Last week, we held an information session for members who are interested in joining the Board of Directors or just want to learn more about how RPCV/W is run and how they can get involved. This blog post covers some of the topics we discussed.
As an incorporated entity, RPCV/W is governed by the bylaws, a simple 7-page document that sets out the basic rules and requirements of running the organization. By joining RPCV/W, we agree to uphold these bylaws, which in turn grant us the ability to determine the group’s future. We do this by attending events, recruiting our friends, suggesting activities, paying dues, taking surveys, volunteering and voting.
Elections and Referendums
Each active member is entitled to vote for the Board of Directors, who lead and administer the organization. Members may also vote on “any other matters specifically designated for membership vote by the Board or Directors.” We call these referendums and include them in the ballot. Examples of referendums include our 2013 decision to adopt a new logo, and our Partnership for Peace program, overseen by the Vice President, in which we vote every 2 years to select a local nonprofit to be the primary beneficiary of our fundraising and volunteer programming. Votes may be made online or in person. The online ballot will be posted in the Members Only section of our website the week before the Summer BBQ and closed the day of. Members may vote in person using paper ballots at the Summer BBQ, which serves as our Annual General Meeting. Those votes will be tallied along with the online votes and the new Board will be announced. There will be no referendums this year, but there will be a vote for the Board.
Responsibilities of Directors
There are 13 voting Directors that make up the RPCV/W Board out of the 20 allowed by the bylaws. The Historian is a non-voting position that the Board appoints. The only requirement to stand for election is for the candidate to have paid membership dues at some point in the last year. The RPCV/W Board is a volunteer staff and each Director is expected to invest as much time as is needed to carry out their responsibilities. Some positions are tied to set functions, such as the Treasurer who accounts for our finances, while others are more fluid, such as the Professional Development Director, who organizes events, works with job seekers and keeps track of professional resources and opportunities. Voting Directors are required to attend monthly, in-person meetings and 2 yearly retreats. They are also encouraged to help plan and attend official events whenever possible and represent the organization at various non-RPCV/W functions. At the end of the Board Year, each Director must submit an annual report, compiled and edited by the Secretary, who does the same for all our newsletters and meeting minutes. Click here to learn about all the positions.
New Board Year
The Bylaws require elections to be held each year at an Annual Meeting of the members, the date and time being determined by the Board then in office. Traditionally, this Annual Meeting has taken the form of our Summer BBQ, which starts the Board Year in June or July. It takes another month or so to get new Directors oriented and things don’t really get going until our first planning retreat, when we lay out the first round of events for the year.
At that point, the holiday party, traditionally our biggest event of the year (on the order in size and complexity of a large wedding), is only a few short months away. This event has grown to the point that it requires a full year of preparation, so we are recommending the next board move elections to December. Elections for this year will go on as planned at the BBQ on July 31st, but the next board should be prepared to serve through the summer to December 31st, 2017. We believe that this change will be greatly advantageous to RPCV/W because it allows a more practical timeline for administering the organization’s largest event and streamlines record keeping by aligning the board year with the calendar year.
RPCV/W relies on teamwork and resourcefulness to accomplish tasks. We do not maintain an office, though we do pay for mail services and claim occupancy in a building shared by other organizations. Instead, each Director is provided an official email address and personalized instruction in the use of various digital tools required by the position. A shared Google drive is used for document creation and retention. Business cards and stationery are available upon request, and Directors enjoy an active role in determining the organization’s annual budget. Group emails are frequent, and efforts are being made to streamline communications, such as using Slack channels and delegating more responsibility to committees. Directors are encouraged to assist each other and help out or even lead projects that may deviate from their job descriptions. Luckily, they can draw on the experiences of former Board members, who are frequently consulted to maintain institutional knowledge.
Any Director may form a committee or enlist volunteers for group business. These committees are composed of general members and former Board who volunteer using the form on our website. We communicate with them through segmented email lists, from which they may selectively opt out. Without committees, RPCV/W would not be able to function as it does, and engaging them effectively is a necessity for most Directors, especially Special Events and Mentoring. Volunteers are RPCV/W’s greatest resource.
Candidates should be attuned to RPCV/W’s Mission and embody the key qualities of any successful volunteer leader-- particularly optimism, resourcefulness, flexibility and friendliness. Staying positive is necessary to getting events and projects off the ground and the quality of feeling personally good about donating one’s time to an activity is the bedrock of volunteering. Volunteering without joy is just unpaid work. But optimism alone isn’t particularly useful unless it’s focused on a constructive effort, and that’s where resourcefulness is needed. Each Director has a fiduciary duty to act in RPCV/W’s best interests, and that requires wise management of available resources. Directors strive to balance the organization’s finances and identify opportunities for cost-saving whenever possible. The RPCV/W Board is just like any other deliberative body. It has its rules, its traditions and its personalities. The best way to navigate them is to be convivial and enjoy the company of others. The ideal candidate is friendly, empathetic and respectful of colleagues. This is especially true during stressful times or instances of disagreement. Directors quickly become friends, and those bonds of friendship strengthen the organization as a whole. Most importantly, that friendliness extends to members, potential members and our community partners. Being friendly absolutely essential to carrying out our mission.
How to Apply
Log in and make sure your membership is up to date (you can check it here). Then just email Brian McMahon at [email protected]. Indicate the position, or positions, you are interested in and provide a brief bio of yourself describing your Peace Corps service, what you do in DC, and what you wish to pursue as a leader of RPCV/W. The information you provide will be edited and included on the ballot.
All active members are encouraged to visit rpcvw.org/members to access the online ballot. Online voting ends on the eve of the summer BBQ.