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Suggestions for when Officer Positions go Unfilled

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#1 BarrySimon615

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:14 AM

In years past in our club (Pontchartrain Astronomy Society of New Orleans) we have actually had elections for officer positions.  From my memory we have not actually held an election for at least about 15 years but we have always managed to find a volunteer every year for our 5 positions - President, 1st Vice-President/Programs, 2nd Vice-President/Newsletter Editor, Treasurer and Secretary.  (Note - our Treasurer has now served for at least the last 12 years and the 2nd Vice-President has served for at least the last 10 years.  Our President will be serving for his 3rd year in 2020 and our 1st Vice-President will be doing the same.  Our current Secretary will stay active as our ALCOR representative, but will not serve again as Secretary.)

 

To date, I, as immediate past President, serve as head of the Nominating Committee.  We have not been able to convince any member to take on the role of Secretary.  My concern is not so much this position, even though we would like to see participation from people who have never served as an officer.  We do have a number of people who are certainly capable of fulfilling the duties of the position.  My concern is more one of getting people to volunteer moving forward with some of the other positions, those that we need to have some continuity with such as club Treasurer and club 2nd VP/newsletter editor.  If those positions go begging at some point in the future, I believe we are in real trouble.

 

I am also very well aware that as a hobby organization we cannot coerce people to run for positions that they do not want.  (Most say that they do not have the time, even though a good number are now retired.)  So does anyone reading this have suggestions for attracting and keeping officers?  I fear that our club, like others, may have trouble surviving if we are unsuccessful in getting members to step up to the plate.

 

Barry Simon


Edited by BarrySimon615, 28 November 2019 - 11:21 AM.

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#2 Dynan

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:41 AM

One sure way is to offer compensation. Many folks would rather give cash than time. Seems extreme but maybe a solution. Effort deserves reward, even if modest.

 

Being close to your location, I have checked into the PAS, NOLA and you seem to have a nice semi-dark site for use around the city and North Shore. Would be a shame to see that go away. I wonder, does it get used much anymore? Its potential disappearance might be the mild 'coercion' a member needs to step up.

 

But unfortunately it also may be time for the club to dissolve. As Buddha wisely said, and I paraphrase here:

"The only thing that lasts forever is nothing."


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#3 John O'Hara

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:45 AM

Barry,

 

I think many of the thoughts being shared on this thread "Why Aren't There More Young Astronomers?" (https://www.cloudyni...ng-astronomers/) overlap with the question you ask here, because I think the struggles young people have with joining in and participating are nor restricted to millennials and younger, but are more pervasive in culture in general.

 

One thought is that many people have substituted social media, such as CN, for clubs.  In many ways, CN fulfills the functions that only clubs could several years ago.  Social media also has the further advantage of not having to put work into maintaining real relationships.  There is no real commitment. Relationships take work. 

 

I think reasons are almost as varied as the stars in the sky.  People work longer hours for less money.  Both husband and wife work, meaning more demand on both spouses in keeping the home livable.  Retirees are more frequently called on for babysitting grandchildren, or, in many cases, raising grandchildren.  People in general spend less time at home in their free time.  Why work your club's star party when you can travel to another star party, pay the fee, and relax and be served?  I think it's impossible to hit every reason.  It seems to me that many (not all) folks view volunteer organizations with the attitude of "What can it do for me" rather than, "How can I serve?"  What varies is the reason for that attitude. 

 

I do agree that astronomy clubs are in trouble in this regard.  In fact, it seems to be an issue even with large clubs like the Saguaro Astronomy Club in Phoenix, who, like your club, are lacking a secretary.  If a club in prime astro country like the desert Southwest is struggling, that is a scary prospect for the rest of us.


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#4 sg6

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:47 AM

What is the "approach" of the club?

Do people sit down formally and decide things?

Is it more easy going and flexible?

 

Afraid the "younger" section may not want the sort of older rigidity.

In a way how much could you/they do by email and the internet? Might seem extreme and is I suppose an extreme idea but people are used to internet and email and likely would find that approach more familiar in some ways.

 

How easy going is the club?

Are people making use of the club but have decided nothing further? If so why?

Is the club for the younger lot, younger as in kids and I do mean 8-10-12, not 30-40.

How male dominated is it? Would a woman be welcome, but the title of Secretary may not be appreciated by a woman. Ring s too much of give it to "Sue" she is the secretary.

 

Does or would everything get dumped on the secretary?

As in that is more a job for the secretary and not me. For the seventh time that night. So everyone else walks away with nothing to do, the secretaty gets it all.

 

Is the "committee" only the titled people?

Thinking a few others who are just committee members and so might pick up some aspects.

 

How often does the club meet?


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#5 John O'Hara

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:51 AM

One other thought.  Are any that are reading this thread members of thriving astronomy clubs?  Perhaps it's best to get advice from clubs that are healthy than from ones that are sick.  Just a thought...


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#6 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:59 AM

I left our local club years ago, because I got tired of being one of only two or three people who did everything.  I was still working at the time, with sometimes lots of pressure, and raising a teenager, and the wife working too, so I just stopped going.  The club's not totally defunct now, but nearly so, and has been close for years.  If, say, ten people in that club had divided duties of keeping it going, I might still be there, but those people remained passive.  Plenty were capable.

 

My clubs are now online forums, which have no pressure, lots more members, and more info available.  That's just the way things are now, it seems, maybe just in the US.  IDK about other places.


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#7 Napp

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 12:43 PM

I am a member of two clubs.  Both are growing. One in particular was dying up until a year ago.  The meetings were uninteresting - sometimes an old Nova video.  Membership was dropping rapidly.  None of the officers went to the club’s dark sky site.  A hard core group of observers met often at the dark sky site and was seriously thinking of breaking away to form a new club.  Instead we decided to ‘take over’ the club and try to turn it around.  One of the group is a vision person.  We put together a slate of officers.  Winning the election was easy since no one else was interested in running for office.  It took a lot of work but we have more than tripled membership in the past year.  Especially exciting is seeing old members return.  We’ve worked hard at creating a welcoming environment and are attracting some young folks and women.  We conduct a lot of outreach and invite folks to join us at the dark sky site for some ‘real observing’.  We make sure to take time and help the new folks.  The club purchased three 6 inch DOBs for use as loaners for members.

 

The vision person has been an excellent leader and has given us a vision of having our own observatory.  That will take time and work but we are looking for grants and benefactors to enable us to make it happen.  A new election will be held in January.  So far it appears we have been able to put together a slate of officers.  Whether we can pull off our plans going forward will depend on each year’s officers and how well they can mobilize the membership.  I’m cautiously optimistic we can do it.  But you have to have a good leader and a few folks willing to do the hard work.


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#8 TOMDEY

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 01:10 PM

Lot of good insights above, but also parochial fixation on only one's local problems and personal projection of problems that don't generally exist...

 

>it's always been tough to attract willing and able volunteer officers to NFPs

>like most things, interest is a particular hobby's social aspects wax and wane

>significant pay isn't within the budget or charter of most (nearly all) clubs

>people working longer and harder for less pay... is a modern myth; we have more pay, benefits, and free time than historically

>remote social media replacing direct interaction is a major problem aka both too much and too little

>"outreach" can get pushed over the top... where not all members feel compelled to become apostles, so stay home

>clubs are not dominated by ~angry old men~ that's just mythical political extension from watching too much TV

>many clubs are thriving, some have seen better days and nights    Tom


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#9 John O'Hara

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 01:55 PM

Perhaps your right about regional issues coloring thoughts on what's happening nationwide.  I live in a rural Northeastern rust belt community.  Here, people often work two low paying jobs to earn less than what they got for one decent manufacturing job.  

 

I also think there's truth to the fact that we expect a higher standard of living than we used to.  Just look at what passes for a "middle class" home on a TV sitcom, and compare it to that same middle class home in the sitcoms of the 50's and 60's.  We also have more than one car per home, and bills that never existed back then (e.g., cable, internet, cellular service and phones, etc.)  Expenses like these demands both parents working... that is, if it's a two parent home.  I'm sure this is very complex.


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#10 TOMDEY

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 02:06 PM

Perhaps your right about regional issues coloring thoughts on what's happening nationwide.  I live in a rural Northeastern rust belt community.  Here, people often work two low paying jobs to earn less than what they got for one decent manufacturing job.  

 

I also think there's truth to the fact that we expect a higher standard of living than we used to.  Just look at what passes for a "middle class" home on a TV sitcom, and compare it to that same middle class home in the sitcoms of the 50's and 60's.  We also have more than one car per home, and bills that never existed back then (e.g., cable, internet, cellular service and phones, etc.)  Expenses like these demands both parents working... that is, if it's a two parent home.  I'm sure this is very complex.

Yeah... the stuff we want, and conclude we need and must have... can become the embraced albatross that dominates many (most?) families lives. So wind up with the stuff, over-extended finances... and generally unhappy. And "too busy" to volunteer or even smell the roses, or just occasionally... look up.    Tom


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#11 Joe F Gafford

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 08:14 PM

We squeaked by last February with our elections, we had to write this time. The previous 2 years was voted by acclimation as most positions were filled even with one officer position unfilled. It is an ongoing battle. We had a DSS committee meeting several months back and those who showed up had either no or no color hair, half with canes. We are talking about a roll-off roof building with storage for the DSS. We need the younger set help us with it. Dang! It's hard!

 

Joe


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#12 TOMDEY

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 07:08 AM

I believe it was sometime in the 1980s... I was elected chairman of our local club and appointed to the board of the Academy... and somewhat panicked because I was not steeped in Robert's Rules of Order. So, I got the book and read it before my term started... things like how to ~recognize~ someone wanting to speak, making a motion, seconding, voice votes etc. etc. It was very formal. It took only few months before I was entirely comfortable with having the riff-raff ejected and miscreants sent to the dungeon. A couple years later, when I passed the baton... they presented me with a brand new snuff box! Ahhh... those were the days!   Tom

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#13 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 08:45 AM

R R of Order....the stuff that kills clubs, if the formal part lasts more than 10 minutes.


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#14 edwincjones

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 12:18 PM

This , and other threads, remind me of the story of Sisphus rolling the rock up that mountain.

 

Sadly, the heyday of amateur astronomy is over with us Boomers passing,

youth not as interested, increasing LP, etc, etc, etc.

My suggestion is to not try to keep the past

but work on the needs of your current active membership.

What do they want?     Seems like they are ok with the leadership.

 

Do what you can

with what you have

as long as you can.

 

edj


Edited by edwincjones, 29 November 2019 - 12:24 PM.


#15 BarrySimon615

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 05:09 PM

This , and other threads, remind me of the story of Sisphus rolling the rock up that mountain.

 

Sadly, the heyday of amateur astronomy is over with us Boomers passing,

youth not as interested, increasing LP, etc, etc, etc.

My suggestion is to not try to keep the past

but work on the needs of your current active membership.

What do they want?     Seems like they are ok with the leadership.

 

Do what you can

with what you have

as long as you can.

 

edj

Yes, "being ok with the leadership" is really the problem.  Most take the leadership for granted.  The leadership becomes the sled dogs pulling the sled and the problem is when the leadership rightfully realizes that having the same leaders long term does not last forever.

 

5 years ago I, am some of my closer friends in the club, saw that our club had become complacent.  The membership was ok with just coasting and the club was slowly going downhill with dropping membership and just business as usual.  There was little energy, little electricity.  Some of us stepped in and I ran again for President, going on to serve for 3 more years.  Now I have 9 years total in that position dating all the way back to 1983.  4 additional years in other positions.  While we did good jobs and attempted to reinvigorate our club you are correct in your "heyday of amateur astronomy"  statement.  The club does continue to try to invigorate the membership but it is difficult and those that hold positions find it difficult to want to do that long term.  So we do what we can and we hope that us "old, tired sled dogs" will be relieved by some new young pups......but we are not holding our breath.

 

Barry Simon



#16 Alex McConahay

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 08:25 PM

Don't start by asking somebody to be one of the "five offices." Start with asking them to do some dumb little thing. And then do it again, and then another. Next thing you know, they are a leader. A while of that and they will be one of the five officers. 

 

Really. 

 

(Also by asking somebody to do little jobs first, you find out if they would make a good leader. If so, fine. If not, then stop asking them to do any more than they can do. Remember the Peter Principle. )

 

Alex


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#17 harbinjer

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 02:09 AM

For the immediate question: could you break it up into scribe/recorder/clerk and a gopher. Or ask that several people take small volunteer roles, like what Alex McConahay suggested. Actually Alex's suggestion is golden, I think. Often people won't volunteer, but will accept small missions if you ask them. Just consider if you should do it privately, so they don't feel put on the spot. 

 

Also if there is a task that two could do, get two, just make sure they will communicate. And another two for a second task, and one for particularly small tasks, just get people into the mindset of doing small things for the club. 

 

I see healthy club as having a few components:

1) Dark sky observing

2) outreach observing/sidewalk astronomy

3) club meetings

4) publicity/visibility

5) special projects/regional meetings/long term planning

 

 

I would ask about #2, do you do outreach? In my club, I feel like a few years ago we gained a few members that wanted to do more committed, disciplined outreach every month, and that has definitely added some life to the club. In the September "Reflector" from the AL, there was an article about gaining and retaining new members. That is a great starting point for enlivening a club. I would also ask about #3, are you club meetings dull? Or are the interesting lively events? One of the Reflector article points is to remove the "club business" from the public meeting entirely. I think if that part is 10 minutes or less, its fine, and it helps with transparency. 

 

I feel like growing membership, and getting people to do small things are the biggest things that will keep the club alive and roles filled.



#18 edwincjones

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 07:34 PM

................

  Most take the leadership for granted. 

.....................................

does not last forever.

..........................  

9 years   4 additional years 

................................

 

us "old, tired sled dogs".

..........

relieved by .............

 

 

 

 

 

question.gif           is it time        question.gif

 

edj


Edited by edwincjones, 04 December 2019 - 07:37 PM.


#19 Ron359

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 07:35 PM

Having vacant positions is only a 'real problem' if you are an incorporated 501c3 non-profit and legally incorporated in your state.  Then having all the officers and some sort of executive board spelled out in By-laws are legally binding requirements.   If your 'club' is a 501c3 and can't fill the positions, then you should probably dissolve the 501c3 with the IRS as you can't operate as a legal non-profit.

 

 In my experience the legal requirements are often ignored (basically just blown them off)  by the remaining officers and board at the risk of their members, the public who attend meetings or star parties, sponsors and any donors expecting a good result for their money. But thats a clear sign of irresponsible board members and its best just to get out.   

 

Sometimes its just going to be simpler to be an 'informal club' of individuals who happen to own telescopes and not have the responsibilities and legal 'burdens' of a non-profit with elected officers, board and bylaws.   You also give up the protections and fund-raising advantages of being a non-profit though.  Good luck.  



#20 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 07:43 PM

When it gets down to just a few members, informal is probably the way to go.



#21 BarrySimon615

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 10:50 PM

When it gets down to just a few members, informal is probably the way to go.

We still have a membership of about 80 (memberships can be individuals, families or couples with families and couples counted as "1".  Typical meeting attendance these days is about 25 to 30.  In years past (mid 90's) we had a membership pushing 200 with a typical meeting attendance of about 45 to 60.

 

Note Post #17 above where 5 criteria for a healthy club are listed.  We do all of those things with typically about 20 or so outreach events per year with some of those having very good attendance of 50 to 100+ at each.

 

Barry Simon


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#22 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 11:06 PM

We still have a membership of about 80 (memberships can be individuals, families or couples with families and couples counted as "1".  Typical meeting attendance these days is about 25 to 30.  In years past (mid 90's) we had a membership pushing 200 with a typical meeting attendance of about 45 to 60.

 

Note Post #17 above where 5 criteria for a healthy club are listed.  We do all of those things with typically about 20 or so outreach events per year with some of those having very good attendance of 50 to 100+ at each.

 

Barry Simon

That's a large club for most places.  When I said a few, I was thinking 8 to 10 or less members.



#23 John Kocijanski

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 09:17 PM

Our club reformed about a little over two years ago after a few years in "hibernation".  In the past there were a set of officers who volunteered for the positions.  Now essentially there are only officers "on paper" for membership in the Astronomical League.  I am the "facilitator" for the club in that I schedule events, admin our facebook page, collect dues, and pay our minimal bills.  Keeping things simple makes running the club easier to deal with.  Being retired allows me to devote the time needed to keep things going. 

 

Our membership has grown to around 20 since the reboot.  Most of our starwatch events are members only.  Two starwatches are public with one being hosted by a local environmental organization.  The two public events we did this year were well attended.  We do public astronomy movie night events in local libraries and education centers.  At a movie night an astronomy documentary is shown with discussion breaks and if the sky cooperates a short starwatch follows.  The movie nights are well received and is a way to promote the club and add members.  Astronomy education events are done as well in local libraries for children and scout groups.  The club also makes an annual "field trip" to NEAF.  All that being said only a handful of the membership consistently participates in events.  Not only is that the case for the reboot but also for the past. Most of the current members are more "casually" into the hobby although most have telescopes.  I do my best to offer opportunities for members to get out and participate in club events.  I'm sure there are a variety of reasons that impact a person's desire to get out under the stars.


Edited by John Kocijanski, 29 December 2019 - 09:40 PM.



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