His Grace writes:
Chairman's Quarterly Letter to the Membership
During my earlier days in the SCA, I recall thinking that the Board of Directors was this mysterious entity that served an unclear purpose. "We must need one," I thought. "It wouldn't exist if we didn't." But how it affected my enjoyment of the SCA was entirely puzzling to me.
So why does the Board exist, what does it do and how does it affect your participation in the SCA?
First a little background. The SCA was incorporated in its early days in 1969, and filed as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the State of California in 1971. This move was needed because the SCA was growing by leaps and bounds, and some sort of organization was required to allow the "game-side" activities to continue, while creating a management structure to handle increasing business and legal demands from the modern world. State and Federal laws require all non-profit and for-profit corporations to have boards of directors. They exist to provide governance for the corporation and to ensure that it meets its stated purpose.
The SCA's Board of Directors is unique in that it serves dual functions: we ensure that the SCA meets all of its legal and financial obligations mandated by applicable legislation, and we also serve to support the SCA's game-side activities so everyone can have a good time. No matter which function we happen to be serving at a given time, the foremost question we have in our minds when we consider any action is, "how will this benefit the SCA's membership?"
Managing the Corporate side of the SCA requires a number of officers, including a Board of seven Directors. One Director serves as Chairman, and another as the Vice Chair. Generally, Directors are elected by the Board every six months and serve three-and-a-half-year terms. However, there are occasions (such as when a Director must step down before the regular term is over) when elections must occur out of sequence and terms are shorter. In extreme cases, a Sirector's term can be extended by up to six months.
All volunteers, the Directors work in three primary ways: we meet once a quarter in various locations across North America; we hold at least one conference call between the regular meetings; and we converse via e-mail on a daily basis.
The Board establishes the rules of the SCA's historical recreation activities and sets up minimum administrative requirements for officers and branches. The Board is also the final arbiter of the interpretations of these rules made by the SCA's officers. While the Board may delegate management of the day-to-day operations of the SCA to other officers, we are still ultimately responsible for the decisions they make.
Among the larger tasks the Board is faced with are the following:
- Budget management
- Oversight of Corporate and Society officers
- Sanctions review
- Review of the Governing Documents
- Final resolution of game-side conflicts and issues
An annual budget of approximately $1.2 million sounds impressive at first. But it's amazing how quickly that money gets eaten up. Publications and insurance account for almost half of that figure. At budget-planning time,a lot of hard decisions need to be made. Do we raise membership costs? How can we cut office expenditures? Is it time to hire professional IT support? Because the bulk of our revenue comes from membership fees, we have to make decisions that will directly or indirectly benefit the members the most.
There are about 14 Corporate and Society Officers and standing committees that report directly to the Board. For the most part, these individuals and groups work autonomously, but their rulings and advice still need to be reviewed by the Board. Each quarter, they file a report detailing the activities of their office's or group's activities. The Board must ensure that policy decisions are in line with the Governing Documents and that the decisions do not have any unforeseen consequences.
A sad reality of the SCA, and perhaps the most trying, is the need to take disciplinary action against certain individuals for their behavior. This can take the form of anything from a temporary suspension of rank and title to a permanent ban on participation in any SCA activities. Almost all requests for sanctions come from the Kingdoms. These requests are thoroughly reviewed and investigated by the Society Seneschal's office before being brought to the Board. It is our job to verify that all procedures were followed properly and to go over the information presented by both sides, without bias, before rendering judgment.
The Governing Documents of the SCA are what codify how the Corporation does business, and, together with the various Officers' Handbooks, determine how the historical re-creation activities of the SCA work. As we grow, changes need to be written into to these documents to make them more effective. Frequently, a small change in one part can affect other parts. In conjunction with the SCA's President and the Society Seneschal, the Board carefully reviews any proposed changes for consistency and unintended results before putting the changes out for comment by the membership.
Sometimes, issues arise within a branch of the SCA. Most of the time, these issues are resolved in house, without any involvement from Board. And that's just the way we prefer it. But despite the best efforts of those involved, there are instances when the Board is asked to step in. This is usually a last resort, and the results seldom come out completely in favor of anyone. Much like reviewing sanctions, the Board must examine large amounts of material related to the matter and make a final ruling.
From reading the above, it may seem as though the Board is largely a reactive body. While that may be true to a degree, we have lately made it a point to become more proactive. We recently held a long-range planning meeting to discuss ideas that will take the SCA into the future by improving both Corporate operations and the game-side experience. Additionally, we dedicate a portion of every quarterly meeting to long-range planning topics. Ideas currently under consideration include improving the SCA's flagship publication, Tournaments Illuminated, releasing a revision of the Known World Handbook and offering more benefits with paid membership, just to name a few.
There are a great many other tasks that the Board manages on a daily basis, most of them administrative in nature. But the lion's share of what we do supports the membership so that everyone can continue to enjoy the benefits of being part of the largest historic re-creation group in the world. The Board makes every effort to do what is best for the SCA to ensure it will be here for another 40 years and beyond.
Jason Williams, Chairman, SCA, Inc.
(Duke John ap Gwyndaf, KSCA, OL)
Next quarter: myths, misconceptions and answers.
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