This document is prepared to help beekeeping organizations develop “shared visions” of their mission and activities. There is a continual need for traditional associations to restructure themselves based on current conditions to make themselves relevant to members.
One of the biggest challenges for associations is to retain and increase membership. There are so many associations that beekeepers might be perceived as being “nickel and dimed” to death. For example, a local beekeeper may be asked to join a local county association, a state association, a regional association, and then a national association, paying dues to each entity. Perhaps an association of associations, where a beekeeper pays only one dues, but receives a suite of services from several entities is worth exploring.
The Eastern Apicultural Society is searching for a new Chairperson in 2007. As such it is asking candidates to come up with a four-year vision or plan, and provide answers to specific questions. The following details for proposed strategic plans have been shared with me. Many of the topics here are relevant to any beekeeping association:
The goals of EAS are to hold a stellar annual educational conference, provide research grants and administer a Master Beekeeping Certification Program. To accomplish these goals, EAS needs to face the following challenges:
In any given year, the EAS administrative costs exceed membership fees and other non-conference income. The survival of EAS cannot continue to rely on the annual conference to generate the income required to keep the doors open and the lights on. Presently, each president has to raise an additional $30 to $45 per attendee to cover the administrative cost.
A review of the administrative expenses shows that very little can be cut without impacting the Society’s administrative functions. The dues have recently been raised but are still barely sufficient to pay for publishing the “EAS Journal.” That means the remaining administrative cost must be paid out of conference income (profit). Continued dependence on conference income (profit) is not a sufficiently reliable method to pay the additional administrative expenses. We cannot just raise dues without adding value to the membership.
Creation of a Speaker Fund The Society needs to find additional revenue streams. Perhaps we can ask beekeepers to donate to EAS. However, it is very difficult to get people to donate money for administrative costs. Administrative costs are not sexy. Beekeepers will eagerly donate money to a Research Fund but not readily donate money to cover EAS liability insurance, postage, computer maintenance or other administrative costs. I propose the creation of a Speaker Fund. Although the Speaker Fund would not be used to pay administrative costs, the Fund could be used to help offset conference speaker costs and thus insure that the conference does provide the needed revenue to run the organization. Speaker costs average $12,000 to $15,000 per conference.
Include EAS in Estate Plans Once the Speakers Fund is created, EAS should offer an easy way for beekeepers to donate money or include EAS in their estate planning – perhaps splitting the donation 50% for Bee Research and 50% for the Speaker Fund. Keep in mind that EAS is a 501(c)3 organization and donations to the Society are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
EAS Website Listing Another value added membership idea is to offer a listing on the EAS website for members in good standing. The idea here is member retention.
Society Membership Challenge Each member of the Society should be encouraged to suggest ideas that add value to membership.
Policies and Procedures Manual I propose that each Officer, each Director and each committee prepare a Policies and Procedures document for their area of responsibility. To standardize the P&P document, we will develop a template of topics that outline the minimal information to be contained in the document. Once a section is completed and enacted by the Board of Directors that section will become a part of the P&P Manual. The Policy and Procedures Manual will provide continuity and transparency for each Officer and Director position and each committee.
After such a fantastic conference in Georgia, what can other states do to improve future EAS conferences? I propose to continue to build on the ideas that worked in the past and yet be flexible and adaptable to the changes we see all around us.
Director’s Conference Wrap-up I propose that each Officer and Director be encouraged to prepare an evaluation following the Annual Conference. The evaluation should discuss ideas and concepts that worked well and identify aspects of the conference that could use refinement and/or elimination. The evaluations will then be submitted to the Secretary who will summarize them for the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee will then determine if changes are needed in the P & P Manual. The Secretary will also make the evaluations available to future presidents for conference planning.
Conference Promotion The reason members return year after year is not just for the first-class speakers but also for the social experience and the renewal of old friendships. EAS needs to capitalize on the fun and camaraderie that attendees enjoy. I propose that the EAS website have a slide show of pictures from the past EAS conference showing members engaged in bee yard activities and having fun at social activities. This slideshow could be placed on a DVD and played during breaks at state or local meetings.
The EAS Master Beekeeping group is a relatively untapped resource of EAS. Individual Master Beekeepers have contributed an enormous amount of assistance to conferences as “Bee Wranglers”, Workshop Instructors, Directors and Officers. Each year, many Master Beekeepers dedicate numerous hours to certify new Master Beekeepers.
Master Beekeeper Group We must encourage the Master Beekeepers to continue the development of a certification process that supports the goals of the Society. The certification process should include such things as: where a member can find study material for the certification exam; prerequisites for taking the exam; a set of standards for each part of the exam; a code of conduct once the member has been certified; and a requirement for continued education in order to retain their certification. I support the Master Beekeepers functioning as a committee to advise their Director on issues to be brought before the Board of Directors and I encourage them to develop their own rules on how their committee meetings will be conducted and finally the certification process and rules need to be published. The Master Beekeepers possess a tremendous amount of experience and that experience needs to be harnessed and channeled in support of the Society’s goals and objectives.
Master Beekeeper in Good Standing At the past Annual Conference there was much discussion about a requirement for continued education in order to retain certification. That effort should be applauded. I propose that a minimum requirement to retain active Master Beekeeper status is that the Master Beekeeper must be a member in good standing at EAS.
New Beekeepers Short Course Many Master Beekeepers are already teaching new beekeepers in their states. Each year, the President contracts with outside speakers to teach the short course. I propose that Master Beekeepers teach the New Beekeepers Short Course. If eight Master Beekeepers each taught two hours, the New Beekeepers Short Course would be covered and the cost of the Short Course program would be reduced dramatically.
In order to keep more experienced beekeepers coming back year after year, the Short Course for Second Year and Advanced Beekeepers could still be taught with high profile instructors.
Speaker List States and local organizations are always looking for talks on beekeeping subjects. I propose that a speaker list be maintained of active members and the topics on which they are willing to speak. The speaker list need not contain only Master Beekeepers. However, Master Beekeepers can be highlighted on the list. The Speaker List could also be placed on the website.
The viability of any organization is dependent on its membership. I propose to increase the budget for membership drives which would include some financial assistance for a Director that has a large geographic area to cover.
The above strategic plan contains my view of the challenges EAS is facing over the next four years. Over 50 years, EAS has matured and many things work smoothly because of the groundwork laid down by past Officers and Board members. The point of this strategic plan is to build on things that already work well and at the same time concentrate on the challenges.
STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE EASTERN APICULTURAL SOCIETY
Let us invite all those who attended the very first EAS conference back for a visit to a recent Conference. And let us ask those pioneers what they think of EAS today. I feel that they would be very pleased that EAS is still dedicated to the two goals that they had in mind—education of beekeepers and interaction of beekeepers from diverse parts. Yes, our visitors would be surprised at the additions and embellishments we have added over the years. We hope they would be pleased with those.
What will we see if we view EAS four years and eight years from now? Certainly the two goals will still exist. We are entering our next years with new documents: Constitution and Bylaws, and the Policies and Procedures (now in progress). These definitely make the daily operations of EAS practical and up-to-date.
Yes, there will be Short Courses and Conferences and they will reflect the inspirations of the organizers, as well as the beekeeping concerns of the day. Finances will always be at the forefront of planning since our money governs survival. I wish to see a significant increase in membership during the coming years. Changes in beekeeping will be reflected in our choice of themes and speakers. Many of these changes are unknowns today.
I see EAS working as a team: the Chair, the Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Board Members, Conference Officers, and membership.
During the next years I wish to see communication among all that I mentioned. An assortment of talents is available and is valuable to the continuation of a successful EAS. Although the Board of Directors is an ever-changing group, stability is built in. I would like to see e-mail communication, brief or lengthy depending on the subject, take place throughout the year. I think that so often a Board meeting is inspirational but those ideas fade away in the weeks ahead. There is no point in frequent meetings since e-mail makes communication so easy. I would like to keep the Board up-to-date during the year with both the good and not-so-good. E-mails do not have to be wordy or even grammatical to convey some piece of information. I would hope that Board members feel free to initiate communication. I intend to keep the Vice Chairman apprised of all information that is handled by the Chairman.
I would like to see Short Course and Conference and web site information—statistics, sort of—kept current. In this way we all can see trends for attendance, costs, web visits, and membership to search for areas of improvement. We do have some information on those items, but it needs to be brought up to date before the information becomes unwieldy.
Finances will always be an important part of EAS. The Board should not hesitate to search for ways to improve the income and expenditures of EAS. If there is some creative way of providing even some money to our general funds, I am ready to listen. I encourage the Board to be careful in allotting money for requests that do appear. At the moment, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, we need to pinch pennies.
I am pleased that EAS now has an enthusiastic Membership Chairman. But all the Board members need to participate. After all, each Director has the closest contact with beekeepers of his/her own state. The Directors can bring feedback from those beekeepers to the Membership Committee and to the Board as a whole. We need input from questions such as “is EAS meeting your beekeeping needs with Short Course and Conference?” Or “what can EAS do to encourage your attendance at Short Course and Conference?” During the next four years I want to see a significant increase in membership and, hopefully, increased attendance at the Short Course and Conference.
Committees are an important part of a functioning Board. Those Directors with similar expertise can combine their talents to develop ideas to present to the whole Board. Small committees, say two or three members plus the Vice Chair, usually function better than large ones (we don’t need any more camels). Committees are a way of sharing the work that needs to be done. Information on committees is stated in the Bylaws.
Short Course and Conference—the main business of EAS. I suppose our goal with these is to have the attendees say “thank you” at the end of each. It is true that committing to be President of the event represents a two-year dedication of time and effort. Such a commitment can be difficult if one has a full-time job or family responsibilities or other time constraints. I have heard former Presidents say that the second time would be so much easier than the first. As a former President, I agree! EAS does have a set of Guidelines with information and timelines for putting on Short Course and Conference. (This document will be reviewed and brought up-to-date,) Sharing the tasks would make the overall project easier and most probably more appealing to those considering being a host. However, sharing does not mean removing events that the President wishes to do.
Each Short Course and Conference will be the same and different from the one before. Our financial situation and the opportunities the host has to offer will determine the character of each year’s event. Perhaps that different character is one reason so many return year after year.
Vendor coordination has been quite successful.. Having a Short Course planner and coordinator, working closely with the conference program planner to choose and share presenters, is an excellent way to share total Conference planning. Other sections of Conference planning can be delegated at the choice of the President. Continuity in serving as a coordinator means that once a format is established, subsequent years are easier to accomplish. These coordinators do not necessarily have to be members of the Board and can come from anywhere, not necessarily in the EAS region.
One direction would be to have a Conference Coordinator who simply takes care of all the details while working with the host state. Such an arrangement would not preclude the individual touches the host state would prefer to do. Another direction the Short Course and Conference can go is a joint conference with two or more states combining their efforts. If all work together then the many facets of both Short Course and Conference are shared.
It is time to take a good look at our present planning to see what changes would be beneficial and more conducive to interesting states to be hosts.
During the next four to eight years EAS will survive. It will be more successful with participation from all. Let us hope that when we invite those pioneers of EAS back for another visit in the future they are pleased with our performance.
Specific questions asked of each candidate. These are by necessity oriented specifically to EAS, but nevertheless might be useful for other associations:
1. Why do you want to be Chairman of the Board of EAS? And why do you feel you are qualified to be Chair of the third largest beekeeping organization in the country, and the largest regional group in the U.S.?
2. EAS currently is nearly invisible to the youth in our territory. Is that a problem? If so, how will you improve that?
3. Do you have the time necessary to carry out the duties of Chair, and do you have other obligations that might interfere with your duties?
4. EAS Conferences are, by some observations, expensive. Do you feel that they have been worth the fees required to attend? And, is reducing the cost of attending a conference possible, while maintaining the quality of past conferences?
5. Is the current 5 day combined Short Course and Conference reasonable? Would separating these two activities, in both time and space improve attendance? Income? Quality? Or, should we leave well enough alone? Why?
6. The world of Conference management is evolving rapidly. Universities are becoming more and more expensive, yet offer less in terms of amenities and services than conference centers and some resorts, realizing the mandate from our membership for certain services (i.e. air conditioning in all rooms). What do you perceive as the best way to deliver top rate conferences to our members, yet keep costs within reason.
7. Our financial condition limps from conference to conference, and our future depends on the success of each year’s receipts. What will you do to insure our long term financial security and stability, and relieve each year’s President from having to save our financial skin, again?
8. How can we increase membership – at the family, corporate and State/Province level? And why should we bother? Is our web page being under utilized in this, or in any way, for that matter?
9. List the 3 issues in your day-to-day beekeeping operation that are most important to you. And then, how can, and should EAS affect these issues if you are Chairman.
10. Each year for the next 4 years about a quarter of your board members will have their term expire. Some will be replaced with new members. Some will stay on. New board members need as much information as possible to get up to speed. But when it comes to all board members, some may need motivation to participate. Some may volunteer, but then fail to perform. Some may never show up. Some may be difficult to control. Some may be destructive in their communications with their associations back home, and some will be energetic, engaging, ambitious and a joy to have around. The question, then, is how will you deal with board members that create problems, motivate others to join in the fun, and control those that tend to make EAS move in direction other than in the direction you feel EAS should be moving?