SNA and its state affiliates take care of unfinished business and formalize their longstanding productive partnerships. FOR DECADES, SNA has been working together with its state affiliate associations to ensure that school nutrition professionals are at the very top of their game when it comes to their collective mission to nourish children, preparing them for success. These longstanding collaborations are essential to reach the thousands of operators, industry partners and allies working in K-12 school foodservice today. As part of its most recent Strategic Plan, SNA leadership evaluated the national organization’s governance structure, approving updates designed to make it more efficient and responsive, with fewer standing committees, more task forces and a smaller board of directors. [Editors’ Note: See “For the People, By the People,” June/July 2015, to learn more about these changes.] As part of the process, SNA reviewed the relationship between the national organization and the state affiliates. While there exists a strong, enduring foundation of close, collaborative work together, this connection had never been reinforced in any formal manner. This may come as a surprise to many of you, because the relationships are so longstanding—many of them go back as far as 70 years! Soon after the national association was formed in 1946, state organizations began to sprout up. In this pre-Internet era when communications were dependent on the U.S. Postal Service, and very expensive long-distance phone service, the national organization had some understandable limitations in reaching out to the tens of thousands of K-12 school foodservice professionals across the country. A more local approach—state by state—was considered essential to address and advance the needs of the profession, but most of these organizations never intended to operate in a total vacuum from what was happening at the national level, especially in Washington D.C. In fact, within a few years, these state organizations began to align with the (then-named) American School Food Service Association, but no formal agreements were ever signed. Over the decades that followed, the state associations became inextricably linked with the national organization, working in a unified fashion to further legislative priorities, provide member services, address challenges and move the profession forward. Today, state affiliates and SNA share members, as well as numerous financial, management and organizational ties. But these relationships have operated on little more than a proverbial handshake. If either the national or state organizations were being established now, a formal agreement would be deemed crucial in today’s business world. Seventy years later, it’s not too late. Indeed, it’s essential. ANATOMY OF AN AGREEMENT In SNA’s current Strategic Plan, one objective is to “Enhance the SNA and state affiliate partnership to align efforts to achieve SNA strategic goals.” Among the tactics to achieve this objective is: “Develop and seek acceptance of a state affiliation agreement outlining how SNA and state affiliates will support each other.” But what is an affiliation agreement? Simply put, it’s a best practice used by associations to formalize and clearly define the relationship between the national organization and the affiliates. It provides a solid foundation for continued growth and development by both parties. To begin the process of drafting its own agreement, SNA staff conducted extensive research to learn more about this topic. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) proved to be a very helpful resource, as did other national organizations that shared examples of their own agreements. These had several common elements, particularly regarding references to membership and services. SNA’s legal counsel also weighed in with valuable insights. SNA leadership recognized that the project’s success required the involvement of a diverse group of members who have served at the state and national level. In Spring 2016, the Board of Directors approved the formation of a 12-member State Affiliation Agreement Task Force (see the box on page 64). The group, which met twice, was chaired by SNA Past President Jean Ronnei and included representation from: • each of SNA’s seven geographic regions • small, medium and large state associations • states that require dual state and national membership and states that do not have such a requirement • past and current SNA Board and Committee members • past and current state leaders • a state association executive At its first two-day meeting in September 2016, the goal of the Task Force was to hear open and honest feedback from participants on an array of topics that have been longstanding sticking points between the national organization and the state affiliates. Task Force members were encouraged to identify critical issues that could be potential road blocks to the development—and the acceptance—of a formal agreement. The result, according to the group, was a candid conversation, with a fair share of ah-ha moments, fears and even a few tears. This was eventually translated into official recommendations that focused on balancing SNA’s need for consistency with an individual state’s need for flexibility. Let’s look at two examples: The first main recommendation addressed state-only versus dual membership. Most state affiliates require their members to join the national SNA. But a few state organizations have offered a state-only membership option for years. The Task Force suggested a compromise: Allow states with state-only members to continue this practice with the understanding that they will promote the dual membership option. Another important recommendation involved the SNA national logo, which cannot be freely adapted but must be used within certain strict parameters to preserve brand identity and trademark protection. A few states have used a variation of the national logo, while a few others have totally independent logos. The Task Force compromise allows states to use their own logo, as long as they include a prominent statement that they are an affiliate of SNA. Variations on the SNA official logo that are outside the parameters for use are not allowed. The group also recommended that SNA develop and implement an annual orientation and training presentation for state leaders on association-related business topics, such as logo usage, membership practices, strategic goals, financial/legal matters and so on. A second Task Force meeting was held in December 2016 to review and revise, as necessary, the language of a completed draft and identify ways to help state leaders navigate and understand the document’s legalese. The final State Affiliation Agreement was presented to state leaders at the National Leadership Conference (NLC) in May 2017. The agreement becomes effective on the date upon which the state association board votes and approves the agreement and the state president signs it. Once signed and submitted to SNA, the agreement remains in effect indefinitely unless terminated by SNA or the state organization in accordance with terms established for termination. It does not need to be renewed annually or reissued, unless there are significant changes that must be made. There is no specific date by which the agreement must be approved. SNA wants to allow ample time for review and discussion by state affiliate leaders. The hope is that all state agreements are signed and approved by December 31, 2018. At press time, 10 states have already completed this process. BENEFITS FOR STATES & SNA Why should state leaders be excited and supportive of this requirement? First, it helps to define the role of the state affiliate and the role of the national organization and establishes them as separate legal entities. What does it mean to be an affiliate of SNA national (besides the fact that your dual members receive School Nutrition each month, of course)? In addition, the agreement helps outline and clarify expectations, including the services that the national organization provides to its state affiliates and the information it requires in return. Sometimes, these communications get lost in the transition from one state leader to another, especially if the state organization does not have paid staff to provide oversight. The most fundamental aspect of this agreement, however, is that it is mutually beneficial. It’s not all about what SNA national wants and needs from the states or vice versa. The agreement provides a framework of trust for continued, collaborative success in reaching goals, staying financially healthy and thriving as membership organizations. The agreement is intended to provide plenty of flexibility to allow states to pursue state-specific goals and offer state-specific opportunities to members. Just because there is an official affiliation, it does not mean that SNA has control or a final say on everything a state does. Quite the contrary! In keeping with that commitment to be mutually beneficial, the SNA State Affiliate Agreement isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. SNA recognizes that what works in Texas may not work in Maine and that California and Wyoming run their affiliates differently to meet the specific needs of their respective members. This process is not about making states conform “just because.” If there is a provision that really doesn’t work for a particular state, such as the aforementioned logo issue, then SNA and the state association will sign an addendum to the agreement. The goal is to take such differences into account without drafting totally individual agreements for each state organization. WHAT’S INCLUDED? Now that we’ve detailed the reasons for the agreement and the process in which it was written, let’s take a look at some of the elements that are included. The agreement is organized into nine different sections: • Affiliate Charter • Membership • Obligations of SNA • Obligations of Affiliates • Intellectual Property and Proprietary Information • Relationship to Parties • Indemnification • Revocation or Surrender of Charter or Affiliation Agreement • Miscellaneous The first section, Affiliate Charter, confirms the mission statement of SNA and explains that SNA grants a non-exclusive charter to the state association to be “an Affiliate of SNA.” It also legally confirms that the Affiliate, such as Montana SNA or SNA of Ohio, can use those names while doing authorized activities. The Membership section notes that dual membership in SNA and the state affiliate is required and that both parties agree to jointly promote membership in both organizations. (Again, states with state-only members will have an addendum to their agreement stipulating that they can continue to do so indefinitely, providing that they continue to promote dual membership.) This section of the agreement also addresses Direct to National processing, the remittance of dues back to the state, the exchange of regular reports and School District Owned Memberships. The agreement goes into detail regarding the obligations of the national organization. For example, SNA will maintain a state support center on SchoolNutrition.org that features resources on governance, membership and SNA programs. SNA will provide support for membership services, such as recruitment campaign materials, rosters and reports. The national organization also will provide reasonable tracking and guidance on state-level legislative initiatives and proposals. The Obligations of the Affiliate are somewhat more business-oriented, including maintaining articles of incorporation and bylaws, as well as ensuring these are not in conflict with SNA’s; procuring insurance coverage for operations, activities, meetings and programs; and obtaining and maintaining nonprofit status with the IRS. These are all best practices that each state affiliate should already be doing. The agreement simply acts as a safeguard. SNA also wants to be kept abreast of important updates to certain state information and activities each year. This includes state dues amounts, a leadership directory, annual conference dates and locations—in short, processes that are mostly in place, but requiring them in the agreement provides a safety net to the state organization. State affiliates are also expected to support SNA’s legislative efforts. Affiliate officers, directors, committee chairs and members of the state board will agree not to publicly oppose SNA’s national advocacy plans or positions. State leaders are always encouraged to provide feedback and concerns about these to SNA national directly. A state also may develop and implement its own program and services so long as they are not in conflict with the overall mission of SNA. LEARN MORE Want to delve deeper into this complex topic? You can find more information about the SNA State Affiliation Agreement online at www.schoolnutrition.org/statesupport. The link will take you to a video featuring personal reflections on the process from members of the Task Force; FAQs; the presentation made at NLC 2017; a signed agreement tracker; and, of course, the state affiliation agreement itself. Need even more? Individual members should direct questions about the State Affiliation Agreement to their state leaders or staff. State leaders are welcome to direct questions to SNA’s State Support team at StateSupport@schoolnutrition.org. STATE AFFILIATION AGREEMENT TASK FORCE » Jean Ronnei, SNS, Chair, Minnesota » Katie Andrasi, Texas » Cheryl Cochran, SNS, Tennessee » Tamara Earl, SNS, Ohio » Laura Fails, Kansas » Artie Frego, New York » Vanessa Hayes, SNS, Georgia » Sara Gasiorowski, SNS, Indiana » Cherie Meeker, SNS, Oregon » Andrew Soliz, SNS, California » Tracie Suter, SNS, Illinois » Beth Wallace, SNS, Colorado » Debbi Beauvais, SNS, Board Liaison SNA CEO Patricia Montague and then-State Affiliate Relations Manager Sara Sanders also supported the group as staff liaisons.
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