In early January, the Board of Trustees for the Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation met for our winter meetings in Atlanta. One of the highlights of the weekend was the member luncheon, held at the beautiful Capital City Club. Representatives from six of our circles attended, and it was my great pleasure to present Monica Pearson (Emory University, 1995) with her Pillars of Leadership in Communications Award. Monica, a familiar face in Atlanta media for more than four decades, is the recipient of numerous awards including more than 30 Emmys. In addition to her communications accomplishments, Monica has been recognized for her important philanthropic work and her championship of various causes – most notably those involving women’s health and advocating for youth.
At the luncheon, we also had representatives from prospective new circles in Georgia, scholarship recipients, and many of our Society’s supporters. We also used this opportunity to announce The Siegal Family Fund providing scholarships for initiates of the University of Louisville Circle. Trustee Gene Siegal and his wife Sandra established this endowment.
During this third meeting under our new governance structure, our trustees spent considerable time discussing the status and the future of our Society. While there has been significant organizational progress, some negative trends are impacting O∆K. Membership has remained relatively flat over the last ten years, and a significant drop in new collegiate members, since the end of FY 2017, is particularly concerning. Although new circles have been established in the last five fiscal years, more circles have had their charters recalled by the Society during the same period. There are significant inconsistencies in the collegiate member experience which dilute the overall brand of the Society. Questions regarding the value of lifetime membership continue to be raised.
As a board, we know that Omicron Delta Kappa, like all organizations, is only as strong as its members are committed and its pursuit of well-considered strategic goals. Therefore, the board has determined that it is time for our Society to embark on a new strategic planning initiative. We are presently seeking proposals for a consultant to assist in the planning process. Please be on the lookout for news about the planning process and for invitations for members to provide input on emerging strategies.
In light of this year’s membership numbers, the National Headquarters and Board of Trustees have made the following budgetary decisions in the interest of being good fiscal stewards of the Society. The two currently open positions on the staff are frozen and will not likely be filled before the start of FY 2021. Only one additional issue of The Circle will be published this fiscal year. Collegiate members will receive this issue and all future issues in a digital-only format. The results of the recent magazine survey also informed this decision.
While the membership trends are very concerning, we also want you to know that there is good news to share.
- To date, 33 circles have taken advantage of the member incentives that have been developed. The incentives allow for circles that increase membership to waive the Institutional Membership Fee, receive reduced or free registration fees for the National Leadership Conference, or a combination of both.
- The Board of Trustees selected Donna Shalala (University of Miami, 2002) as the 2020 Laurel Crowned Circle Award recipient. We are delighted to celebrate her accomplished academic career and leadership of three institutions of higher education, her service in the Department of Health and Human Services and her long tenure as Secretary, and her current representation of the 27th Florida district in the United States Congress. We hope Dr. Shalala will be able to join us at this year’s National Leadership Conference for a presentation in conjunction with that event.
- With funds secured through our ongoing comprehensive campaign and good investment management, our endowment grew by 38% in the last year. As of December 31, 2019, the endowment reached $1,835,083. In FY 2021, we will be able to offer at least 12 Clay Grants (up from 10) as well as 36 scholarships along with financial awards for six Leader of the Year honorees.
- The 2020 National Day of Service and National Day of Giving are both scheduled for Thursday, April 9. I hope you will consider helping us surpass last year’s total of $12,810 raised in one day.
- The 2020 National Leadership Conference will be held June 4-7 in Lexington, Kentucky. The program will include numerous concurrent sessions as well as presentations from nationally recognized speakers including Summer Owens (University of Memphis, 2000) and Tina VanSteenbergen (Hamline University, 2008). Additional speakers will be announced later in the spring.
- The Governance and Trusteeship Committee is still actively recruiting individuals to serve as at-large trustees. Elections for the National Student Vice Chair-Elect and Student Trustee will be held in conjunction with the conference. Elections for Mission Chair-Elect and Faculty/Staff Trustee will be held in advance of the conference. Details about these national leadership opportunities may be found on the O∆K website (odk.org).
- The University of Minnesota, Duluth, will be the next institution to receive a charter for a circle of Omicron Delta Kappa. The chartering is scheduled for April 20, 2020.
Thank you for your continued leadership and devotion to our Society. We truly appreciate your support and investment in the community leaders of tomorrow. If you ever have any questions or concerns about O∆K, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I may be reached at [email protected]
Yours in O∆K,
Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
Chair, Board of Trustees
Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation, Inc.