The Trip that Didn’t Happen and the Importance of Fine Print
In February 2020, my good friend and I planned a special trip to Vienna, Prague, and Baden-Baden, Germany. We had read biographies of Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, and Mozart and planned an excursion that included visits to some of their places of inspiration and, as a treat, the spa life of Baden-Baden. We booked our flights and, quite by accident, I clicked “yes” to travel insurance and paid for it. This was clearly an accident because I never get travel insurance; I just go.
As the early stages of the pandemic unfolded, it became clear that this trip was not going to happen. I thought, “how fortuitous! We have travel insurance!” As borders closed and we attempted to unravel our plans, we learned the “fine print.” Travel insurance is not valid in cases of a pandemic. WHAT!?!? When we booked the trip, the idea of a pandemic was so far-fetched that I would have laughed at it, even if I had read the fine print. But now, I am stuck with the legalese of the fine print….Airlines be damned.
SRCD’s “Fine Print” (aka Bylaws)
The Bylaws are SRCD’s “fine print.” They guide us, but they do not lead us. They are the “bargain basement” of what we hold true. What I learned through a review of SRCD’s governance and climate is that our bylaws are not in line with our practices and sometimes our values. We have been flying by the seat of our pants, as it were--sometimes making things up as we go and trying to remember how we did things before. When challenging times came upon us, our bylaws were not aligned with how we do business and did not serve us well.
We need to align our bylaws with best practices for nonprofit governance and align our bylaws with the way we do business.
Upgrading SRCD’s “Fine Print”
For example, we need a treasurer that is separate from the executive director to ensure that there are at least two sets of eyes on our finances. We need to define the executive committee and its charge. We need to point our organization toward the future by reimagining the role of the past president into an “elder states person,” focusing on development and deepening our relationships with partners. We need to delineate membership in ways that are aligned with our values. We need to remove the language about religion(!). We need to remove the detailed position description for the executive director so that it can be more fluid and dynamic based on the organization’s needs. In short, we need bylaws that reflect the purpose and basic needs of the organization today and for the future.
Regarding my European composers trip, the bylaws or “fine print” (as it were) did not serve me well—they served the airlines very well. The airlines and the travel insurance company shrugged their shoulders and pointed to their “fine print.” In these last few years of transition for the SRCD, not only have the bylaws have not served us well, but they have not reflected how we do business.
One thing that the bylaws have right is that changes must be reviewed and voted upon by the full membership. There is nothing in my being that would change that. We are a membership organization that serves and reflects you and your interests.
Please review and vote!
I know it is tedious. I know that bylaws might be boring. But, I urge you to register your perspective by reviewing the changes that were unanimously approved by the Governing Council. There is a webcast where we discuss the rationale for the changes. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to me personally or to Saima our Executive Director. We can only go forward as a Society when we do so together. Join me. Review and vote on changes to our bylaws.
P.S. There are TWO more days to participate in the SRCD Blog Naming Contest. Login here to submit your ideas. We are gathering the top 5 and will let you -- our members -- vote on the best one. The winner will receive a free registration to either the Biennial or an upcoming Special Topics Meeting.