we can confirm the details and coordinate our efforts.

If you make graphics to publicize your section’s events, consult the AFS Visual Brand Guidelines and send your graphic to AFS staff at [email protected] before you share it publicly in any way.

You must have approval from AFS staff to create any off-site communication platform or resource, including any channel used for discussion, like a listserv or Facebook group, or any platform to disseminate information, like an independent website. In addition, you must give [email protected], [email protected], and your section’s @afsnet.org address administrative privileges to each channel, and share information about how staff can access them. Once established, you are responsible for keeping any off-site groups in sync with your section’s most up-to-date list of members. Contact [email protected] for help.

Communicating with Section Members

The AFS membership database keeps the most complete and current list of all who have joined your section using AFS tools, including our online and print membership forms. This group probably includes members who have joined the online group but who have not paid dues; further, new section members can join any time, and existing section members can update their contact information in the AFS system any time. Any communications directed at the section must include all section members and use the most up-to-date contact information available. The only way to do that is to send your message through the AFS system. You should send your message to [email protected] or submit this form to Email Your Section, and we will send your message on your behalf.

As of December 2013, any registered member of the AFS online community can freely join your online group, including individuals who are not members of AFS. AFS members are prompted annually to submit dues payments when they join or renew their AFS membership, of whatever type. However, we will not attempt to remove people from the group for non-payment of dues. We recommend that you prompt your members to make an annual contribution to the section.

If you need to contact only section members who are current in their dues payments, you must request that list from AFS, giving us at least a few days to prepare it.

Using Section Email

As of August 2020, your section has a generic email address (e.g., [email protected]); you will be able to access correspondence at this address using Gmail on any web browser. Contact AFS staff for the username and password to access this email address. AFS staff will manage section email accounts to transition from one convener to another. The section gmail will collect and archive section correspondence over time, regardless of convener changes.

By using your section email account, you are indicating that you agree to abide by both the AFS and Google terms for its use. Please refer to the Google Terms of Service and the Google Privacy Policy. As with all G Suite services, your domain administrator (AFS) will have access to your account information, including any data you store with this account in Google services.

It is important that you follow these guidelines for using your section email:

  • Very Important: All section announcements must first go out through the section list maintained by AFS; for now, send us your message and we will forward it on your behalf. This is the only way to guarantee that all current members of your section will receive your communications. Chat and general discussion may be conducted in other channels, like social media, but all section business must be announced through AFS.
  • Section members will not see replies; if you wish to share members’ responses with the entire section, you must do so in a new message sent from your online group, though you may use gmail to reply to individual section members.
  • This address should be given as the primary contact information for your section–on your public section pages at https://www.afsnet.org/page/SectionList and in any other context where you have shared contact information for the section.
  • Check your email regularly and respond to messages promptly. You may choose to forward from your section email to your personal email address; for instructions, see https://support.google.com/mail/answer/10957?hl=en. However, you should send your reply from your AFS section email account.
  • If you receive a question you cannot answer, forward it to AFS staff at [email protected].
  • Do not change the password on your account. Do not give others access to the account without first checking with AFS staff. If you lose your password and need assistance regaining access, contact AFS staff at [email protected].
  • If you have multiple Gmail accounts, always check the icon at the top right corner to ensure you are logged in to the correct account before conducting any section business through email.
  • Plan your messages sent from the AFS website to the entire group to include:
    • A salutation like “Dear [your section name] members,” so recipients can see that you’re mailing the entire group.
    • A signature that includes your full name, your title (convener), and any alternative communication channels that you would like to use for section discussion. If you use listservs, social media, or any other channel to communicate with your section, include instructions about where members can access them. We strongly recommend that you create and save a section convener signature that you can paste in all of your messages to the section.
  • Follow-up discussions may take place in other online forums (listservs, Facebook groups, etc.). Please include a link to that forum in your message if you want section members to go there for discussion. If you are using another online forum for discussion, you should periodically remind everyone how to officially join the section through the AFS website.
  • This email address may only be used for AFS section business and must not be used for personal business.

Section Forums

Updated January 2023: stay tuned for information soon about new section forums, accessible through the AFS Member Portal!

Hosting a Virtual Event

AFS has a Zoom license, and asks that you use it when you host a virtual section meeting or event.

  • AFS staff can quickly create the event for you; you should provide the meeting date and time, and preferably, a short description. If you require breakout rooms or polling, please coordinate these features with staff in advance.
  • Our strong preference is to use Zoom registration, which makes sharing the access link easy and more secure.
  • Since AFS staff will need to start any meetings run through the AFS Zoom license, please coordinate scheduling to be sure an AFS staff person is available at your chosen time.
  • AFS staff can provide meeting support upon request. If you require support during your virtual event, coordinate with AFS staff.

Never share a Zoom meeting direct link and passcode publicly, though it is ok to share the link to registration.

Communicating with Other Section Conveners

Use the Section Conveners’ listserv to communicate with other conveners.

Section Prizes

Several AFS sections award prizes to recognize exceptional scholarship, public service, or other achievements in their part of the field.

All AFS section prizes should include, at minimum:

  • A letter of recognition, drafted by the prize committee, prepared on AFS letterhead by staff, and signed by the AFS Executive Director. Prize committees can draft their own letters, which can be submitted to AFS staff as a Word doc.
    • You (or your prize committee) may use this prize letter template, but you should add text to explain why the recipient was selected as the prize winner.
  • An announcement in AFS News and AFS social media channels
  • An announcement at the AFS Annual Meeting, either in the section’s business meeting, the AFS business meeting, or both
  • A prize check, as indicated by the terms of the prize, which can be picked up at the AFS Annual Meeting or mailed to the recipient at any time

Note that AFS staff cannot initiate any of these actions without input from section prize committees, though staff will implement these actions once prompted to do so through submission of the Prize Winner Report Form (see below).

Section prize committees must coordinate closely with AFS staff concerning prize management. While conveners are not themselves responsible for section prize management, they must make sure that the prize committee chairs are informed of these administrative essentials.

Help Us Help You!
Work with AFS Staff to Manage Section Prizes

As of 2020, AFS staff uses a prize management system to track section prizes and their winners, which will make it easier for staff to support section efforts, thus helping to share the burden in managing prizes. The system depends on prize committee chairs to:

1) Submit your current prize call for submissions.

  • It’s important that this is the first step; once the call for submissions has been submitted, AFS staff will update the prize page, publish the call in the AFS Newsletter and social media, and contact the prize contact person to let them know they can share the prize information in their own channels.
  • The form offers a short list of submission deadlines. Committee members can choose the deadline that best fits their process, but they should understand that AFS staff must be informed of the winner by October 1 in order to arrange an announcement and payment in time for the AFS Annual Meeting.

2) Submit the prize winner. This form prompts for information that will allow us to issue payment, prepare a letter of recognition, and announce the winner, all in accordance with the section’s preferences for timing and methods. Use this form, rather than the check request form, to initiate prize payments.

AFS offers a common form to collect all section prize applications. Staff will share the applications at any time upon request, or after your deadline has passed. Otherwise, managing applications is left to the section prize committees.

In all other respects, section prize committees have discretion in determining the timeline, criteria, and decision-making procedures, and are responsible for recording their procedures and sharing them with the section, which is particularly important for succession in committee service. Files can be saved in the section’s members-only group space.

Section prizes that are offered as travel support are typically made contingent on attendance at the annual meeting. In such cases, checks should be ordered to be picked up upon arrival at the meeting.

Section Publications

A few sections have publications; the sections are responsible for managing those publications and documenting their management process. Section publications are typically managed by their editors, in cooperation with AFS staff; conveners are responsible only for: supporting editors and their succession and ensuring that the management process is documented and AFS financial protocols are observed.

Print publications that are mailed annually to dues-paying members are on a calendar-year cycle; members who pay in a given year will receive the issue(s) with that publication year. Typically, an annual issue should be mailed in the first month or so of the following calendar year.

Editors should give AFS staff at least two weeks’ notice when they need a subscription list. Editors of all section publications, print or open access, should use AFS communication channels, with AFS staff help, to promote new issues as well as issue calls for submissions.

Section Annual Reports

The AFS Bylaws require that all sections submit an annual report. AFS publishes section reports in the general AFS annual report published each spring. Therefore, you must submit this annual report form by December 31 each year reflecting the past year’s activity, plans for the upcoming year, and any out-of-the-ordinary fiscal activity (e.g., planning a grant proposal, special activities or fund-raising, etc.).

Failure to submit annual reports may be grounds for deactivating a section’s online group and revoking section status.

AFS Archives

Utah State University keeps the archive of AFS documents. AFS staff will see that the archive receives a copy of all section publications, member lists, and annual reports. Please contact the Associate Director to share other material or questions for the archive.

Section Convener Succession

Sections determine their own rules concerning succession, and they are largely responsible for managing the process. Ideally, new conveners will be selected near the end of one calendar year, probably at the annual meeting, and they will begin work immediately on section activities for the coming year; out-going conveners are still responsible for submitting the annual report on the activities of the past year.

Sections are responsible for notifying AFS of changes in leadership as soon as possible after new conveners are selected, preferably by the end of November. When notified directly of a change in conveners, AFS will immediately:

  • Add the new convener to the AFS conveners’ group, which AFS uses to contact all conveners.
    • Conveners must have an active AFS membership to receive communications sent through the AFS system.
  • Give the new convener admin privileges for the section online forum.
  • Add the new convener to the list of group representatives on the section’s main AFS webpage.
  • Send a welcome message when these steps are complete.

New/current conveners should contact AFS at sectio[email protected] to request edits or additions to the section page.

AFS will also remove out-going conveners from the conveners’ group, remove the convener from the section page, and remove admin privileges for the section forum; typically, assuming we are notified of the transition October through December, these steps will be taken in January after the past year’s annual report is in.

Section Management Procedures

Sections are largely autonomous in all other aspects of managing their activities and must take responsibility for recording and archiving their own procedures. Keep instructions in your shared group space for future use, especially to aid in leadership succession, and send records of past activities to Utah State University. Consider depositing records of decision-making and procedures in your group pages, and/or share copies with AFS staff.

Your section email address will help preserve a history of communications about your section’s business. File, but do not delete, message sent or received using this section email address.

Revoking Section Status

According to AFS Bylaws Article X, Section 6, a majority of the Executive Board may revoke a section’s status if a section fails to meet at the Annual Meeting for two years, fails to submit annual budgets or reports, or can be shown to have been conducted in a manner contrary to the purposes of the Society. Repeated or egregious violations of these financial and administrative guidelines may also be considered grounds for revoking section status.

Sections may also lose their standing because of inactivity. Members join sections in order to participate in an intellectual community; they pay dues to support activities in a section’s area of interest. Inactive sections do not meet these basic expectations.

Sections that are inactive for two years may be invited to disband. Sections may be considered inactive if:

  • conveners don’t submit an annual meeting room request by March 31.
  • conveners don’t communicate directly with members at least once per year.
  • conveners don’t submit an annual report by December 31.
  • conveners don’t reply to staff emails in a timely manner.
  • no section members are willing to serve as convener.

Dues-charging sections may be asked to suspend dues collection if, in a three-year period, they don’t deliver at least once on an activity that requires financial support.

If at any time you have questions about Society or section operations, or want to discuss the plans of your section, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Contact the Executive Director for most financial matters, the Membership Director for membership and section balances, and [email protected] for assistance with these or any other matter.