Handbooks for Operating a Volunteer SM Group


Included for your use is a set of Handbooks that were originally provided by the Baltimore Educational and Social Society (BESS, www.bess-md.org).

BESS is like many pansexual SM organizations in that they host educational lectures, hands-on workshops and social gatherings. However, they are unique in that they have written their procedures into “Handbooks” for each BESS department, or “team.”

In practice, these handbooks are constantly being updated to reflect changes in staff, improvements in procedures, or to add new tasks and capabilities.

Further, the various Handbooks tend to differ in style and structure to reflect the efforts and personalities of their authors. To improve their value as a set of “learning tools”, some of the Handbooks have been edited. For example, some of them have been edited to separate the policy-and-procedure “handbook” from the “supporting materials” (forms, templates, outreach flyers, etc.). In all cases, personal information, such as e-mail addresses, has been removed.

The Editor for this project is Jonathan Krall who was, at the time that the handbooks were donated to DCSMA, both the BESS Corporate Team Leader and the DCSMA webmaster. If you find something useful in these handbooks, please thank BESS. If you find any mistakes, please inform Jonathan

These materials were donated to DCSMA by BESS and they have our thanks. Some background on the development on these materials is given at the bottom of this page. For more information about BESS

Six Handbooks for Six Teams

There are six Team Handbooks: Contributors (members), Corporate, Education, Outreach, SIGs (special interest groups) and Social.

Accompanying most handbooks are additional documents that are used in carrying out the mission of the team. For example, the DM Training Manual is used by the Social Team when training new “dungeon monitors”. One of the documents that normally accompanies each handbook is the “team roster”, a listing of contact information for each team member. Naturally, none of the team rosters are included here.

Though it may seem like the least interesting of the handbooks, leaders of new volunteer groups are encouraged to read over the Corporate Handbook, which outlines the way in which the Directors (elected decision-makers) set policies while the Team Leaders (appointed staff) accomplish tasks. An aim of the Corporate Team is to help these two groups work together with a minimum of headaches.

1. Contributors Team Handbook

In BESS, “contributors” are somewhat analogous to “members” of other groups (it’s a terminology thing). The Contributors Handbook addresses such issues how and when new-contributor orientations are conducted, when legal documents (waivers) are needed, and safeguarding the database of contributor information.

[Contributorship Handbook]

Note: This handbook includes the following materials: Contributor Application Form, Contributor Card Example, Orientation Outline, Terms of Contributorship, Guest Waiver, Party Etiquette & Party Rules Contributor Monies Form, and Outside Orientation Confirmation

2. Corporate Team Handbook

The Corporate Team Handbook contains rules governing the interactions between the elected board of Directors and the appointed staff (Teams). To save you some reading, some elements of the handbook are highlighted below.

Here are some of the policies that keep things working well:

Open discussions. Directors are strongly encouraged to engage in discussions on the staff (Teams) e-mail list rather than on the Directors e-mail list. This fosters an atmosphere of openness and allows for input from all of the interested staff members (at the time of this writing, about 25 people were on the BESS Teams list). Because most of the discussion takes place in advance, this policy helps keep the board meetings brief.

The “three day rule”. Under this rule, any Team Leader can propose any change in Team policy by stating the proposed change on the Teams e-mail list. If no Director objects within three days, the policy change can be implemented. If a Director does object, the Team Leader can either propose a different policy change or wait for the Directors to vote on the issue at the next board meeting. In general, Team Leaders are encouraged to run their teams and Directors are encouraged to stay out of the way.

Advance notice for Team leaders. To keep the Directors from micro-managing the Teams, no policy effecting a team can be decided-upon at a board meeting without advance notice being given to the appropriate Team Leader.

No Electronic Voting Since policies governing the BESS Directors and Teams e-mail lists are being discussed above, it should be pointed out that, as a matter of policy, electronic decision-making (voting) by the Directors is not allowed. by BESS. In other words, all votes of the Directors take place in board meetings.

Corporate Handbook and additional materials:

[Corporate Handbook]

[BESS Bylaws]

[Annual Business Meeting Agenda] An example agenda for conducting the annual business meeting.

[BESS expense form]

[Volunteer Flyer]


3. Education Team Handbook

The job of the Education Team is to arrange and host educational meetings.

[Education Handbook]

Note: securing space for meetings is a common problem for most SM-leather-fetish groups. Because arranging the education program is itself a big job, the responsibility for securing meeting space is not addressed in the Education Team Handbook. In the example provided on this web page, that job is relegated to the Corporate and Outreach Teams.

4. Outreach Team Handbook

The Outreach Team Handbook contains guidelines for advertising, web page content, and working with the media (if needed). To save you some reading, some elements of the handbook are highlighted below.

Two of the policies that keep things working well are:

Community Support. Members or organizers of other groups, clubs or events are always welcome to speak at BESS gatherings about their events. Similarly, BESS team members are encouraged to speak at any BDSM gathering to promote BESS, if the organizers of the gathering consent.

In other words, even if another group leader has nothing good to say about BESS, that group leader is free to come to BESS meetings and speak about his or her group. As an matter of organizational policy, BESS refuses to give in to negativity.

Further, As a matter of policy, BESS makes use of local e-mail lists instead of creating a dedicated “BESS discussion” list.

Honesty. Folks who rent space to BESS are given an honest explanation of BESS activities. Outreach materials such as the Hotel Briefing Book help with this.

Useful materials that can be found in the Outreach Handbook include:

Reciprocity Program. The BESS Reciprocity Program is spelled out in detail.

Weekly Announcements. BESS found that, in a busy metropolitan area like Baltimore, there were so many event-announcements that people began to tune them out. Condensing these into a weekly “This week at BESS” message and a weekly “BESS Courtesy Announcements” message seems to have helped. The format for these messages is provided.

Outreach Handbook and additional materials:

[Outreach Handbook]

[Hotel Briefing Book] This is used when talking to hotel managers about renting space to BESS.

[Press Kit 1] [Press Kit 2] The BESS Press Kit, which comes in two parts, is used in the unfortunate event that someone in the vanilla media wishes to do a story about BESS. The BESS press kit was produced using the DCSMA “press kit kit”.


5. Special Interest Group (SIG) Team Handbook

This straightforward handbook outlines procedures for Getting a special interest group (SIG) up and running. Typically these are small subgroups of the main organization, but they can take on a life of their own. In the handbook, SIG Coordinators are encouraged to operate their groups autonomously with minimum profit.

[SIG Handbook ]

[Guest Waiver] SIG coordinators are encouraged to allow non-BESS-contributors to attend SIG meetings. They are also encouraged to get these folks to sign a Guest Waiver.


6. Social Team Handbook

The Social Team Handbook includes a number of useful items. Included below is the BESS “Dungeon Monitor” Guide, for teaching safety procedures, and a volunteer sign-up sheet, which is useful for encouraging volunteerism as folks arrive at the party to check in.

The Social Team Handbook is presently organized into a number of files:

[Social Team Handbook (table of contents)]

[Standard party announcement and party reminder]

[Standard reservation confirmation message]

[Party procedure checklist]

[Money collection procedures]

[DM (Dungeon Monitor) procedures]

[After-meeting social procedures]

Additional social-team materials are in the following files:

[Guest Waiver] A Guest Waiver, which all guests must sign.

[Party Rules & Dungeon Etiquette] Posted at all parties.

[Sign-Up Sheet] This is used to encourage volunteerism and to match volunteers to tasks as people arrive at the party to check in.

[Receipt Form] To be filled out by those who receive money from the Social Team.

[BESS DM Guide] For use in teaching safety procedures to “Dungeon Monitors”.



The organization of BESS was accomplished, in part, by using educational materials from the annual Leather Leadership Conference and example bylaws and policies from other SM-leather-fetish groups. Some of these materials can be found here and here.

At each step, BESS has made every effort to operate on an open and inclusive basis and has been privileged to receive the support of the local SM community in Baltimore.

Folks on local e-mail lists were informed and interested folks were invited to join the BESS Planning committee. Anyone who asked to be on the BESS Planning e-mail list and who was willing to say why he or she wanted to get involved was added to the list. Anyone who showed up at a planning meeting was allowed to vote. In order to keep from rehashing issues, minutes were kept and motions were voted-upon.

The first BESS planning committee meeting was held on April 18th 2001, the first BESS educational meeting (open to the public) took place on July 18, 2001, and the first party (contributors only) took place on September 29, 2001.

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