New rates for postage

I somehow missed any real news about postage rates going up on April 17, but for an offhand comment about extra ounces being $.20 instead of $.17.  So I went to investigate, and sure enough, rates have gone up (but a first class letter is still $.44). Long time readers may remember my post from 2009 singing the praises of a small postal scale and giving my cheat sheet on the postage rates. Here’s the updated summary of postage rates that fits in the little wallet that came with the scale when I bought it years ago, with extra copies for other scales (I’ve got three) or to post near where you put stamps on the mail.

Of course, if you want all the details, feel free to check out the 52 (!) page price list from the USPS (and even then you need to follow a link to get a definition of “nonmachinable”).

AAUW NC annual meeting

See the AAUW NC web site for details.

I’ll be interested in

  • Board meeting and annual meeting discussion of the new structure
  • Discussion of who’s going to step up to volunteer for AAUW NC
  • Tar Heel branch annual meeting — I’ll present the finance report and greet new board members as the branch president-elect.
  • Tar Heel branch “poster session” — we’ll have a virtual tour of the branch communication methods

Thoughts on AAUW bylaws amendments

In the recent issue of Outlook, there are ten proposals to amend the AAUW bylaws. The votes will be taken online and via USMail with all of the members of AAUW entitled to a vote. [See the One Member/One Vote section at www.aauw.org.]

Here’s my current thinking on how to vote on these amendments

Vote No

3: Remove the term “member-at-large”

I’m sure the language here could be corrected so that we meet the understandable goal of emphasizing that we are all members of the national organization. But the proposed amendment changes the categories from

  • Two disjoint sets: (a) branch members and (b) members-at-large  [Collectively called “members”.] to
  • (a) national members and its subset (b) branch members [Leading to the inelegant “national members who are not members of branches” to replace the current “members-at-large”.]

This just seems unwieldy and redundant – an unnecessary change.

Since these amendments, as drafted by the Bylaws Committee and approved by the AAUW Board, are not subject to further amendments before the 2011 vote, let’s vote “no” and get this right next time.

5 and 7: Require states/branches to designate a member to record meeting minutes.

While this may seem like an innocuous change, it will add confusion. Even though the bylaws chair has said this does not mean that states/branches need to have a person assigned to this role as, say, a “secretary,” and need not report such to the national office, just putting this statement into the national bylaws will constrain some branches as they attempt to move towards more flexible structures. Certainly many branches now work with a rotating assignment for recording the minutes, and this would be allowed under this bylaw.

So this bylaw is just “advisory” without any thought that it would be actively enforced. It would seem that a better approach would be to provide states/branches with guidelines for basic nonprofit management. Adding this one rubric into the national bylaws clutters them without benefit to the branches/states that need the most help with their fundamental processes.

Vote Yes

1. Require proper use of name – legalese that seems appropriate
2. Remove reference to IFUW – appropriate change given that AAUW is no longer an IFUW affiliate — see Women Graduates USA)
4. Clarify status of Partner Member Representatives and Allow Two Representatives. This is a good change (though it would need an editorial fix if #3 fails. See above.)
9. Clarify methods used in voting – makes the wording more realistic
10. Clarify quorum requirement – wordsmithing that makes the section much clearer

6 and 8. Clarify that AAUW controls assets of dissolved state/branch organizations. — These may have generated the most heated arguments to date. There are a few different aspects here.

  1. There is a Feb. 2011 legal memo posted with the link to these amendments that says the change isn’t needed (see page 5). I am not a lawyer, but it seems that the legal opinion hinges on the meaning of the words “AAUW Entity” (the language in the current bylaws).  In the memo, “AAUW Entity” seems to  mean “AAUW or one of the other national corporations.” Therefore, the memo states that the switch from “AAUW Entity” to “AAUW” is fine since it only said “AAUW Entity” before since the corporation that was called “AAUW” was a 501(c)(4) and so couldn’t accept the assets of dissolving 501(c)(3) branches/states. My guess is that to the members who approved the 2009 bylaws (without benefit of legal counsel), the words “AAUW Entity” meant “AAUW, AAUW Action Fund, or one of the AAUW states or branches,” and so this is a real change.
  2. Given #1, I’m inclined to vote for the change since it makes definite that there is one “entity” to control the abandoned assets.
  3. The argument then hinges on whether a disbanding branch/state has assets. To me, it is clear that a functioning branch or state could allocate its assets as it chooses (according to its bylaws, but certainly other branches or the state might be beneficiaries) and then vote to disband, leaving only a small amount to be handed over to AAUW. While the legal opinion was more concerned with 501(c)(3) branches disposing of their assets in a legal way, I believe it is also important that 501(c)(4) branches think about allocating their hard won 501(c)(4) assets (collected without benefit of a tax deduction to the donor) in a way appropriate with their mission before the official vote to disband. If approved, this amendment would clarify (even if it doesn’t change) the case when a branch (and even a state) just “goes away” without filing any paperwork or closing its accounts: The abandoned assets would revert to the national organization.
  4. There have been some remarks that imply some members fear that AAUW would initiate branch/state disaffiliation with a primary purpose of seizing assets. Since the AAUW board members (who would need to approve this) are elected by the membership or appointed by the elected members, it seems highly unlikely that this would occur so suddenly that the entity in question couldn’t form a new organization, transfer its assets, and then disband. If this is a realistic fear, there are more serious problems that we’ll need to discuss in some other forum.

How to engender urgency?

The previous post talks about a history of AAUW of North Carolina leadership.  While looking up other things, I came across these two documents in the archive:

The 2005 proposal looks so similar to the one we’re now considering — and so few of the 2006 positions were ever filled — I fear we aren’t at the root of the problem: how to encourage more people to contribute. If we can’t do that, it doesn’t really matter how we arrange the deck chairs, does it?

Of course talking about this openly probably isn’t helping. But after this many years of reworking the same problems …

AAUW NC Changes – some background

The changes at AAUW NC may look odd if you’re new to the organization. In this post, I’m going to try to give some background.

I’m posting here, not on www.aauwnc.org, because I’m speaking as an individual and may make some statements that the other members of the committee charged with looking at a new structure may not have heard or may disagree with. But this is the point of view I’ll be taking when I “speak” to the Tar Heel and Sandhills/Southern Pines branches to try to “explain” the proposal.

[Full disclosure of my involvement: I was an instigator of the ReConnection Process in 2002 and a member of that committee 2002-2004. I was state president trying to implement its recommendations 2006-2008. I (perhaps foolishly) volunteered to be on the 2010-2011 structure committee trying to pick up the pieces.]

From 2002-2004, AAUW NC went through a “ReConnection Process” to improve communication between the branches and the state organization.  While progress was made in some areas (streamlining the state board, increasing the number of branches attending state meetings) an underlying issue was not resolved:  the goals implicit in the state structure are not matched by the resources available to it.

By resources, I mean “time” and “money”. In fact, the financial resources of the organization are in very good shape, but as an all-volunteer organization (with a couple of small contracts for specific tasks), that is partly because no one has made creative, focused proposals on how to spend our money, so it sits in the reserve account.

The real issue is “time” — volunteer energy to drive the organization forward.

Examples of our deficit here:

  • The 2007 nominating committee failed to find an enthusiastic candidate for treasurer, and a past-president of the state (who had been expecting to serve as support for the 2007-2010 president-elect/president from her branch) was pressed into service in that role.
  • The 2009 nominating committee failed to find anyone to serve as president-elect or treasurer (but did recruit a pair of good leaders to serve together as program vice presidents and the reluctant treasurer from 2007 agreed to serve a second two-year term).
  • The 2010 nominating committee failed to find candidates for president, membership vice president, secretary and a replacement treasurer, leaving the program vice-presidents, the still reluctant but capable treasurer, and the past-president as the only members of the executive committee.

We are also seeing problems filling appointed positions:

  • No one has stepped up to be the communications chair or the editor-in-chief of the newsletter since the person holding both of those jobs stepped down on July 1, 2010. This leaves the production of the state newsletter in the hands of the executive committee with a couple of members supporting them in collecting information.
  • No one has volunteered to lead the state’s public policy efforts. While national issues are covered well by the communications from AAUW, we are depending on communication from coalition partners for information on state-level issues with no good way to organize and distribute that information to the members.
  • The position of “fundraising chair” has been vacant for at least two years. This hampers efforts to report to the branches on their support of the national organizations priorities.
  • Other committees that are left leaderless (and, perhaps more important, have no one to carry out any of the tasks associated with them): College/University Relations and Diversity

All of the branch presidents are members of the board of AAUW NC, and were kept aware of these deficits in the elected officers. Understandably, perhaps, they were unable to help recruit candidates for these offices and so became the dominant block on the AAUW NC board — even though it is clear that many of them are not able or do not wish to devote much time or energy to issues of keeping the state afloat.

Therefore, it seems clear that the current state board structure is broken. An ad hoc committee was appointed at the October meeting to address this issue.

Stay tuned.