The board doesn't sit around the table at meetings discussing dog training techniques and how to win Division 1 -- they talk about running the business. Stuff like rule changes (which often have safety or business drivers like new classes of competition or fee increases), EJS shipping and maintenance, customer service, CanAm tournament planning, web site and database updates, finances.
Many of you have skills outside of flyball that would be a tremendous asset to NAFA. Experience with marketing, media relations, fundraising, sponsorship activities, technology, and finance. Did you know that NAFA doesn't even have a budget? (See the latest meeting minutes, page 9). NAFA also has no business plan that I'm aware of. The board could use a few good business minds on it.
So -- anybody out there planning to run for the board this year?
There hasn't been much interest in running for the board for the past few years. Maybe everybody is happy with the status quo. Election results from the past
- In 2006, there were five candidates, including two current board members -- the two board members and one newcomer won (there are 3 open spots every year).
- In 2007, there were five candidates, including two current board members -- the two board members and one newcomer won.
- In 2008 there were only three candidates (including one current board member), so basically there was no election, the candidates all just walked onto the board.
- In 2009 there were five candidates, including three board members -- the three board members won.
The status-quo voting strategy won't work this year, though -- two new people are going to join the board no matter what, because Dale Smith and Scott Stein are finishing out their second consecutive terms and will be unable to run this year per the NAFA rulebook: "Unless elected to fill a vacancy, each Director shall be elected to a three-year term to commence at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors at which their election is confirmed. Terms of office shall be staggered so that approximately one third (1/3) of the board members’ terms will expire each year. No member of the Board of Directors may serve for more than two full consecutive terms of office."
The Executive Director position is up for a vote again this year, too. The ED position is different from the board of directors in that there is no term limit (although ED's must go through a re-election process every three years). But the ED role is so much more difficult and involved than a board member position. The ED works for the board and is essentially running NAFA's business on a day-to-day basis. This person needs to be very savvy about flyball and general business processes, and know the NAFA rulebook inside out. I would never recommend that somebody run for ED without prior experience as a board member first.
Hopefully in 2010 we'll have more than just two or three people to choose from for the board. If less than three people run, the Chairman gets to appoint somebody (with the board's approval), and that sort of defeats the whole purpose of an organization run by its delegates.
(A little sidenote about the dangers of going along with the status quo, by the way. You really should read up on how the board members vote before blindly casting votes in their direction. All the meeting minutes are on the NAFA web site and all the votes are recorded in there. Do you like Open Class? Several board members were opposed to it and voted against it right down the line all through 2006 and 2007. How about the lowered jump height in late 2007? A couple of board members strongly objected to that one, too. They happened to be the minority in 2007, but all the people who supported Open Class and the lower jump height have now left or are rolling off the board this year. So really pay attention to who you vote for, because it matters.)
I thought I would demystify the election process a little bit, in case some of you are thinking about throwing your name into the hat but feel like you need more info. I ran for the board in 2006 and was surprised at how the process actually worked.
First of all, like I mentioned earlier, you don't have to be a rockstar flyball competitor or a NAFA judge to run for the board. Don't let any of that intimidate you. Variety is good for the board -- different people from different areas of the country with different goals and skills is an ideal mix. Otherwise what you'll end up with is a bunch of people asking to be put on the judging, rules, and disciplinary committees, and nobody really wanting to help out on the marketing, technology, finance and elections committees (all areas where, frankly, NAFA could really use some help).
Second, there really is no secret back-room process to all this stuff. You just email in a nomination letter to NAFA (I asked a teammate to help with mine), then you sit around and wait for five or six months while NAFA sends out ballots to the clubs then counts the ballots. You don't have to ask for permission to run or talk it over with anybody -- you just step up and do it.
Here are the only requirements to run for the board:
- You have to subscribe to NAFA's purpose and goals (duh).
- You can't receive any compensation for board duties (not really a factor here).
- You can't be related to or living with another board member.
- You have to be in compliance with NAFA's conflict of interest policy (which basically states you can't be an owner/director, head judge, tournament director or employed by U-FLI).
- You have to be in good standing with NAFA, meaning you don't owe NAFA any money or have any disciplinary actions going on (probation, suspension, etc.).
Your nomination letter will play a big role, so make it really kickass. Sometimes that's the only way voters differentiate you and your views from everybody else who is running -- club owners will get their ballots in the mail and quickly read through all the nomination letters to see which one they like the best, then cast their vote. For inspiration, go look at some of the old nomination letters from past elections -- you can find lots of them out on the NAFA web site (some on the web site itself and some in the NAFA News archives)
Send the letter to email@example.com and/or to the Nominating Committee (which is Kim Davis this year -- I'm sure as elections get closer, NAFA will send out all this info) by 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight time on July 31st.
NAFA will post a list of candidates on the web site soon after the July 31st deadline so you'll be able to see who you're up against. NAFA will also host two or three candidate chats throughout the fall that you'll be invited to participate in. That's about the extent of NAFA's involvement until the ballots are mailed out.
I think most people vote for NAFA board members based on who they know (either personally or by name). Essentially, it's a popularity contest. Isn't that true of most elections, though?
The good news is, you can make yourself "popular" just by getting more involved with flyball and NAFA in general. Volunteer to help with the CanAm tournament or one of the NAFA committees. Send your ideas in to the board for discussion at their board meetings. Participate in the leadership chats. Find ways to market flyball independently -- get TV coverage for your tournament, write a magazine article, put on demos, start a blog, start a YouTube channel, whatever you're good at. Create a cool web racing software that will make life easier for others. The ballots are mailed out at least 60 days before the AGM, which takes place in December or January, so you have all of August, September, and maybe October to get your name out there before people start voting.
I'm sure the reason I got elected in 2006 is because I was maintaining the NAFA web site at the time, so my email updates went out to the Flyball List a lot and people knew my name and associated it with good things (new web site with pretty pictures of dogs all over it = good!). This was all before Facebook, CanAm, and most of the flyball blogs and Yahoo groups we visit now even existed (the Flyball List seems to be dying a quiet death...). In 2010 you guys have a lot more opportunities to see and be seen.
You should absolutely participate in NAFA's candidate chats, although I'm not sure how many delegates actually attend those or read the transcripts. But every bit of good public exposure helps. Read through some of the past years' transcripts to get an idea what questions you'll be asked, and prepare for them ahead of time. I often felt like sticking an ice pick into my eye during those chats (another candidate's teammate would get on there and try to bait me), but it's pretty easy to survive the chats if you 1) keep your sense of humor, 2) take the high road, and 3) use the chat format to your advantage. Nobody can see you, so you can curse at the monitor, laugh with your significant other about the idiot who's bothering you in the chat room, then take the time to craft a really thoughtful, intelligent response. Because in the end, that's what people want to see in a potential board member -- a calm, mature, reasonable person who is able to get along with others and make good decisions on behalf of NAFA.
The votes are counted during the Annual General meeting in December or January. It's a pretty quick process because most of the votes come in electronically, with a few old-fashioned paper ones mailed to NAFA. When the results are tallied, the election committee hands them over to the Executive Director, who then announces the results during the meeting.
After the meeting, the Chairman calls the candidates to let them know how the results turned out.
If you were elected, you'll hear "Congratulations! See ya at the next board meeting." And then it's this surreal experience where you're on the board and yet not on the board for a while, until you attend your first meeting (you're added onto the board's email list in the meantime and can start weighing in on things).
And that's it. The election process as I remember it...much less complicated than I thought it would be. In fact, I often wished there was more to it, because it often felt like months and months went by where nothing happened, it was totally anti-climatic most of the time.
Take the plunge!
I invite this year's candidates to use this blog as a campaign forum. I will be happy to publish a guest post from any candidate on this blog (just keep it civil, please!), even if I don't plan to vote for you. :) There aren't many large public forums where candidates can talk about their views, and this blog gets about 900-1,000 visitors in a good month, so you'll reach a lot of flyball enthusiasts this way.
I hope some of you decide to run for the board. We could use some people on there who have business smarts and talent and enthusiasm, and who are willing to give up some of their free time to WORK and make things happen.
If the only thing holding you back is fear, or thinking that you're not good enough to be on the board (or knowledgeable enough, experienced enough, whatever), then push yourself past that and take a risk.