By Julia Bauscher, SNS, Jean Ronnei, SNS, Becky Domokos-Bays, PHD, RD, SNS, Linda Eichenberger, SNS & Patricia Montague, CAE 2015-06-09 10:20:17
Proposed changes to SNA’s governance structure will ensure a strong, vital organization serving all of its 55,000+ members. THIS ASSOCIATION has been around for 69 years. It has staying power, and that’s primarily thanks to the passionate dedication to kids that has been demonstrated by generations of members, from the early school meal pioneers to the legions of stay-at-home parents venturing back into the workforce to the college interns being introduced to school nutrition careers today. While our underlying mission has remained constant, the organization is not the same as it was in 1946….or in 1971…or in 1999….or even 2008. We’ve added and subtracted programs and initiatives. Successive volunteer leaders and staff have provided different skill sets. We’ve operated in changing environments that demand differing responses. In short, times change—and with them, the Association changes, too. Indeed, our endurance across nearly seven decades is found in our ability to adapt and change as a professional association while remaining true to our core values. This summer, SNA’s leadership is proposing significant changes to the Association’s governance structure. During the Annual National Conference (ANC) in Salt Lake City, the House of Delegates will vote on proposed bylaw amendments that will alter several facets of our governance, including the Board of Directors, committees and more. This proposal is the culmination of an initiative that began almost two years ago, when we set out to update our strategic planning process and to use the resulting plan to guide us in making certain that our infrastructure—including our Headquarters staff, our resources and our governance—is appropriately aligned for a sustainable organization that reflects contemporary association business practices. This time last year, we described the initial stages of this endeavor in “Falling Into Place” (June/ July 2014). In 2013-14, stakeholders from the Association’s leadership, staff and allies drilled down and scrutinized every element of the organization: programs, services, campaigns, strategies, core competencies, values, infrastructure and so on. This comprehensive assessment laid the foundation for the development of a new strategic plan, which in turn led to a restructure of SNA’s Headquarters team in Fall 2014 to ensure that financial and staff resources were appropriate to meeting identified objectives. The final stage of the process was the first significant review of our governance structure since the late 1990s. As described in “SNA Explores Governance Changes” (HQ View, March 2015), the process began in January 2015, when more than 30 representatives of several stakeholder groups (including different member types, state and national leaders, industry, past presidents, allies and staff) gathered to reflect on the Association’s current governance structure and brainstorm potential changes. In the ensuing months, SNA leaders crafted, revised and repeatedly fine-tuned a proposed new model. The scope of the prospective changes involves many details, and the magazine isn’t the appropriate vehicle to review each and every one. Instead, in this article, we’ll focus on presenting an overview of the why, the what and the how of SNA’s prospective new governance structure. WHY? WHY CHANGE OUR GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE? SNA’s volunteer leaders have served the organization very well for decades—especially when the going gets tough, whether the Association is responding to legislative threats (the congressional block grant proposal of the mid-’90s), budgetary challenges (the economic recession that began in 2007) or current regulatory constraints. SNA is strong and effective. But to remain strong and effective into the future, we need to be honest about our vulnerabilities, as well as be proactive in anticipating future challenges. At the top of both lists is changing demographics that affect the availability of future volunteers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that volunteering is at a 10-year low. For SNA, the demands of new school regulations and other priorities have had a negative impact on how much time volunteers can commit to this organization at the national, state and local levels. School districts are restricting travel and professional development days; more volunteer leaders report having to take vacation days in order to attend SNA meetings and activities. But the current time commitment for SNA’s top leadership positions is significant. In 2013-14, Board of Directors members invested between 18 and 72 volunteer days on SNA business. Then-President Leah Schmidt, SNS, spent a whopping 97 days serving the Association! This is one reason why qualified volunteers are in hot demand. In 2014, 95 members were recommended and vetted for national leadership roles prior to the election. But 57 of them declined to serve or did not meet the bylaw eligibility criteria to serve. In addition, there have been many changes in governance best practices in the last 20 years. These include smaller boards of directors, fewer standing committees and more ad hoc task forces and working groups. WHAT? WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED CHANGES? With these fundamental realities in mind, SNA leaders and stakeholders looked at the current structure and suggested changes through a lens that would ensure that a final model would be inclusive, transparent, knowledge-based, proactive, flexible, strategic and collaborative. The proposal: ■ refines the role of the House of Delegates in order to focus on issues related to the school nutrition profession; ■ reconfigures the SNA Board; ■ evaluates criteria for executive leadership roles; ■ reduces the time commitment of volunteers in order to maximize interest in SNA national leadership opportunities; ■ evaluates and determines the use of committees and taskforces; and ■ initiates a new process for identifying and developing new leaders through a reinvented nominating committee. A diagram of the proposed new governance structure appears on page 33. As you can see, members remain at the top of the chart. This is because your needs ultimately drive all decisions in the business of the organization. You will continue to elect Board members to represent your concerns and interests. Leaders will continue to reach out for your feedback on pending issues and initiatives. Now, let’s take a brief look at some of the aspects of governance where we are proposing some changes. The House of Delegates becomes the Delegate Assembly. This body will focus less on the business of the Association and more on the direction of the profession. Bylaw amendments will only be voted on every other year (with exceptions directed by the Board of Directors). The authority for changes to membership dues moves to the Board, but the bylaws will define limitations on the frequency of increases, as well as formulas for the increase amounts. States will appoint delegates to serve one-year terms, and the Assembly will officially convene once a year to focus primarily on mega-issue discussions, such as developing the next generations of school nutrition operators, enhancing the role of school meals in the education environment and ways to alleviate hunger through the school nutrition program. Feedback from House of Delegates members in recent years indicates that the meeting has not been a valuable experience. Some states have difficulty finding delegates willing to participate and have not sent their full representation to the meeting. The new proposed format change is expected to make participation more meaningful. Indeed, by identifying delegates in advance, states will have the opportunity to thoughtfully choose delegates from their leadership for best representation in important discussions. The Board of Directors streamlines its composition. Arguably, the most significant of the proposed governance changes involves SNA’s Board of Directors. The total number of positions has been reduced from 20 to 16 members. The vice president position has been eliminated. SNA’s state agency and industry members now will be represented on new “advisory councils.” In addition to maintaining geographic representation (through seven elected regional directors) and representation of the employee/manager section (with one dedicated seat on the Board), members also will vote for three at-large directors from among the operator and state agency segments; industry members are ineligible to serve on the Board. Directors will serve three years instead of two, in order to increase board experience and continuity. The individual time/travel commitment of Board members is reduced, but spread across more members. The School Nutrition Foundation Board chair (or other representative) serves as an ex-officio, non-voting member. Committee chairs will no longer serve on the Board. In general, nonprofit boards today are typically 15-16 members in order to facilitate decision-making, reduce the commitment of volunteers and reduce related costs. The vice president position was eliminated in reflection of the challenge to find qualified members to make the three-year commitment, particularly given the amount of travel and “homework” that is required for everyone in this leadership chain. The new two-year ladder (one year as president-elect and one year as president) is expected to be more manageable. As noted above, other Board of Directors terms are increasing from two to three years. While this seems at odds with the goal to make the time commitment for volunteers more feasible, it reflects feedback from many former Board members, who report that the first year served on the Board is an overwhelming experience, the second year is far more productive—but then their term is over. This change was a consensus recommendation of current and former Board members. Regional directors will continue to provide the key link between the national organization and the state affiliates. We recognized that states rely on the regional directors for bi-directional communication. But all members of the Board will share travel responsibilities to the states and other meetings. A detailed schedule has not yet been developed. Committee chairs stay focused on committee work. Currently, SNA has eight Standing Committees. The chairs of five of these (Education, Member Services, Nutrition, Research and Public Policy and Legislation) are elected from the membership and serve on the Board of Directors. In the proposed model, there will only be three Standing Committees—Finance, Resolutions & Bylaws and Leadership Development (the new name for the Nominating Committee), which are focused on the business of the Association. SNA’s work related to other areas of the profession and the Association will be conducted by newly designated Strategic Committees. Four of these have been proposed in the new model: Public Policy and Legislation, Professional Development (formerly Education), Membership (formerly Member Services) and Nutrition & Research (combined). The Board of Directors can decide annually to either add or sunset committees, based on strategic plan priorities. Chairs will be appointed by the president-elect, with approval by the full Board, rather than be elected by the membership. The proposed structure of each standing and strategic committee, along with terms, criteria for service and other details can be found in materials that will be posted in the Strategic Realignment section of SchoolNutrition.org. The primary reason for removing (the newly named) Strategic Committee chair positions from the Board of Directors is to allow these leaders to focus more directly on the scope of work given to their respective committees, and not also be required to juggle a wide array of Board responsibilities, issues and travel. Strategic Committees will continue to have work assigned in accordance with strategic plan priorities, and those priorities will drive the need for whether a committee should be added or sunsetted from year to year. Also, committee member terms are reduced from three years to two years, to make service more manageable and create more overall volunteer opportunities. Strategic Committee chairs will be invited to Board meetings to provide input on issues when their expertise is needed for mega issue discussions and other Board agenda items. Chairs also will be invited to strategic planning meetings. In addition, the work of the Committees will be documented in the Strategic Plan Quarterly Report submitted to the Board and posted on SchoolNutrition.org for members. Leadership development and diverse representation will be key priorities. At the heart of our proposal is recognition that we need to continue to prioritize diversity. We know that there are so many facets to SNA’s membership: Major city directors have different concerns than directors of small school districts. The needs of employees vary from those of managers, and their issues differ from those of directors. What’s important to a member in California may not be an issue in Alabama. A priority for operators in affluent communities may not be shared by those serving lower-income neighborhoods. State agency representatives, industry partners, educators and other stakeholders also have interests that affect our work. Plus, our organization is comprised of different generations, genders and ethnicities. SNA is committed to ensuring that the diversity of the membership is reflected in our leadership. The Nominating Committee, proposed to change to the Leadership Development Committee, will be charged with applying our diversity factor priorities (see a sample list in the box on page 34) when recruiting to fill open Board positions. Members of the reimagined Committee will more actively participate in leadership recruitment in several ways. These include attending the annual National Leadership Conference to promote national opportunities, leading sessions on the path to leadership and meeting informally with members who are interested in fulfilling eligibility criteria. As more leaders are developed in the Association, the Committee will be able to provide a slate of qualified candidates that meets the Board’s diversity factor priorities. Several members of this Leadership Development Committee will continue to be elected by the membership, but it also will include two at-large appointments by the president-elect, specifically to ensure that the diversity of the membership is reflected on this Committee. Two immediate past presidents will serve as chair and vice chair. Check out other proposed changes. Finally, we encourage you to review the proposed bylaws amendments available on SchoolNutrition.org to learn about the transition of Advisory Boards to Advisory Councils, the elimination of the Child Care membership section, the role of Membership Section chairs, the continued role of our valued past presidents and other nitty-gritty details about the prospective new governance model. Be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions document for answers to the queries you likely share with others. HOW? HOW WILL THESE PROPOSED CHANGES BE IMPLEMENTED? WHAT’S NEXT? SNA has been busy preparing for July’s House of Delegates meeting, where the proposed bylaws amendments will be discussed and voted on. There are many components involved. We’ve been working with our parliamentarian on the appropriate language for the bylaws. We’re using different means to communicate the proposal to state delegates and the members they represent; these include this article, a webinar, materials posted on SchoolNutrition.org and comprehensive packets to be mailed to state delegates in June. If the new governance proposal is approved this summer, a three-year transition plan has been drafted that covers all positions and terms. Most notably, all current elected and appointed positions will serve out their current terms. This includes those elected to the Board and Nominating Committee in November 2014, who will be installed in July, as well as the recent committee appointments made by President-elect Jean Ronnei. The transition plan also includes a new timeline to shorten the period between the election and Board installation. The proposal is to hold the annual national election in February and continue to install the new members of the Board of Directors at ANC in July, while the elected Leadership Development Committee members would begin their terms March 1. Since it was unveiled at the National Leadership Conference in April, the proposal has been well-received by state leaders, many of whom are facing similar governance and volunteer challenges. They have been eagar to see the direction SNA is taking. But it is important to note that state associations are not required to implement the same governance structure in their organizations. Indeed, in many cases, this structure may not be a good fit for a particular state. However, state leaders are encouraged to use SNA’s proposed model as a reference as they explore the possibility of making changes in their structure. LOOKING FORWARD We’re excited to be approaching the conclusion of our long strategic realignment project. This initiative has been simultaneously challenging and intriguing, exhausting and energizing. We’re grateful to all those who participated in different discussions, lending their enthusiasm and their creative ideas. We couldn’t be more confident about the strength and durability of our Association as we begin our 70th year. Julia Bauscher is SNA President, Jean Ronnei is SNA President-Elect, Becky Domokos-Bays is SNA Vice President, Linda Eichenberger is SNA Secretary/Treasurer and Patricia Montague is SNA’s Chief Executive Officer. Illustrations by jiunlimited.com. EXAMPLES OF RECRUITMENT DIVERSITY FACTORS ■ Generation ■ Geography ■ District Size & Setting ■ Race/Ethnicity ■ Gender ■ Member Section ■ Community Connection
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