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Regionalization, Board Composition Proposals Reviewed at Delegate Assembly

(Oct. 24, 2005) During the annual Assembly meetings, delegates reviewed initial proposals and provided feedback regarding the future of AFP's governance structure, including issues related to regionalization and a new board composition.

On Saturday morning of the meetings, the AFP Governance Task Force presented its preliminary recommendations to the Assembly. These draft proposals are based on the committee's own deliberations and comments gleaned from recent member surveys regarding AFP's current governance and leadership infrastructure.

The task force was created because of the extraordinary growth of the association since 1990, the last time the governance structure was reviewed and change. Over the past 15 years, AFP membership has grown from about 12,000 in 1990 to nearly 27,000 today --an increase of 118 percent. Chapters have grown from 111 to 171--an increase of 54 percent. In addition, the non-U.S. membership has grown from 118 members in 1990 to nearly 3,000 today, and Delegate Assembly has increased in size by more than 150 members.

This growth has created significant leadership and administrative challenges and may prevent AFP from taking advantage of opportunities in the future.

Encouraging Involvement Through Regionalization

The task force has proposed a new regional advisory and leadership development system to support broader volunteer involvement. Each membership region would be composed of roughly the same number of AFP members, regardless of the number of chapters in the region. Metro groupings would no longer exist (although some mechanism to allow similar-sized chapters to meet and discuss issues is still being considered). The task force believes that this model best allows AFP to focus on the needs of members.

This regional system, which would replace the Delegate Assembly, is based on the Rotary International model. Rotary is headquartered in a specific region - in its case, the United States. The overall organization is broken down into 31,000 clubs. These clubs are grouped by region into 529 Rotary districts, which covering approximately 45 clubs apiece.

All of the members and chapters in a given region would be invited to participate in periodic assemblies that would provide educational programming and leadership training, as well as networking opportunities. Through these assemblies, AFP chapters would be given the opportunity to enhance their role as service providers to association members, while individual members could bolster their regular interaction with other members within their region.

Because all AFP members will be welcome to attend the regional meetings, these meetings will provide more opportunities for individual members to get together at a reduced cost.

Most importantly, the goal of implementing this regionalized governance structure is to instill a greater sense of ownership in individual members, which will encourage participation and allow members to receive a better 'return' on their membership.

Board Composition

The international board of directors would remain the primary AFP governing body under this proposed structure. Its role would be to provide governance, strategic planning, strategic issues resolution and policy-making--very similar to the role of the existing international board. The current slate of nine officers (chair, chair-elect, immediate past chair, secretary, treasurer and four division officers) would also remain unchanged.

The composition of the board would be changed to include a formal representative from each region, as well as at-large members. Regional board members would be elected by members in each respective region. This change would be phased in over a two-year period so as not to disrupt the ongoing business of the association.

The task force is still determining an appropriate board size that will enable the board to be nimble and flexible to provide outstanding stewardship for members and chapters while simultaneously meeting our organization's future needs as AFP continues to grow. It expects that the maximum term of service for directors would be two consecutive three-year terms.

What's Next

The task force heard many positive comments from the Assembly about its preliminary ideas and its emphasis on transparency and member feedback. But it still has much work left to do in fleshing out many of the ideas, which Steve Batson, Ed.D., CFRE, chair of the Governance Task Force, acknowledged during the presentation.

'We decided that we did not want to go too far in our deliberations without hearing from chapters and members about these ideas,' says Batson. 'The fact is, we are not even halfway there yet in our work, so there's a long way to go. I also want to stress that everything we have presented so far are draft ideas--nothing is set in stone at this point, and we're taking very seriously all of the feedback from the Assembly.'

Once the task force has further developed its proposals based on feedback, it will conduct an online survey, tentatively scheduled for next spring. It will revise its next set of recommendations based on comments from that survey.

Final recommendations will be presented to the board of directors and the Delegate Assembly in October 2006.

The task force's initial recommendations and background on AFP's governance structure can be found here.

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