Society Operational Guidelines

Society Governance
What is a Society?
The Operation of Societies
Membership Maintenance
Working Models
Society Awards and Contests


Local Societies are created by AIA members to promote and advance the Institute’s mission in their local communities, support the outreach and educational goals of the organization, and maintain national programs, like lectures and International Archaeology Day. The first Local Society was established in Boston in 1884. Today, the AIA has 108 chartered Local Societies and several more in formation. Societies’ membership includes both professional archaeologists and non-archaeologists and reflects the Institute’s unique character as an organization that welcomes both professionals and interested avocational members..

Society organization, activities, and programs vary considerably depending on size, location, and available resources. The AIA website,, lists all of the Local Societies and provides contact information for each one. Many societies maintain their own website and/or Facebook page and links to these are also provided on the AIA website. Checking a Local Society’s website is an easy way to keep abreast of what other societies are doing and how they are organized.

Although each society operates slightly differently, there are several overarching guidelines that collectively govern Local Societies, as well as best practices that should be upheld in order to ensure the success of your local society. As such, we have created this guidebook in order to outline the necessary steps in creating a thriving Local Society, while also providing seasoned society officers with general information, ideas, and examples that are useful for the maintenance of a healthy society. Society officers are also encouraged to frequently check the AIA website for updates and additional information that could be pertinent to your society.

Society Governance

The Vice-President for Societies oversees the Local AIA Societies and is assisted by the Society Trustees, and the Societies Committee. The Societies Committee is responsible for continually reviewing the programs and benefits offered by the Institute to the Local Societies and their members and recommending ways of improving membership benefits to the Governing Board or the President, which ultimately support the aims and best interests of the Institute as a whole. In addition, the Committee is charged with monitoring society membership, lecture attendance and programs. Where it can do so, the Committee will also provide mentoring programs to societies in order to more effectively further the mission of the AIA.

Society Structure

What is a Society?

The Archaeological Institute of America and its Local Societies exist to support and promote archaeology, its practitioners, and their work. The Institute’s outreach in this effort is national and international, whereas the outreach done by societies tends to be local. Although the AIA and Local Societies are independent entities—none exercising control over the others—the contents of this guide illustrate how the entities work together to promote the Institute’s mission.

Membership in a society is assigned when a person joins the AIA at the supporting member level and is based on geographical proximity. Local Societies enable AIA members to participate directly in the programs of the Institute and to communicate with the national organization and other like-minded people in their communities.

Each Local Society is managed by a board of elected officers who are responsible for various aspects of its operations. The organization of these boards and their overall composition, however, may vary. In some societies, the majority of the members are avocational, while others are largely comprised of professional members; both are equally successful. While each society is different, the information herein should be useful to all and we encourage you to contact the AIA office in Boston with any questions.

The Operation of Societies

1. Maintaining Active Status

To be considered an ‘Active’ society in good standing with the AIA, Local Societies are required to maintain a minimum of 35 members, although we encourage you to maintain at least 50 members so as to ensure the continued viability of your society. Society officers will be notified if their membership level drops below 35 members and they will be encouraged to work with the AIA office in Boston and/or the Societies Committee to increase membership.

An active society shall have the following rights, privileges, and obligations:

(1) They are subject to all terms and conditions prescribed by the Regulations, the Council, the Governing Board, the Officers, and AIA office in Boston.

(2) They are entitled to fully participate in all programs established for the affiliated societies, including the Lecture Program and any future programs created for the benefit of the societies.

(3) They are able to name representatives to the Council.

(4) They will receive an annual rebate based on its membership count as of June 30 each year. The membership count shall be determined by the Institute’s membership computer system.

If, however, a society’s membership falls to ten or below and remains at that level for TWELVE consecutive months, the society will be considered INACTIVE. Moreover, an INACTIVE society will not be eligible to participate in any AIA programs offered to the affiliated societies.

An INACTIVE society will continue to receive the annual rebate for one year after being declared INACTIVE. After one year, if the society has not been reinstated in good standing, the annual rebate will be terminated.

Societies with fewer than 35 but more than 10 members may have their ability to participate in programming restricted at the discretion of the Societies Committee.  Program eligibility currently stands as follows:

  • Chartered societies with greater than 35 members receive two national lectures plus an additional $200 payment to organize a local event.
  • Chartered societies with 25-34 members will receive two national lectures but are not eligible for the additional $200 payment.
  • Chartered societies with fewer than 25 members are not eligible for national lectures.
  • All active chartered societies, regardless of size, may apply for a society outreach grant.
  • All societies, both chartered and in formation, are eligible to apply for International Archaeology Day grants.

Societies may apply for an additional lecture. Ten lectures are awarded by the Societies Committee proportionately as follows:

  • One lecture goes to the society that won the Golden Trowel (if they applied)
  • Societies are divided into three groups: Class I = Societies with fewer than 45 members; Class II = Societies with 45-90 members; Class III = Societies with greater than 90 members.
  • Societies that were awarded an extra lecture the previous year are ineligible.
  • In awarding the lectures, the Societies Committee places the greatest emphasis on the following factors: assessment, membership growth in the previous year, and the availability of local lecture talent.  Average lecture attendance was also used to verify that any extra lectures would have a greater likelihood of being well attended.

Please note, societies with 35 or more member that receive a third lecture are not eligible for that year’s additional $200 payment.

2. Reinstatement of Active Status

In order to be reinstated as an affiliated society of the AIA in good standing, an INACTIVE society must meet the following requirements:

(1) Show an active membership of at least 35 for three consecutive months while aiming for a goal of 50.

(2) Present bylaws providing for the election of officers and other local regulations, if not done in the past.

(3) Submit a request to the Executive Director to petition the Governing Board for reinstatement of ACTIVE status.

If an INACTIVE society meets all the requirements for reinstatement, the Executive Director will petition the Governing Board to consider its case and upon approval, the ACTIVE status will be reinstated.


1. Levels

Click here to view the current membership categories and prices. Information about Lifetime Membership can be found here.

2. Incentive Programs for Societies

a. New Member Reward
AIA awards extra funds to societies for each new member they recruit when the member signs up by inserting the society’s code when they complete their membership form. Click here for current incentive reward information.
b. Membership Rebates
An annual Membership Rebate is sent every September. It is based on the number of active members in your society as of June 30th of the preceding fiscal year. Societies receive $3 for each member.

Membership Maintenance

1. Keeping Local Records

Each month, the AIA office in Boston sends an updated society roster to the Local Societies, typically as an Excel file. Every society should maintain a database of its membership, including the relevant information pertaining to that member, including the date they joined the society, contact information, lectures attended, and local contributions. To avoid confusion and the generation of multiple lists, we recommend that one person be in charge of maintaining the local membership list.

2. Increasing and Keeping Members

a. Increasing Membership

(1) Actively recruit new members. Create and actively maintain a website and/or Facebook page for your society and encourage people to attend events and activities; position a member at a table at your event (ex. outside the lecture hall) that can answer questions about the AIA and sign up new members on the spot.

(2) Advertise your lectures and special events in local papers and community calendars (both print and online). Many of these local resources are free.

(3) Increase your visibility to the community by organizing outreach programs; volunteering at schools and museums; sponsoring joint symposia or other programs with your local museum or university. See the Society Programs Guide.

(4) The Membership Department can generate labels for society members or for local ARCHAEOLOGY subscribers (provide postal codes of interest) once per year for free. These can be used for newsletters, flyers, and other publicity mailings. Each label set may only be used once; it is not to be duplicated for any purpose.

(5) Send lecture announcements and invitations to local people who subscribe to ARCHAEOLOGY magazine and are not society members.

b. Keeping Members 

Once someone becomes a member of a society, it’s important to keep them engaged so that they will renew one year later. Here are some ideas to keep your membership excited about your society:

(1) Keep in touch. Announce lectures on your website, Facebook page and local newsletter, write personalized e-mails or letters to your members. Welcome new members with a letter as soon as they join, informing them of forthcoming events. When members have not renewed, send them an e-mail reminder and let them know what they will be missing.

(2) Host social events/gatherings for members. For example, the Los Angeles County Society regularly has a new members’ garden party.

(3) Welcome new members at lectures. Introduce yourself and invite them to the reception following the lecture.

(4) Organize study groups. For example, the Long Island Society offers small study groups on certain archaeological topics. These small sessions are held at members’ homes.

(6) Organize activities, like tours, to local museums and archaeological sites.

(7) Have a society officer personally call or write to any lapsed members.

If you have been successful in attracting new members and/or providing increased programs for your members, please share your ideas and comments with us! The AIA Membership Messenger is geared specifically for society officers. It features updates on society news, ideas for your society, helpful strategies and general feedback from other society officers. Mailed monthly with the Society Update (a listing of your new or renewing members), it can be a valuable resource for your society. Please send your comments and ideas to

Working Models

Every society of the AIA is unique with considerable variation in sophistication of structure and programs. Some societies have become incorporated or have a letter of tax exemption under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Others function more as clubs or as special interest groups within a college or university structure. In many cases, a host institution (academic or museum) may absorb some of the expenses incurred during the year’s programming; other societies fund their programs independently. However, all societies have certain elements in common, such as elected society officers, bylaws, and the lectures provided by the Lecture Program.

1. Society Officers

The AIA office in Boston requires certain information from the societies on a periodic basis, ranging from a society’s preferred lecture topic, to the names and addresses of your society’s officers.

Although the AIA office in Boston does not regulate society officer titles, we do request that certain officers perform specific duties. When you complete the Officer Update forms, please keep the following guidelines for officer positions in mind and include the information for the person whose duties most closely resemble those listed below:

President: Oversees the society.

Vice-President: Assists the President.

Program Coordinator: Plans the programs of the society and takes care of all local details involved in hosting AIA lecturers in conjunction with the AIA office in Boston.

Secretary: Maintains the records for the society. The Secretary will receive an updated membership roster four times a year from the AIA office in Boston. Supplements of new members and renewals are mailed each month. If you want other society officers to also receive these notifications, please inform the Membership Department.

Society Contact: Responsible for disseminating the society’s activities to the public. Note that the Society Contact’s name, phone number, and email address are published on the AIA website.

Treasurer: Manages the society’s funds. The rebate and incentive checks and any National Lecture Program opt-out checks are mailed to the Treasurer unless otherwise specified.

Some society officers may have overlapping duties and in some instances a person might fulfill more than one position (ex. Treasurer/Vice-President). Please indicate on the Officer Update forms all the duties for which an officer is responsible.

A Local Society may also wish to have additional members of the administrative committee who serve various functions unique to your particular needs. Other officers may include: Student Board Member, Newsletter Editor, Outreach Chair, Membership Chair, Fundraising Coordinator, Legal Advisor, Social Chair, Past President, Webmaster, or Refreshment Chair.

All officers are elected by the members of a society. Other members of the administrative committee are generally elected by society members but could be appointed by the elected officers. The terms of office vary among societies; some hold elections annually, while others elect officers for multi-year terms.

IMPORTANT: Please keep the AIA office in Boston informed when your society elects new officers via the “Officer Update Form” on the AIA website

2. Bylaws

In compliance with the policies outlined for the operation of societies, each chartered society should have on file at the AIA office in Boston a copy of its bylaws.

Bylaws are a set of rules adopted by an organization chiefly for the governance and regulation of its affairs. Your society must have bylaws or articles of incorporation if it applies for federal tax-exempt status or for incorporation in your state. State laws dictate what must be included in bylaws; for example, state laws may require a minimum number of officers. You can find your state’s laws governing non-profit corporations online, at your local public library, or they can be obtained, at no cost, from the office of your state’s Secretary of State. State requirements aside, a set of bylaws should include the following:

a. the full, official name of the organization
b. the purpose of the organization
c. the definition of membership in the organization
d. the officers, their duties, method of their selection, terms of office, and method for removal of officers
e. when meetings will be held and how often
f. when elections will be held
g. how committees will be chosen
h. how the bylaws can be changed
i. dissolution clause

PLEASE NOTE that all society bylaws must include the following Article defining its relationship with the national organization

Article II Affiliation

  1. The Society is an independent entity.
  2. The Society is affiliated with the Archaeological Institute of America (hereafter referred to as the AIA or the Institute) through the granting of a Charter issued by the AIA after an acceptance vote by the AIA Council.
  3. The Society has agreed to the following stipulations:
    a) To promote the AIA’s mission;
    b) To function within the guidelines of the AIA and not to adopt any regulations that conflict with those of the AIA;
    c) To engage in no activity that would damage the name of the AIA or undermine its mission, including engaging in transactions that remove artifacts from public and scholarly access; d) To maintain a membership consisting of a minimum number of persons as required by the AIA, currently 35.
  4. The Society understands that failure to follow these stipulations can result in the revoking of its Charter by a vote of the AIA Council. If its Charter is revoked, the Society loses its affiliation with the AIA and the right to use the AIA name.

ALL BYLAWS MUST INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE. If your Society already has a set of bylaws, you do not need to redo them. They can be amended to include the required article concerning affiliation. For your convenience we have included templates for a set of basic bylaws with this message. There are three versions (long, medium, short). Select the one that would be most applicable to your situation.

Sample Bylaws and more information.

3. Articles of Incorporation

The following is an example of Articles of Incorporation:

We, the undersigned,

Names Addresses

being natural persons of the age of twenty-one years or more and citizens of the United States, for the purposes of forming a corporation under the “General Not For Profit Corporation Act” of the State of _________, do hereby adopt the following Articles of Incorporation:

  1. The name of the corporation is ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE OF AMERICA, _____________SOCIETY, INC.
  2. The period of the duration of the corporation is perpetual.
  3. The address of its initial Registered Office in the State of ______ is c/o name, address and the name of its initial Registered Agent as said address is name.
  4. The first Board of Directors shall _________ in number, shall serve until their successors shall be elected and qualified, and their names and addresses are as follows:

Names Addresses

Except as to number of the first Board of Directors, number of Directors shall be fixed by the Bylaws. The number of Directors may be increased or decreased from time to time by amendment to the Bylaws.

5. The purpose or purposes for which the corporation is organized are:
The corporation is organized and shall be operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Code (or the corresponding provision of any future law). Specifically, the corporation is formed for the purpose of promoting in this area the interests of the Archaeological Institute of America and more specifically, advancing interest in the science of archaeology through education, the presenting and supporting of lectures, classes, seminars and other educational programs in the field; the supporting of archaeological expeditions, excavations, and other research in the field; the supporting of learned publications in the field; and all other related activity directly or indirectly advancing and promoting the science of archaeology in this area.

6. The corporation shall have as members all residents of this area who have been permitted to membership in the Archaeological Institute of America and who have paid in full all membership dues of the said Institute and of this corporation.

7. Upon dissolution and liquidation of the corporation, all assets of the corporation remaining or adequate provisions shall be made therefore, shall be transferred, conveyed, and distributed to such non-profit organization or organizations as may be specified in or provided for under the plan of distribution adopted by the corporation pursuant to Chapter _________ of the Revised Statutes of state, date; provided, such distribute organization(s) shall be organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, literary, or science purposes as shall at the time qualify as an exempt organization(s) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Code (or the corresponding provision of any future law).

8. Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary:

a. No substantial portion of the activities of the corporation shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the corporation shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.

b. The corporation is not organized and shall not be conducted for pecuniary profit, and no part of its funds, however acquired, shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributed to, its members, directors, or other individuals, except that the corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth herein.

c. The corporation shall not carry on any other activities not permitted to be carried on (i) by a corporation exempt from Federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Code (or the corresponding provision of any future law), or (ii) by a corporation, contributions to which are deductible under Section 170(a)(2) of the Code (or the corresponding provision of any future law).

d. It shall be the policy of the corporation to admit members of any race to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to members of the corporation and the corporation shall not discriminate on the basis of race in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship programs, or any other programs.


1. Society Newsletter

A local newsletter focusing on local events and activities is a useful tool for promoting society events, highlighting local members and relevant archaeological discoveries, and making announcements, especially for those who cannot attend all the local meetings. These newsletters can be posted online or sent electronically, and their frequency is determined by the needs of the Local Society.

2. Email, Society Website, and Social Media

Using email is a quick, easy way to reach members of your society. At a society meeting or lecture, provide an email sign-up sheet for your members and give them an email address where they can contact you. It is useful to create a free email account strictly for the society (i.e., as this email address (and log-on information) will remain the same, even if there is a change in officer.

We encourage all societies to create and maintain a webpage, as well as a Facebook page, where you can announce upcoming events and post information relevant to your members. Social media in particular is helpful for familiarizing non-members with your society and its activities. Make sure that your society website information is available to the AIA office in Boston, so a link can be placed on the AIA website.

We encourage all societies to create and maintain a webpage, as well as a Facebook page, where you can announce upcoming events and post information relevant to your members. Social media in particular is helpful for familiarizing non-members with your society and its activities. Make sure that your society website information is available to the AIA office in Boston, so a link can be placed on the AIA website.

Society Awards and Contests

Please visit for further details and deadlines for all the awards. The awards are given out each year during the Society Breakfast (or Luncheon) at the AIA’s Annual Meeting in January.

1. The Golden Trowel Award

The Golden Trowel Award honors the society whose membership proportionally increases the most during the past fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). It is presented at the Annual Meeting as a way for the AIA to recognize the society with the highest growth rate. The contest has a cash prize of $100.

2. Best Society Event Poster Contest

The AIA encourages all its societies to produce informative and creative lecture flyers or posters for society lectures. Entries will be displayed at the Annual Meeting and the award goes to the society that produces and submits the best lecture flyer or poster. The contest has a cash prize of $150.

3. Best Society Website Contest

The AIA encourages each of its societies to create a website that provides information about the AIA Local Society and the AIA, lists upcoming lectures and other events, and encourages people to join and get involved. The Society that presents the best-designed website will be awarded a cash prize of $200.

4. Foot Soldier Award

This award recognizes the important contributions made by exemplary AIA members at the local level. This award is open to any AIA member of a local society who has served as an officer and is nominated by their society.

5. Life Saver Award

This award recognizes the efforts of an individual that has gone above and beyond when disaster strikes (canceled flights, storms, etc.) to ensure that the lecture/event goes on. This award is open to any AIA member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to make an AIA sponsored event the best it can be.

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