Starting a Chapter

Taking the First Steps 

ASPEN chapters are the front line for the association in many ways. Chapters are our partners in meeting the needs of members and furthering the mission. We welcome your interest in starting a chapter in your area and are here to help you.

What is an ASPEN Chapter?  

A chapter is a separate not-for-profit organization operating under a charter from ASPEN to provide services and represent ASPEN in a predefined geographic area. The chapter must secure its own IRS nonprofit designation and incorporation.

What is a Chapter’s Role?  

Chapters further the organizational purpose of ASPEN, which is:

  1. To foster the optimal use of clinical nutrition services throughout the course of the patient’s illness by healthcare professionals in all settings.
  2. To expand ASPEN’s capacity to increase financial support of, stimulate performance of, facilitate communication of basic, clinical, and outcomes research related to clinical nutrition therapies throughout the life cycle.
  3. To serve as a responsible voice on behalf of clinical nutrition professionals to individuals who are not nutrition specialists.
  4. To anticipate and respond to the changing professional needs of members.
  5. Enhance the organization’s ability to reach new and traditional audiences.

More specifically, chapters strive to: 

  1. Support and maintain state-of-the art principles of nutrition support;
  2. Promote the highest standards of care in the delivery of nutrition support services;
  3. Increase the knowledge of ASPEN members and others in the field of clinical nutrition, particularly knowledge of a practical, clinical nature, through both a formal and informal exchange of information at the local level; and
  4. Advance local medical community awareness regarding the concept and practice of clinical nutrition. 

What can ASPEN do for You?  

ASPEN supports chapters with a host of services and tools including leadership training, management of membership dues, use of an official chapter logo aligned with the overall ASPEN brand, assistance in providing CE programming, and more.  

Let’s Get Started… 

  1. Convene a group of at least 25 interested members.
  2. Review the Requirements for Petitioning Chapter Status and attaining legal status (see below).
  3. Map out your chapter, including
    Identify your start-up leadership team.
  4. Draft your bylaws (see Model Bylaws).
  5. Complete and submit a Petition for Chapter Status.
  6. Make it legal.
  7. Plan a welcome event.

Requirements for Petitioning and Maintaining ASPEN Chapter Status  

Chapters must meet the following requirements to petition and/or maintain ASPEN chapter status:

  • A minimum of 25 members shall be required for each chapter. 
  • At the time of petitioning, 100% of chapter members must also be, or submit an application with payment to become, ASPEN members.
  • Chapter membership shall be open to all ASPEN members within the service area identified in the petition for chapter status. Click here for the Definition of a Chapter Service Area.
  • Recruitment of chapter members shall be limited to each chapter’s defined service area. Chapters may apply for an extension of their service area whenever necessary.
  • Chapter bylaws shall be consistent with ASPEN’s bylaws.
  • Chapter policies shall be consistent with ASPEN’s bylaws.
  • Chapters shall maintain and provide ASPEN with all requested financial or organizational documents and information.
  • Chapter dues must not be less than $5.00 and not more than $25.00 per member.
  • Chapters are not authorized and shall agree not to act on behalf of, formally represent, or contractually obligate ASPEN in any capacity.
  • Chapter mailing lists will be maintained for the exclusive use of ASPEN and the chapter. ASPEN maintains the right to sell the list to qualified buyers.
  • ASPEN will process all membership applications, dues payments, and provide chapter dues billing services. (ASPEN will remit chapter membership dues no less frequently than quarterly).
  • Following ASPEN approval of chapter status, ASPEN chapters are required to incorporate as a nonprofit entity and obtain and maintain tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code – See below.  

Making It Legal  

In order to complete the chartering process, your chapter will need to become a legal entity and open a bank account. Here are the steps:

  1. Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
    • In order for the chapter to conduct financial transactions as an independent entity, it must organize itself as an association, incorporate as a nonprofit entity, and register as a 501(c)(3) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The first step in this process calls for the creation of two documents that define the organization: Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Generally, the Articles of Incorporation state who you are and why you exist, whereas the bylaws deal with how you operate.
    • A.S.P.E.N. has prepared model articles of incorporation and bylaws to get you started. Click here for a copy.  Contact ASPEN staff if you have any questions.
  1. Acquire an Employer ID
    • No matter how you’re organized, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is a unique number that identifies the organization to the IRS. To get one, download Form SS-4Application for Employer Identification Number, and its related instructions to learn
      how to obtain an EIN. You may also obtain an EIN via telephone by calling 1-800-829-4933. You may also apply for an EIN online. If you do not know if your chapter already has an EIN, please contact ASPEN staff.
  1. Incorporate
    • Incorporation brings a variety of benefits (limitation of liability, well-defined legal status, continuous life, etc.) and ASPEN requires chapters to incorporate if you have not already done so. Incorporation is a state-level activity and usually is a fairly simple process. ASPEN recommends that the chapter contact a local attorney to review and modify the model Articles of Association to meet state requirements for Articles of Incorporation. The revised Articles should be reviewed by ASPEN for consistency prior to filing. The estimated costs for filing for incorporation are $25–$150; attorney fee: $150–$500; annual report filing; $25–$50. 
  1. Request an IRS Nonprofit Determination Letter
    • Once you have received your EIN and have incorporated in your state, your chapter will need to file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with the IRS using Form 1023Instructions on how to fill out the form can also be found on the IRS website.Receiving and maintaining tax exempt status is very important because, in addition to exempting your chapter from income taxes, it will allow your chapter to accept tax deductible donations and other types of support. Moredetails on 501(c)3 status can be found at
      While you can file the application on your own, it can be a daunting process if you’re not familiar with the tax code, so we recommend consulting a lawyer or accountant for assistance. It is likely that the same individual who files your state incorporation can handle this task as well.
  1. Open a Bank Account
    • The requirements for opening a checking and savings account vary by bank, but in most cases you need a copy of your incorporation documents and IRS determination letter. When selecting a bank, be sure to choose one that has a presence throughout your area. It is also recommended that the account have an online banking (without bill pay) option. In this way designated officers can easily monitor the chapter’s cash flow.
  1. Apply for Sales Tax Exemption (optional)
    • Most states exempt nonprofits from state sales tax; however, that exemption is only available if you apply. This can save your chapter money on purchases made for programs, events, and more. Check your state comptroller’s website for details. Again, the same individual who files your state incorporation can likely handle this task as well.

Plan a 'Welcome' Event

Find a small room or office and let the clinical nutrition community know that your chapter will be holding an event or social evening. Be sure to have ASPEN materials on hand so the attendees can become familiar with us if they aren’t already. Say a few words to explain your chapter's goals and then give a brief presentation about ASPEN and its mission and goals. Touch on key topics and issues that are important to ASPEN, such as those derived from the Strategic Initiatives. It is usually good to choose a specific topic that is of particular interest to your region and your audience. This will make attracting participants much easier. The simple fact of presenting an organization and its activities often doesn’t seem particularly interesting to those whom you  invite.

Don’t forget to gather contact information from attendees so you can develop a mailing list for future events. You might also want to send them a follow-up message after the event to thank people from attending as well as a link to the ASPEN membership information page.