I had the pleasure of hosting the Board of Directors at the University at Albany (in Albany, NY) this past weekend. I provided the Board and the Foundation Trustees with the following report:
It’s exactly one year since we departed from Charlotte, NC and embarked on this journey towards ODK’s centennial. It continues to be among my greatest honors to serve as National President of our Society, particularly alongside each of you. I am especially pleased with our work in positioning the Society to both celebrate our centennial and begin our “second century.”
Our greatest strength remains our members, specifically our volunteer leaders who are so giving of their time and talents. Virtually all of our successes during the course of the last twelve months are attributable – at least in part – to our Society’s volunteer leadership. I will highlight some of these successes here.
MEMBERSHIP GROWTH: “10×3”
At year end, we welcomed 8,400 new members at 230 Circles nation-wide. The most in our history. As I mentioned in Baltimore, MD in January, however, there is still much potential to grow membership further in the future. National Vice President Michelle Burke, Executive Director Dr. Tara Singer and I believe that the “10×3” plan – aimed at growing membership to 10,000 new initiates annually at 300 Circles nation-wide – is an attainable goal that will provide the Society with long-term financial benefits.
STABILIZING ODK’S FINANCIAL POSITION
Financially, we end the year $117,000 ahead of budget, thanks to the combination of record high membership numbers, a slightly leaner headquarters staff, and realizing greater cost-saving efficiencies at headquarters. National Treasurer Darwin Jones outlines the Society’s financial position in greater detail in his report, but I am confident given our recent decision to raise the membership fee for new members, we are closing in on stabilizing our financial position.
Of particular note is our on-going effort to wean the Society off of the Foundation’s annual program grant (formerly known as the “management fee”). The Board authorized a mid-year adjustment of the grant from the Foundation; a reduction of $40,000 from $100,000 to $60,000. Even without the Foundation grant, we would have finished the year ahead by $57,000. My thanks to Darwin for his tireless work as our new National Treasurer. He has provided tremendous insight to the Society’s budgetary process since he joined the Board this past January.
A long overdue effort of partnering with organizations that share ODK’s ideals and purposes has resulted in two strategic alliances this year. We executed memoranda of understanding with Teach for America and the Gallup Organization. In both instances, we quickly realized the benefits of the partnership.
Thanks to these strategic alliances, 62 ODK members were awarded teaching positions through Teach for America this year and over 257 student leaders took Gallup’s StrengthsQuest leadership assessment during this spring’s drive-in meetings, thanks to the generosity of Gallup. Additionally, our members can now purchase access codes at a reduced rate ($10 per code vs. $12 per code). Executive Director, Dr. Tara Singer, and new ODK Fellow Andrew Cahoon, will be traveling to Omaha, NE to participate in Gallup’s annual Strengths training. Gallup graciously waived the registration fee to attend the training for both Tara and Andrew.
My thanks to National Student Vice President Steve Binninger and ODK’s Director of Alumni Engagement and Development Bobby Ann Stanton for their work in bringing these alliances to fruition in short order. As I mentioned in Charlotte, it remains my hope to identify strategic partners in at least each of ODK’s five phases before our centennial celebration in June 2014.
Both the ODK regional drive-in meetings this spring as well as the Harris Direct campaign proved to be invaluable ways to engage our members.
The nine drive-in meetings engaged 335 participants, including 57 faculty officers representing 66 Circles nation-wide. More than just a kick-off to centennial activities, these drive-ins realize two essential priorities: supporting our Circles and engaging our members. To that end, the drive-in meetings provide high-impact, low-cost opportunities to Circles and our members to refine their leadership skills, become aware of national resources, and network. These drive-ins are proof positive that our Society is at its best when our members come together to develop, plan and participate in programs and activities that support our Circles and engage one another.
Meanwhile, the Harris Direct effort engaged 275,000 ODK alumni, 4,500 of which purchased an alumni directory. This effort provided an important first step in refining our alumni database and reconnecting with our members nation-wide.
Dr. Kathy Smith, incoming Chair of the Board’s Governance Committee and long-time member of the Society’s nominating committees (in 2010 and 2012, respectively) has begun formalizing guidelines for establishing the nominating committee, soliciting nominations and identifying candidates for Board leadership positions. None of the Society’s governing documents lay out in any detail the process for electing national officers. Yes, a relatively consistent process has been employed for the better part of the last two decades. The Governance Committee’s efforts will institutionalize this process moving forward. Additionally, Kathy will engage the Governance Committee in developing guidelines for National Advisory Council appointment and service. It is my hope that
Kathy will be able to share these proposals with the Board at our meeting this January, with sufficient time to both appoint a nominating committee and solicit nominations for Board leadership positions.
LONG RANGE PLANNING
As we move beyond our centennial celebration, I have asked members of both the Society and Foundation Boards to serve as members of the new Long Range Planning Commission, tasked with identifying long-term strategic priorities and short-term goals and outcomes as our Society’s begins its second century. I will ask the Board to formally adopt the Commission’s proposed roster of members and charge as part of our consent agenda Saturday. I will chair the group and plan to present a preliminary long range plan at our meeting in January 2014 in Jacksonville, FL for the Board’s approval.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX CIRCLE
In January, I encouraged us to think creatively (“outside the circle”) and own our decisions as a governing board. I am pleased with our work to date, particularly in thinking differently about extension and our financial position. I want us to continue to think creatively about how we can grow the ODK brand, particularly through strategic alliances with other honor societies that serve populations that are not college juniors and seniors. Can we engage Phi Theta Kappa (national honor society for two year colleges) or Alpha Lambda Delta (national honor society for first-year students) to ensure a more reliable “pipe line” of initiates annually, for instance?
In the area of awards, we honor those who have provided leadership and service to the Society and Foundation – both through the Meritorious Service and the Distinguished Service Awards – and recognize truly exemplary leaders of national acclaim through the Laurel Crowned Circle Award, but we lack an award aimed at honoring those members who have excelled in career achievement, community service and philanthropy. Immediate Past President Dr. Betsy Bugg Holloway will lead us in a discussion concerning a proposal the Foundation will take up to establish awards for members who have made a difference in their profession and their communities.
THE LAST WORD
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of our greatest accomplishments this year: identifying and hiring ODK’s fifth Executive Director, Dr. Tara Singer. I identified appointing a new Executive Director as the Board’s number one priority when I addressed the Convention last summer. Not only did we find a new chief executive; we found a GREAT new, inspiring and tireless leader for our Society. Already in her first few months, we can see real, tangible achievements in advancing ODK’s work.
I know you join me in thanking our Headquarters staff who work every day to ensure that our members and our Circles are supported.
Again, I am grateful to each of you for your service and leadership on behalf of ODK. Thank you, thank you, thank you!