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Community Federation: A Model Constitution and Plan

Plan For A Standard Legal And Administrative Organization For A Community Federation


By C. M. Bookman, Director, Council of Social Agencies, Cincinnati, OH

Editor’s Note: This is a presentation at the 1919 Annual Session of the National Conference of Social Work. As a young man just out of college, Clarence Bookman was a high school teacher of mathematics.  He became involved in social work in 1914 and he was appointed associate director of the Council of Social Agencies in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His successful performance in raising funds resulted in being appointed Director.  By 1921, Bookman was Executive Secretary of the Community Chest of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The federation is an attempt to co-ordinate the activities of the independent, and for the most part, unrelated agencies without disturbing their individual initiative and responsibility. Joint action with local autonomy is its goal. The federation, which is the concrete expression of all the agencies of the community and which is not in itself a separate organization, should be certainly and surely built upon a representative foundation.

Although I shall stress central finance in a section of this paper, I do not want it to be understood that a social service federation considers centralization in this particular anything more than a necessary element in making possible more efficient social work. Neither do I want it to be understood that I am outlining a plan that will meet all conditions and all times. Changes eventuate so rapidly that a few years from now newer methods may make our present one antiquated. When establishing a federation we should recognize that each organization and its board of directors is interested primarily in the particular problem that called it into being. In some organizations not only successive generations of the same family have been helped, but they have been assisted by successive generations of the same family. Some of these board members do very little toward the success of the organization they represent, but nevertheless they enjoy the little they do. They must not be asked to surrender their authority and interest. They must be taught the real spirit of service and helpfulness. In some instances new blood must be infused into the sclerotic veins of a few existing senile boards. Membership on a board of directors should mean more than the mere lending of the influence of a name. However, on practically every board are to be found men and women who give much time and thought to the work of their organization. Their interest must be maintained. They must have the same vital part in the affairs of the agency with which they are connected as before federation was established. At the same time they must be brought to see that they are carrying an unnecessary load by allowing some of the board members to be inactive, and it must also be made plain to them that their own particular work can be improved when closely coordinated with the work of the other agencies of the community. Many individuals, men and women, formerly unconcerned with or not interested in social work, are through the development of their social consciousness now sitting on boards in federation cities. This infusion of new blood greatly strengthens the boards and enlarges the social vision of executives and workers alike.

The federation, regardless of the way it has been established, must not attempt to be an overlord administering the affairs of the constituent agencies. The federation should be the machinery by means of which the agencies and their social workers function together. When new standards of work are being developed, the federated agencies interested in those standards should help formulate them. The federation can safely exercise administrative direction, but should not exercise administrative control. From this it clearly follows that a social service federation should be entirely representative of the agencies, having only such powers as the co-operating agencies delegate to it.

The following Model Constitution for a Community Federation is presented as embodying a method of establishing a community organization. The experiences of a number of federations have been drawn upon for the material that follows:


Article I


The name of this organization shall be…………………………………………. of……………………………………….

Article II


The object of this organization shall be to build up and promote normal standard in living, citizenship and health on the part of the residents of…………………… and vicinity and to eliminate such social conditions as tend to create dependency, delinquency and defectiveness by co-ordinating the activities of such social agencies, civic bodies, business organizations and public departments as deal with social and civic problems; by promoting cooperation, efficiency and economy among them; and by promulgating and promoting studies, plans and programs whereby the various social and civic problems may be better understood and more scientifically and intelligently dealt with.

Article III


Section 1. This organization shall consist of delegates from the bodies which subscribe to this constitution and of individuals from the community at large who are elected to membership from time to time by the delegates.

Section 2. Each member body shall be entitled to two delegates one of whom shall be the executive social worker on the staff of the respective body, the other a member of its directing board.

Section 3. No delegate shall be entitled to represent more than one agency.

Section 4. Membership for delegates shall inhere in the body represented. Each member body shall certify to this organization not later than one month after the annual meeting the names and addresses of its two delegates for the ensuing year.

Section 5. The number of individuals elected by the delegates to represent the community at large shall at no time exceed one-tenth of the number of delegates.

Article IV


Section 1. The annual meeting of the organization shall be held on the………… day in………………………… of each year, at which time an annual report of the organization shall be submitted and members of the executive board shall be elected as hereinafter provided.

Section 2. There shall be quarterly meetings of this organization held in the months of…………………………, and…………………

Section 3. The president may call special meetings of this organization from time to time and shall call special meetings upon a written request, signed by ten members, within five days after receiving such request, provided the written request states the purpose of the meeting. No special meeting shall be called except upon written notice to all the membership stating the time and purpose of the meeting.

Section 4. At all meetings of this organization a quorum shall consist of representatives from not less than twenty-five per cent of the member bodies.

Article V

Powers and Duties

Section 1. The powers and duties of this organization shall be those assigned to it by the delegates of the constituent bodies.

Section 2. The management of this organization shall be vested in the organization itself.

Section 3. Any act of the executive board shall be subject to review and alteration by the organization by two-thirds vote of those present at any meeting of the organization.

Article VI


Section 1. The officers of this organization shall be a president, two vice-presidents, a treasurer, and a secretary, who shall be elected as hereinafter provided.

Section 2. The duties of the officers shall be those which usually pertain to such offices.

Article VII

Executive Board

Section 1. There shall be an executive board consisting of not less than twenty-five and not more than thirty members.

Sec. 2. The executive board shall be elected by the organization at its first meeting, one-third to serve for one year, one-third for two years, and one-third for three years. Annually thereafter at the annual meeting a number equal to one-third of the board shall be elected for a three-year period to take the place of the retiring group. Vacancies occurring on the board during any year may be filled by the board. Not less than ten members of the board at any time shall be active social workers and not less than ten shall be financial contributors.

Sec. 3. The executive board shall elect from their members a president, two vice-presidents, a treasurer and a secretary who shall be the officers of the organization and of the board and shall serve for one year.

Sec. 4. The executive board shall meet at least monthly. Special meetings may be called by the president at any time and shall be called by the president at the request of two members. Written notices shall be sent the members of the board for all meetings and shall state the purpose when a special meeting is called.

Sec. 5. Seven shall constitute a quorum at any meeting of the board.

Article VIII


This constitution may be amended by a majority vote of those present at any legal meeting of the organization, provided copies of the proposed amendments have been submitted to the executive board, in writing, signed by at least five members of the organization, not less than one month in advance of the meeting, and provided further that all delegates be notified in writing at least one week prior to the time of the meeting and such notices contain the wording of the proposed amendments.

Article IX


By-laws may be adopted, added to, or amended by the organization by a majority vote at any meeting of the organization.

* * * * *

An organization chart based upon the foregoing regulations is shown on the page following. This chart provides for a number of permanent committees and divisions, but it is not my intention to give this list of departments as all inclusive. Some of them may not be needed in some communities and additional ones may be needed. Local conditions must be the determining factor. The personnel of the different divisions is determined by the organizations interested in the work of the division in question. The chairman of each division should be a member of the executive board so that the board may be kept in touch with the work of all divisions.

In case of endorsement, if this work is made a part of the federation, the committee should be made up from the givers and the social workers of the community. In Cincinnati the Registration Bureau (named Confidential Exchange) is operated under the direction of a committee made up of the executives of the agencies using the exchange. The Associate Director of the Council of Social Agencies is the official representative of the committee in actual supervision of the work.

Before the formation of this committee the exchange operated as a piece of machinery detached from the agencies and simply offering its services to those who desired to use it. The committee adopted an aggressive policy, under which the exchange stimulates more intensive use of its facilities by a complete system of checks on querying, registration and clearing with other agencies, converts agencies not using the exchange to its use, and promotes case co-operation and the general adoption of the case conference idea. The result of one year under this policy is gratifying. The number of agencies using the exchange has increased over 50 per cent. Querying on cases has increased 1,100 per cent, and registrations come in promptly and generally tally with case counts. Clearing between agencies has increased very largely. The agencies using the exchange are unanimous in their opinion that case co-operation has improved correspondingly. We in Cincinnati have yet to receive our first complaint or adverse reaction to the aggressive checking up of delinquent agencies, very largely because they look upon the exchange with proprietary interest.Organization Chart[View Image]
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Organization Chart

The Health Division is made up of all agencies, both public and private, dealing with health problems. The important principle back of the form of organization is representation, and the making of the agencies and of the social workers responsible for the formulation and execution of plans and programs.

The Central Budget Committee is no exception to this rule of organization. The agencies appoint one delegate each to this committee. Each agency has but one vote. The chairman of the Central Budget Committee is the president of the central delegate body, the secretary of the committee is the secretary of the central delegate body. The details of administration are carried out by the executive staff. The Central Budget Committee appoints subcommittees from time to time to consider various phases of the social problem relating either to finance or social work. The committee is responsible for the budgets allowed the constituent agencies and for the raising and distributing of funds. The boards of the constituent agencies are brought in this way not only to consider their own financial problems more fully, but to consider the financial problems of all other organizations, and the dangers of too great responsibility and control resting on the executive board are obviated. Prior to the beginning of the year the boards of the respective agencies map out their requirements for the ensuing year. A study is made of the past year’s activities, and recommendations from the Central Budget Committee of new work required are discussed. In fact, the plans and hopes for the coming year are very carefully considered and a budget based upon past expenditures and new requirements is prepared upon forms previously decided upon by the Central Budget Committee of which they are members. (For budget forms see charts A, B, C, D.)

These budgets are submitted to the committee, which turns them over to a special committee appointed by it, and made up of givers, social workers, and delegates to the committee. The budgets are studied in detail with a representative of each agency present to explain his budget when it is considered, and to confer on necessary changes. The findings and changes recommended are then submitted to the Central Budget Committee for final action. Days should be spent by the special committee in examinging budgets, after the office staff has made all adjustments possible and has carefully checked every item in connection with the programs outlined. If any agency is dissatisfied with conclusions reached by the committee it is given an opportunity to appeal to the Central Budget Committee. All items of income as well as expenditure are considered. Agencies often neglect to require payments that should be required from those able to pay; part of the work listed, sometimes, should be carried at public expense, and a committee is appointed to confer with public officials to that end-in short, every available source of income is made to yield its maximum.

In those cities in which this plan is in operation the agencies have developed a self-analysis of their own work, frankly facing their own shortcomings and seeking assistance in correcting faults. Salaries are adjusted so that the workers in one organization are not receiving less than those doing similar work in another organization, the character of the work done and the qualification of workers being determining factors. Bookkeeping methods are sometimes changed and better accounting is introduced. Some federations find it to be economical and necessary to employ a public accountant on full time who audits the books of many of the agencies and lends assistance at all times to the constituent organizations on financial matters. The budgets, although based on a careful forecasting of work, may be subject to alterations during the year. Emergencies arise and problems not foreseen when the budget was prepared may confront an organization. Each agency is free to make a request at any time of the Central Budget Committee to meet exigencies. If the committee decides to allow the additions, it assumes responsibility for raising the money needed. Although budgets may be changed during the year, the agencies are urged to estimate their requirements as nearly as possible when their budgets are originally drawn up.

After budgets have been established, the appeal for funds is made to the public on the basis of the budgets decided upon. (For pledge blank see Chart E.)

Various methods of raising funds may be employed. Some federations will prefer to raise their funds through a continuous effort during the year, others by a concentrated campaign such as we have all been familiar with during the recent War Chest drives. As will be noted from the model pledge blank form, each subscriber is furnished with a list of the participating agencies, with their budget requirements and a statement of services to be rendered. In this way each contributor is given an opportunity to designate any portion of his gift to any of the organizations included in the budget, to give through the Central Budget Committee to any agency not included, or to give any part of his gift to a general fund, which may be distributed according to the needs of the member organizations. Each agency should be furnished with a list of contributors, with designated gifts to that agency clearly indicated. In the case of an organization in which subscriptions of certain amounts are required for legal membership, those who designate the required amount, or more, for that organization in their federated gift should be considered to have met this requirement and should be so notified. It is believed that memberships in organizations should be based upon service as well as upon cash contributions. Agencies should be encouraged to enlist the moral support and interest of as many individuals as possible in their work. It is through such interest and participation that broader visions of service grow; and such broader visions find their fullest expression in meeting community needs in their entirety.

Distributions should be made to the constituent agencies once each month. The agencies should be required to furnish a monthly statement of income and expenditure according to the items listed in the original budget and also a service report each month outlining the social work and the social service accomplishment. The monthly meetings of the Budget Committee can be made to become vital in the lives of the constituent organizations. All agencies should be required to have representation at all meetings. Investigating committees can report, and general plans can be outlined, subject to the approval of the boards of directors of the agencies affected. Legislative programs, surveys, new pieces of work and better standards of service result from the monthly meetings.


To summarize the principles but not the procedure: Two distinct organization efforts are recognized in community organization. One aims at forming close contact with and being a part of the people themselves. The other unifies and co-ordinates the programs and activities of the welfare forces of a community and makes central finance the keystone to the arch.

Joint action with local autonomy should be the goal.

The federation should be certainly and surely built upon a representative basis, having only such powers as the co-operating agencies delegate to it. In this way, in my judgment can we best make our community organization an example of organized freedom in the field of human helpfulness.Organization of Social Forces[View Image]
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Organization of Social Forces Budget Needs and Services Rendered[View Image]
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Budget Needs and Services Rendered

Source: Proceedings of The National Conference Of Social Work Formerly, National Conference Of Charities And Correction, at the Forty-Sixth Annual Session Held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, June 1-8. 1919. pp. 710-717.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Bookman, C.M. (1919, June). Plan for a standard legal and administrative organization for a community federation, Presentation at the forty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Social Work. Retrieved [date accessed] from /?p=8749.

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