1. Introductory Webinar

Webinar Date: 12/10/2014 at 8pm ET

Discussion Board now open! Please use the comment box below.

Discussion Board Closes: 6/10/2015

In this introductory webinar, the officers outlined the various challenges that have led NOW to where it is today, in addition to how NOW plans to address these issues in 2015. The officers presented the organization’s financial challenges from 2004-2009 and the steps taken to facilitate NOW’s recovery from debt in 2009-2012. The recovery prompted a 2012 Board retreat, the outcome of which created the Structure Modernization Working Group. The timeline of the working group’s efforts were clearly delineated and included its work at the 2012 NOW Conference. Furthermore, the officers expanded on how the group’s work has continued through 2014. Also addressed during the webinar are the external challenges NOW faces, highlighting that these challenges and NOW’s internal structure must be considered when undergoing this participatory process leading up to the 2015 Strategy Summit & Bylaws Convention.

Introductory Webinar Recording

PowerPoint from Introductory Webinar


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39 thoughts on “1. Introductory Webinar

  1. What a terrific idea, Patricia!! That would be wonderful!


  2. Here’s a new topic: the advisory committee.
    The bylaw is fine as far as it goes, but we’ve never really expressed in policy what the advisory committee should be doing, other than this, “The Advisory Committee shall be available to the Board for advice and consultation as requested and for assistance in fundraising.”
    My proposal is that we adopt policy stating that the advisory committee will assist in the identification and cultivation of potential major donors to NOW. At the beginning of every term, each advisory committee member will also make a commitment to give or get a significant and appropriate amount of money, taking into consideration the member’s resources, including contacts, geographic location, existing responsibilities and other relevant factors.
    Especially in the absence of a development director, this would be a great help to our organization.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judi Polson, NOW-NYC:

    Amber, thanks for raising this. I agree with Patricia Ireland’s wise observation that NOW’s culture may not be the most welcoming to new feminists. Increased membership and increased diversity, by definition, can come only from new members, so I strongly agree we need a welcoming onboarding approach. From the discussion on April 12, such an approach would seem to be categorized as an Administrative Policy, which the membership has limited visibility into. We’ll have to see. Thanks for your thoughtful focus–keep ’em coming!


  4. I am looking forward to addressing the issues raised during the structure modernization process and moving forward with the necessary adjustments to our operating procedures and protocols. I hope that following the national conference this summer we will be able to more fully turn our attention to what I perceive to be the biggest challenge facing our organization – the need to strengthen efforts to recruit, retain, and develop new and young leaders and activists.

    While we have begun to see membership rebound a bit in the past couple of years, compared to years past, we have a much reduced membership and many chapters often struggle to fill leadership positions. In order to ensure that our organization remains relevant, effective, and sustainable long term, it is critical that we develop a robust pipeline of new and young leaders. As one of the youngest members of the National Board (if not the youngest) and one of the youngest and most active chapter leaders in the country, I strongly encourage that we prioritize taking a serious look at the resources and supports we make available to incoming leaders in addition to thinking through why or why not people are attracted to our organization.

    -Amber Kirchhoff, Chicago NOW


  5. This is the only message board that I am finding. I cannot find one attached to the other topics. So do we just leave our comments on this message board and reference which webinar we are speaking about?


    • Judi Polson, NOW-NYC:

      Hi, Heather. Let me see if I can help…scroll to the very top of the whole page, and look for the dark blue bar across the top. Hopefully you’ll see topics 1 through 6 listed there. Hover your mouse over one of them; you should then get a light-gray dropdown where all the proposals are listed. You should be able to hover your mouse over one of these, click on it, and then get the message board for it. Hope that works….hang in!!–Judi


      • Judi,
        Thanks for the reply. When I do that there’s nothing there! I see the recorded webinar info but no message box. I’ve tried opening the page on Firefox and Internet Explorer. :/


  6. Glad to learn you are having a session of strategic planning, Heather. I’m not sure where it would fit in the webinars that are scheduled, but strategic planning at all levels of NOW would be a huge benefit in making us more effective. Seeing us engaging in strategic planning could also encourage more feminists to join NOW as a group that will put their time to best use in improving women’s lives.


    • Thanks Patricia. We are needing to look at how to engage our members in the state. And possibly re-organize. Right now only a handful of us are active and it makes it extremely hard to get things done. Also, because NOW is such a well known organization, we have folks in the community complaining that we aren’t doing more. I really appreciated the Sub-Units webinar because I realized we aren’t operating in Indiana like the structure is typically set up. We have one chapter in Indianapolis that meets and that is about it.


  7. This is all very helpful and I’m glad its happening. I’m rather new to NOW from a member standpoint than many others are. I followed NOW for years but finally paid dues and got more involved in 2011. I feel at times a bit on a learning curve. But as the newly elected Indiana NOW State President, I wanted to host a strategic planning session with our state council and when I started to think about putting together a SWOT analysis, much of what is being discussed in these webinars was in line with what I was thinking. It was a bit comforting to know that some of our weaknesses/threats and opportunities are not only concerns or happening at the local level but Nationally and elsewhere.


    • It’s true that in the 3 years I’ve been involved with the modernization process, certain themes come up repeatedly. I’m putting strategic planning on the list.


  8. Some of this will come up in the next webinar, Feb 25, on Money & Members. I really like Gay’s idea of re-defining give or get, but then as has been pointed out, every board member gives time. So, perhaps it should be give and get: give time and get members


  9. I know what give or get is in the real world but I was thinking what if we redefined it. Maybe get could mean sign up so many members and give could mean give so much time. And it could be a guideline for us to measure ourselves on rather than a qualification. My one example is that I am a member of ADA because my friend wants to be on the board and he contacts me personally every year to remind me to renew. So maybe its not all bad.

    The other thought I had was about givers. If I ask someone to give a large amount of money what do I offer them in return. Usually its a voice. So what could we do to give large independent givers input into our organization without giving up grassroots control?


  10. When I heard the phrase “Give or Get” I wasn’t sure what it meant. A little bit of discussion quickly clarified the meaning. Give or get refers to some kind of requirement or expectation that a Board Member either donates or they fund raise. No set amount was envisioned.

    I didn’t like it without quite knowing why. So I set to mulling the matter over for a few days. My first thoughts were: location, location, location. Geography effects fund rising. Not every one lives in an area were fund raising for NOW on a large scale is practical. I thought back to my own time on the Board and realized that my living in a big liberal city created certain expectations of what I could/should do. I can best explain these expectations in a non-monetary context. The Board was discussing what Board Members could do to become part of or at least be a resource for one’s local newspaper’s editorial board. I laughed. When asked what was funny my answer was that my local daily was the New York Times. I suggested that National should be the one’s to work on that particular local newspaper. Living in the right spot was not enough. So my first bit of mulling lead me to knowing that the ability to “get” might be linked to location but I no closer to what was bugging me.

    My second bit of mulling lead me to a friend who at one time was on the board of a large well funded political non-profit’s PAC, that had a very large required “Give or Get” for it board members. My friend didn’t have either the “Give” or the ability to “Get” the amount of money that was required. The very rich men on the board very much wanted the wisdom of this particular feminist so they pitched in to make up her “Get”. I was now much closer to what is wrong about “Give or Get”. The ethics of this particular group were above reproach but it could have been a very different situation.

    My antenna was quivering. A flat out “Give or Get” was wrong but I and countless Board Members had worked on fund raising for National NOW events and issues so maybe it was the requirement part that was my problem. I got as far as “a willingness to engage fund raising activities” as one qualification among others.

    This seemed workable for about 20 seconds. I realized I had been concentrating on the get and trying to figure out what was wrong with it. But there is a give, which means you can buy your way out. AND that’s the rub. You only have to “get” if you can’t “give” and that’s discrimination of the worst sort. That’s an exemption from what should be a duty based on class. If you are poor you have to get but if you have money you can give instead.

    This being NOW there is history. In the very early 70’s at a particular Regional Conference women unable to pay the registration fee had to work at the conference and wear different color badges. The conference, its decisions and resolutions, every thing about it was protested and declare null and void. It was, I believe, the first time we confronted our own classism. While no one has suggested anything so dumb since, we constantly struggle as individuals and as an organization with access and the cost of that access.

    So no “Give or Get” as a qualification or requirement or expectation. But that understanding would not preclude “a duty to engage in and cooperate with National NOW fund raising activities.” The idea being that everyone has to help get but no one can buy their way out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a please don’t laugh. I have been reading and rereading documents and there is a reoccurring mention of regulations/IRS/reporting requirements and the difficulties these present. This is not an area with which I have recent familiarity but I do have some memories of what a burden they were in the 80’s. So I have a question.
    Background: I’m a fan of the Colbert Report and enjoyed a reoccurring bit in which Colbert started a super PAC similar to the type the Kock Brothers use. The part he was making fun of was the complete lack of regulations and reporting. He did not have to report how much money was raised, who the contributors were, or what was done with the money. Is there any way we could use that type of organization to raise money and get out from under the regulation and reporting burden? Is there so one out there who would either answer my question or refer me to another source of information.


    • I think that’s an idea we should explore. I am a member of a Super PAC called LPAC that is specific to electing lesbians.


    • Hi, this is Judi Polson from NOW-NYC. We need an accountant to answer this definitively, and I’m not one, but here’s a quick outline from my experience.

      The key pieces of the puzzle are 1) incorporation, and 2) the distinction between 501(c)(3) organizations & 501(c)(4)s.

      NOW-NYC, and I expect most NOW Chapters, is a 501(c)(4) organization. 501(c)(4) organizations are tax-exempt, but donations to them are not tax deductible and *the identities of donors do not have to be disclosed*. These organizations are allowed to engage in unlimited lobbying activities, and can engage in some campaign activity, as long as it is not their primary activity. Check out http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Other-Non-Profits/Types-of-Organizations-Exempt-under-Section-501%28c%29%284%29.

      NOW-NYC also has its Service Fund, which is a 501(c)(3). 501(c)(3) organizations enjoy significant benefits, such as receiving *tax exempt contributions* and not having to pay taxes on income. Briefly: if people are to get a tax deduction for donating to you, the IRS has to accept you as a 501(c)(3). In return for those benefits, the public is allowed to inspect/copy documents (such as the Form 990 or 990-EZ) that these organizations file with the IRS. More here: http://www.501c3.org/frequently-asked-questions/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-501c3-organization/.

      FYI: The right uses this same type of structure also. Examples: The Koch Brothers’ “Americans for Prosperity” also consists of two separate entities: “Americans for Prosperity,” a 501(c)(4), and the “Americans for Prosperity Foundation,” a 501(c)(3). Citizens United is also a 501(c)(4) with an associated 501(c)(3) Foundation.

      Not to forget 527s, or Super PACs. They can raise an unlimited amount of contributions from most entities — individuals, unions, and corporations — so long as they don’t expressly advocate either way for a candidate, or coordinate with a candidate’s campaign or a political party. These got created after a 1976 Supreme Court decision and got big in the 1990’s.

      You can see this gets complicated pretty quickly. Being able to prove that your Chapter/State organization meets the very specific definitions is key.

      Even more key, actually, is that organizations first have to be incorporated to be either a 501(c)(3) or a a 501(c)(4). Incorporation provides a number of significant benefits on its own. These include protection from personal liability for the group’s activities, which is important when our advocacy efforts provoke legal quarrels. For example: if NOW wasn’t incorporated, the Koch brothers could personally sue you, or me, or any dues-paying member, for just about anything NOW did. More about incorporating here: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/five-reasons-incorporate-nonprofit-association-30266.html

      So, yes, that makes us a corporation [ 😦 !! ] which brings us under the scope of corporate law, which has fairly extensive disclosure requirements. Basically: corporations can do about anything legal with their money, as long as they disclose where the money went. So they have to disclose on a regular basis, and their disclosures have to be audited (where a professional outside the organization basically says “yes, these financials seem accurate, or at least believable, to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)”). To tell the truth, where I see the most administrative overhead is in maintaining the classic balance sheets and such that provide that disclosure. And the more activity you have, the more work that is. You can bet that the Koch brothers have a slew of lawyers making sure they meet the letter of the law on both corporate and 501(c) regulations.

      That’s too long an answer–sorry! I only know about this because of what NOW-NYC went through to put processes and people in place so we could provide those disclosures on a routine basis as painlessly as possible. It’s why a skilled Treasurer is needed, to make sure the bookkeeping gets done properly.

      So you can see that all this could be a significant burden for a Chapter of just a few people, especially when it’s just starting out. This is why I like Prop #3–it gives those Chapters more flexibility.

      Anyhow, apologies for the length and probably boring-ness of this post…! Not trying to baffle anyone with bull–it’s just a complicated area. Again: an accountant or a corporate lawyer can provide much better info.

      Liked by 1 person

    • OK…I’m not laughing, Theresa. I’m putting it on the list!
      BTW, I’m so glad to have you involved in this.


    This will be a monumental action for us to address many of the structural issues that NOW has struggled with in the recent decade. I hope many chapters find what works best for their local activists and that the national office will be able to provide meaningful campaigns and tools to help them keep a vital presence.

    Each community is different and has different needs, strengths and weaknesses. (The same goes for the people involved!) So let’s do what is necessary to push beyond these growing pains and come out with an organization that will be contemporary and powerful. Here’s looking forward to a historical 2015 for all of our members and supporters.


  13. Judi Polson, member and Board Chair of NOW-NYC. First, let me thank the National team for their hard work.

    I agree with much of what Gay says. I completely agree that we must retain our character and perception as a grassroots organization. I like your definition, Gay, and also agree with your point regarding organizational responsibility. To your point: I wish we could spend all our time marching and lobbying, but you’re right–we have to keep our lights on if we are to help other women. Hence the importance of the budget conversations.

    Key point: we can’t cost-cut our way to prosperity–it just doesn’t work that way. I appreciate the proposals Terry and everyone else have made to reduce costs, but if we are to be a powerful organization in the long run, we must grow, not shrink. So I recommend we shift at least some of our energy toward increasing our income; responsible organizations realize they have to address both sides of the equation.

    Income point #1: We have to get used to the idea that we must get money from people who have it. Typically, activists don’t have much money. It makes me uncomfortable that a huge part of the answer to a budget shortfall is to keep going back to our members for funding. The women who need us the most have limited resources, as Mary Akerstrom noted.

    Income point #2: It helps to ask. Many lucrative opportunities have been opened up for women since 1966, and many women know it. Some of these women are successful lawyers, doctors, accountants, entrepreneurs etc., etc., in part because of NOW’s efforts. A lot of them have focused on their jobs/businesses and lost touch with feminism in general and NOW in particular over the years. We find at NOW-NYC that many of them are willing to give back. We reach out to them as individuals and form ongoing funding relationships with them. This is a big part of how a Development Director spends her time. Yes, it takes some effort up front, but it helps an organization in many ways to change its mindset from begging to partnership, from victim-driven charity to investing in women’s lives and futures.

    Income point #3: I realize that many charitable organizations find that the give/get requirement for Board members is lucrative. However, those organizations are not typically grassroots activist organizations–see income point #1. I am extremely concerned that if the give/get requirement is pursued for NOW, we will destroy our grassroots reputation–and the reality. It would be tragic to confirm our critics’ unfair charges that NOW is at core an organization of middle-class white women who cling to power for themselves, and only peripherally concern themselves with the concerns of their less-fortunate sisters. I believe we have other funding options that are more consistent with our deeply-held values.

    This is just my perspective; I hope it’s helpful. Many thanks to all who have put in so much effort already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with these income points: In particular, that board members should not be required to engage
      in give/get fund-raising. NOW offers sliding scale memberships to encourage less financially advantaged
      feminists to join, and it would be unfair to deny these members the opportunity to serve on the board simply because they are not in a position to contribute funds, or to devote additional time to fund-raising..Those who hold board positions are already committed activists who give their time, talent, and expertise to NOW free of charge. They are asked to chair and/or serve on various sub-committees and task forces.They deal with NOW’s issues, strategies and policies, attend meetings, and webinars, and most maintain their positions of leadership in their state and local chapters. I do not think they should also be asked to raise funds.
      I agree with the point that we must get money from people who have it, and perhaps a separate non/board entity for fund-raising might be established, comprised of members/supporters who would be willing to be NOW’s “boosters”, raising money so that the organization can grow and meet its goals.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Judi, for sharing your thoughts. I’m sure some of what you’ve said will come up on Feb. 25 during the webinar on money & members. Your ideas are on the list!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Judi, many of excellent points. Thank you! I had a conversation this morning from a state activist and NOW member who has never been to a national NOW conference, and has no real involvement with national. She was interested enough though to attend some of the webinars on modernization. Her comment to me was telling. She thinks we are being ruled from the top down and that the grassroots is a misnomer. This is a bright woman (Yale graduate), with public policy experience in Washington, D.C. (also executive director experience). She is somewhat fed up. We need to listen more to our general membership and involve them more. If we do, we will grow, and people who can will be more willing to donate money.


      • H
        Seems to me hard to describe our group as top down when the policies and programs are adopted by our grassroots membership as the supreme governing body.


  14. Gay E. Bruhn, Illinois DuPage NOW Chapter. I am a long time member of NOW, former National NOW Board Member and participated in the design of the NOW’s Vision Summit. So the idea of another conference focused on our organization rather than issues seems like a great idea to me. In the interest of full disclosure I am married (In Illinois) to the National NOW Action VP. Does that mean any conflict of interest only applies in Illinois??? I am advisor to the National NOW PAC and proud to be one of those seasoned older folks.

    I think sometime in this process we need to define what sustainable grass roots looks like. When I think of grassroots, I think of lots of members, debating lots of issues, taking action in lots of places with lots of experienced activists serving and wanting to serve in a variety of leadership capacities. And then of course we need lots of ways to communicate about sop we can determine what we want our organization to be and do. Grassroots is a bottom-up kind of organization, isn’t it?

    But if we want to be grassroots, then, we need to take organizational responsibility. Very often organizational tasks are not the fun ones or the ones that get us quotes in the local news. One example I remember from the old days was that our chapter had the largest number of officers of any other chapter. Other chapters often giggled about that but our chapter president at the time believed that people who had a title and commensurate responsibility, would be more committed to the chapter. It worked for me. I went from being in charge of snacks for chapter meetings (Food as opposed to drink Director), program coordinator for October 1998, thru chapter offices, state offices, state president, national board and so on. My point is she (and her board) spent the time to identify and implement ways to get us committed and develop new leaders in ways that didn’t dump on or scare us.
    Our chapter did an annual fundraiser and used it as a scholarship fund for national membership dues. Every volunteer made 10 phone calls (not too much work) and if folks didn’t have phones we did mail. Some people we just asked in person at other meetings. This local fundraising was also a way for us to make sure we contacted every member every year — a renewal strategy — even though chapters don’t do renewal. As for getting input for the 2015 conference, my guess is, that my chapter, state and board representatives from Illinois will actively seek input from all of us through the ways they know are effective like locally led conference calls, webinars, meetings, phone calls, and mailings.
    Thank you for listening.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can’t figure out how to “like” comments, or I would have done so. Some of your suggestions respond to concerns others have raised. For example, Mary Akerstrom (above) raises the issues of those who cannot pay member dues and also how we can make national conferences accessible financially. Your annual chapter fundraiser addresses that. Also, both the fundraising and the increased number of chapter officers are great examples of how skilled delegation of tasks in manageable bits gets the work done and ties people to the chapter’s success.


      • “… increased number of chapter officers are great examples of how skilled delegation of tasks in manageable bits gets the work done and ties people to the chapter’s success.” Patricia, your response to Gay (who had a ton of great ideas!) is an argument not to reduce the size of the national NOW board and Involving more in the operation of NOW. I am really torn between the cost of a large board vs a large board that expands the involvement of people in the day to day operations of NOW. In my short time on the national board I have learned a lot that helps me to involve the grassroots. My little chapter on the rural Oregon coast has 3 of us attending the conference, plus my niece who lives in Portland and her friend are attending. There would not be 5 of us attending and actively interested if I weren’t on the board; there probably would be 0 – 1 of us attending. Again, I understand all of the arguments and am really torn.


      • I understand what you’re saying, Nancy. We can and should involve more activists at the national level through our task forces and conference implementation committees. One problem we face is that we don’t have staff to facilitate the work of our national board, committees and task forces, and few of these groups thrive, much less function, without some facilitation.


  15. Mary Akerstrom, Topeka, KS chapter
    My apologies for delayed response, I do have some notes that reflect my sole opinion.
    -the people we’re trying to fight for cannot afford $35 for food, let alone a membership card. Lower membership fees. I know we have a ‘sliding scale’ but might have better luck getting new members by selling memberships at $10. Perhaps during Women’s History Month, or each anniversary month. 62,000 members nationally seems like a small amount compared to the overall population.
    -grassroots organizing needs professional guides at the state level. Here in Kansas we seem to be flying blind, left to fend for ourselves. Our state population is spread out and dealing with aged population who don’t do well with eCommunication and phone conference structure, and cannot travel.
    -NEED a national development director! Or at least a few folks willing to focus solely on fundraising and membership recruitment.
    -Strengthen states –Kansas had about 20 people actually attend our annual meeting. What can we do? Give assistance to the weakest states. Dive into the red states. Field organizers should be on the ground, live in-person.
    -Members who are poor barely have the cash to BE members, let alone get to the National conference. For Money/Membership topic, please address a way to make the national conference accessible to the poor. Even with delegate voting, chapter members do not have the cash to travel. Impossible to assign a delegate if no one can afford to go.
    -Include environmental issues, because nothing else matters if we can’t breathe the air & drink the water!!! Re-focus needs to include stepping away from, and calling out, the corporate oligarchy; which may also mean breaking up with National Democratic Party.
    -Modernization issues and internet access: How will we be inclusive of members without internet access? Modernization will leave people behind. Heavily dependent on chapter leaders to keep everyone up to speed. People who don’t have internet access also do not have the news sources the internet provides, such as Huffington Post, all the newspapers, blogs, and tweets, etc. They are living in the dark as to the current issues facing our government and society. They are not aware of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the serious environmental issues of climate change and energy sources, or the pay-scale issue of income inequality. They’re not getting Bill Moyers morning reads, or Democracy NOW headlines, or the U.N. declaration that access to abortion is a human right. They don’t know about independent film screenings such as Food, Inc or Shadows of Liberty or The Corporation.
    There is a generation gap that is affecting our ability to communicate with older folks who don’t even own a computer. Who literally believe TV news is still honest and un-biased. Folks who are unwilling to change based on objective evidence of facts as to how and why change is necessary.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share! Looking forward to the next webinar!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for making these points, Mary. I’m making lists of points made on the discussion boards, and yours are noted!
      Patricia Ireland


    • Some excellent points Mary, and thank you for reminding us that we need to think of ALL of our members and would be members. Some thoughts:

      1. I like your idea of having a low cost membership drive, but only for a couple of days a year. My fear would be that members who can afford to pay more would take advantage of the $10 (or whatever figure we chose) days. Going along with that I have a suggestion to raise dues, but certainly keep the sliding scale. Many people can afford to, and would, pay more than $35/year (both AAUW and League of Women Voters dues are much higher); if we don’t ask for more (say $50/year) we won’t get it. People will pay dues who won’t donate.

      2. I totally agree that many states, including Oregon, need help with grass roots organizing. If we organize well at the grass roots level memberships will increase, and we will have more activists to do our work.

      3. Agree we need a national development director. Salary can be based on success (a base salary plus “commission”).

      4. The inability to pay to attend the national conference is a huge issue that we need to address. One option might be televising it via closed circuit television so that everyone could “attend”. I’m not sure how this works or how expensive it is, but I know city councils do it for meetings all of the time. Another option might be to have at least some of the conference covered as a “webinar” that people could call into.


  16. Perhaps since this was an introduction and overview, folks didn’t have a lot of comments. I had thought we might get feedback on the process, but I guess it must be so well done that no one had criticism. Is that a first in NOW?

    Liked by 1 person

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