FAQs for the Proposed USRowing Bylaw Changes
Following are some frequently asked questions that may arise from the proposed changes to the USRowing bylaws. If you have questions that are not addressed in the following, feel free to contact USRowing at 609-751-0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org or anyone on the board of directors for further information and clarification.
- Why change the composition of the Board of USRowing? What are the benefits? The changes will significantly enhance the Board’s focus on growing interest and participation in rowing, and the ability to increase revenue that will be invested in both domestic programs, as well as the National Teams by having the relevant expertise and perspective “at the table” as priority decisions are made. Further, these changes bring USRowing’s governance structure into better alignment with the guidelines of one of our key stakeholders, the United State Olympic Committee.
- What are the risks? The risk is the time it may take to get the new members of the Board up to speed and the entire board operating under the new environment. That being said, doing nothing poses a greater short- and long-term risk to our organization and sport.
- Why now? We currently have a window of opportunity – a new board and a new CEO who bring new perspectives and a fresh approach, and the first year of the Olympic quadrennium. Also, it builds on the momentum of a very successful 2017 (World Rowing Championship in Sarasota-Bradenton FL, growth of our sport, success and visibility in the media at all levels) that provided prominence to our sport on a national and international front.
- How did the Board decide on the composition of board? Over the past six months the board has been examining the governance of USRowing ranging from the size and make-up of the board to its governance polices. Together with its external governance committee, a National Governing Body (NGB) attorney specializing in NGB governance issues, and other NGB outreach, the board has identified best practices to incorporate into its own governance processes. The Board has leveraged the experience from other similar sized NGBs that have increased revenue, programs, and value to members.
- Who can serve on the Board of USRowing? The board of directors is selected without regard to race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin; the expectation is that all Directors are at least eighteen years of age and the gender requirements of one male and one female AAC Athlete Director and at least one female Foundation Director. Directors must continuously be Individual members of USRowing throughout their respective term(s) of office, except AAC Athlete Directors and the Athlete Member Director who must be AAC athlete members and athlete member, respectively, and must maintain that membership in good standing through their respective terms.
- Why has the Board appointed additional directors versus the current system where the membership elects all the directors? Even under the current system, the Board selects the two At-Large members, rather than members electing all the Directors. The proposed changes increase the number of At-Large Directors from two to three and also add three Foundation Directors. This is to ensure that the board has directors with the right mix of skills and experience, such as finance, sports marketing and management, that it needs to provide the strategic guidance necessary for the organization and the growth of the sport.
- What are the advantages & disadvantages of appointed directors compared to elected? By appointing directors, the Board and organization can ensure the skills and experience (e.g. marketing, fundraising, finance) are available to provide the oversight and guidance for the organization to be successful. These skills/experience will change and evolve over time and having appointed directors allows the Board to adapt to the changing needs. Elected Directors, while having a passion for the sport and a desire to give-back through volunteering their time as Board members, may not have the needed skills. This is why the proposed board composition has a combination of both.
- Isn’t my Organizational Member vote diluted by going from 6 regional zones to 4? No, each organization has always had one vote towards a regional director, and that has not changed.
- How will these changes impact USRowing? The domestic rowing programs? The national team programs? The objective/goal of the changes is to benefit the organization as a whole, for all of our domestic programs as well as our national teams. The benefits include increasing revenues by leveraging key competencies including, but not limited to, fundraising, sponsorship engagement, etc., and broadening the depth and diversity of capabilities of the Board to assist USRowing in developing its strategic plan for growth and new services to our members.
- Has adding foundation designated seats been done by other NGBs? Yes, a number of NGB’s have added foundation members to their boards, and the USOC considers it a best practice to ensure donors have insights into the sport and their funding needs. The NGB’s who have added foundation members have seen their funding levels increase by donors.
- Is this adding the NRF at the expense of organizational (i.e. club) members? No, these changes do not disadvantage the organizational members. By incorporating NRF voices on the Board, we will have a more integrated view into the fundraising and a more efficient process for increasing the support of our organization. Historically, the Board members, whether elected by Organizational Members, Individual members or appointed, have brought multiple perspectives to the Board (coach, athlete, masters, youth, collegiate, LOC, referee, etc); we do not anticipate this changing. While a Board member may be recommended by NRF, they most likely will also have other perspectives and affiliations with our sport. USRowing is a membership-led organization and, as such, counts on the participation and interest to serve by both its organizational and individual members.
- Will these changes impact the USRowing sponsored regattas? No. For purposes of the USRowing sponsored district, regional and National Championships that include Youth Nationals (and its qualifiers), Club Nationals and Masters Nationals, the traditional regional regattas will continue. Over the next year, committees made up of coaches, referees, club administrators and USRowing staff will address how to improve the overall regatta execution and experience among the various constituencies including athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers, and local organizing committees.
- Will these changes impact the domestic rowing programs and fees? An increase in resources will benefit domestic programs allowing USRowing to provide additional member services and benefits without increasing costs to membership.
- Will a 15 person board be too large? Too small? The board concluded that 15 board seats was large enough to allow election of directors from a variety of sources (membership elections, athlete elections, board appointments, and foundation appointment) but also not so large that it detracts from the thoughtful and personal involvement of board members.
- Will term and term limits change under the revised bylaws? No, the amendments do not change the provisions regarding terms and term limits. Any new board positions are subject to the same term and term limit provisions as the previously existing board positions. The only exception is that the amendments include “transitional rules” to ensure a smooth transition between board structures, which includes extending the terms of the two current athlete board members from the current expiration date of December 31, 2017 through February 28, 2017, which also means that the initial term of the Athlete Member Director in the new board structure will be two months shorter, on the front end, than normal (i.e., it will still end on a December 31).
- What is the process to revise the USRA bylaws? Can the bylaws be changed in the future? Under Article 60 of the Bylaws, certain provisions of the Bylaws can be changed by a vote of 2/3 of the Board of Directors. Certain provisions, however, require a vote of 2/3 of the athlete members and organizational members. The current proposed amendments include the latter types of amendments, which is why they are being voted on by membership rather than simply by the Board. The existing bylaws include weighted voting provisions and, while the precise weight of any vote depends to some degree on the number of votes cast, the basic idea is that organizational member votes are weighted at 80% and athlete member votes are weighted at 20%. Organization members and athlete members may vote by mail ballot or by a secure, commonly accepted electronic voting mechanism designated by the Board of Directors.
- Is the new CEO in favor of the changes to the Board? Yes, these changes will positively impact the organization’s ability to develop and fund the initiatives that can capitalize on the growing interest and participation in rowing throughout the country. In addition, the ability to increase revenue enables USRowing to have the resources to invest in initiatives that support the continued growth of domestic programming and benefits for our membership, as well as resources for the National Team to increase the number of Olympic and world championship medals.
Why do the proposed amended bylaws delete the requirement of a CEO policy manual and a board policy manual? In consultation with outside NGB counsel, the board determined that deleting these references was consistent with NGB best practices; however, that does not mean that the association will no longer have the CEO policy manual or the board policy manual. These documents continue to exist but they are no longer referenced in the bylaws.
- What is SafeSport? Why has it been added to the bylaws? SafeSport is the Olympic community’s initiative to recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sport. We all play a role in reducing misconduct and abuse in sport. SafeSport provides resources for all members of the sport community – organizations, coaches, parents and athletes – to understand what misconduct is, implement ways to reduce it and identify plans to respond to it. In October of 2013, USRowing adopted new internal policies surrounding SafeSport and joined the United States Olympic Committee in its SafeSport campaign. Beginning January 1, 2015, all USRowing member organizations were required to have their own athlete safety program. In March 2017, the Center for SafeSport opened its doors providing training and resources on SafeSport as well as response and resolution to reports of sexual misconduct for those within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements. This past June, the Board approved amendments to the Bylaws to comply with updated SafeSport rules and requirements. These amendments have already taken effect and are not part of the current vote.
- What if I have additional questions? The proposed revised bylaws will be distributed to the member organizations, as well as published on USRowing’s website. This allows for a review period of 45 days prior to the vote by the membership. During this period, the Board of Directors and staff are available to address questions and provide further background. Please feel free to contact USRowing at 609-751-0700 or email@example.com or anyone on the board of directors for further information and clarification. In addition, information sessions will be scheduled during this period, as well as at the USRowing Convention is Sarasota, FL.