Friday, October 03, 2008

Lots of Talk - Any Action?

Houston, We Have a Problem . . .

There have been several comments on the S&P Blog of late that when you put them all together begin to paint a picture that might well warrant concern and attention. Here are a few quotations from those postings – see if they catch your eye:

In times of economic uncertainty, successful organizations return to their core business and delay any/all expansion plans including growth in staffing modules.

I have no idea what business model Craig is following, but it sure isn't the one that tilts toward success. He reminds me of a Democrat controlled Congress; spend more and continue to raise taxes.

And then
Absolute power corrupts absolutely...

It looks like the NBD (and the ED) have been operating without any checks and balances for some time now. Or at least just chose which checks and balances they would follow.

Class action lawsuit?

Followed by:
Any consideration for any punitive measures against the NBD or ED for purposefully ignoring its own (NBD) rules or the rules of the Grand Chapter? Censure? A vote of no confidence? Impeachment? A return of a certain amount of fees to local chapters?

Here is a very clear statement that needs to be followed:
The real issue is one of transparency. What may have been acceptable year's ago is not acceptable for businesses and non-profits alike in a post Sarbanes-Oxley environment.

There is a difference between customers and contributors, staff and volunteers.


Poor allocation of limited resources by requiring a staff to participate in a junket at donor expense is a mis-use of resources and should become a priority.

The NBD has historically held a pre-meeting at the next GC Conclave site and for good reasons --- to scope out the facility, and to do so at potentially lower over costs --- a wise use of resources.

I am very proud of my Fraternity, and happy to serve as one of its long-term volunteers. I have personally benefitted from the experience beyond measure. And we "get it right" 95% of the time across the board, far better than anyone else.

However, it saddens me when we fritter away our resources unnecessarily in a day when the dollar is hard to get and keep. Mark my words, it's going to be a bumpy ride worldwide economically for the next five years and those that spend unnecessarily now will live to regret their foolish ways.

There have been concerns about what is happening to senior staff members disappearing and suddenly retiring and then concern about costs of staff and an October staff meeting in Las Vegas:
The staff expense went from $765,000 in 2000 to $1,700, 122 in 2007. That’s the number. $59.22 in 2000 per member now $118.45 per member. A 101% increase!

So, reduced staff coverage by 11% by increasing cost 100%.....stellar results in a decreasing wage inflation environment, especially for a non-profit.

Isn’t another expense a PR firm on retainer? Need to use it.

The point was also made again about a massive decrease in marketshare.


Perception becomes reality
The staff meeting is a perception thing. We tell chapters to be careful not to host events that would make the fraternity look bad yet Craig sees nothing wrong with spending undergraduate fees to host a staff vacation in Vegas. The staff who are on the BOG should be paying their way to the party like everyone else. It is just wrong.

Grand chapter by-laws not allowed to get in the way of progress
Check the grand chapter bylaws....editor of the Journal is supposed to be a Brother. When is Gay-Lynn Carpenter being initiated? She clearly is listed as Editor in the publications and on the website.

And then there is the stuff about money and charges to chapters
The bylaws clearly state that the fees to chapters may not be raised unless a 2/3 vote of the GCC approves it.

Specifically, the Grand Chapter bylaws state:
Sigma Phi Epsilon Administrative Policies and Procedures
Section D
EXPENDITURES
9. The National Board of Directors may authorize expenditures from the funds of the Fraternity
for the general operation of the Fraternity, including the operation of the Headquarters, and
for such other purposes as are specifically provided for in the Bylaws and Administrative Policies and Procedures.

10. A two-thirds vote of the Grand Chapter shall be necessary on all questions involving the
expenditure of any funds of the Fraternity not specifically provided for in the Bylaws and
Administrative Policies and Procedures.

Grand Chapter Bylaws
Article II
Section 7. The Grand Chapter shall determine the sources of revenue to meet the expenses of the
Grand Chapter and shall fix the amount of fees as may be required.
Section 8. All fees except charter fees shall be approved by the Grand Chapter.

Conclave went from $500 to $675 this two year period.
According to minutes of the NBD and Conclave this was never approved . It was reported to the NBD but not in the minutes.

To review the way one commentator understood it:
The Sig Ep Foundation money is a grant to SPE inc. for an educational purpose.
HQ (by way of NLC) puts on the CLAs and bills the chapters an amount that should equate to the cost difference of producing CLAs.

However, the NLC changed the makeup and required attendees of CLA. This resulted in an extra cost which was NOT subsidized by the Foundation Grant.

To cover the additional cost NLC increased the fees charged to the chapters.
However the bylaws state that fee increases must be introduced and voted on by the Grand Chapter (at Conclaves)


So according to the bylaws: a) CLA fees cannot increase; b) the fraternity could shoulder the extra cost if the NBD directs; c) but the Grand Chapter would have to approve, by a 2/3rd vote, that expense.

And if they don't? Then what? Heads rolling down the aisles!!!

Is that about it?

CLA – Problems with cost and locations
According to Ron Binder, chairman of the NLC he seems to think that the NBD voted to raise the fee. The NBD liaison person OK'd the increase to the NLC. The change does not appear in the NBD minutes. Something like that would be more than a casual thing and would be on the record. It would have to be official and would then have to be reported to the Grand Chapter to be approved at Conclave after the fact.

It appears that the NBD has been doing this for years and ignoring the bylaws when it's convenient to them. We need more of the affected chapters to speak up and express their concern.

Can anyone recall if the when the past conclaves stopped ratifying the actions of the board since the previous Conclave? We have been operating in violation for some time, if that is so.

Location, location, location
If you draw a circle around the 5 cities they booked that is about 250 miles (5 hours drive) you see where the chapters who get screwed by the CLA Change.

Supposedly the staff ran the numbers to calculate that the average chapter only added 2 hours to their drive. One look at the maps and one can see long drives for many chapters.


Costs of CLA
The charge for chapters for CLA:

2005 - $175 (4 officers & CC)
2006 - $225 (4 officers & CC)
2007 - $350 (4 officers & CC)
2008 - $500 (5 officers & CC)

If the NLC keeps adding officers as they are planning to the CLA at this rate the small chapters will no longer afford to be SigEp chapters.

These costs are exclusive of the hidden costs of extra hotel rooms and transportation. While it's great to set a goal that chapters send all 7 officers we can't bankrupt our smaller chapters to support one program.

Will we be raising the $675 per year charge for the Grand Chapter Conclave in 2009?


One Commentator Stated:
We need to move the burden for these programs over to the Annual Fee or abandon our small chapters.

In the fall 2008 semester a young man in a 30 man chapter (40 men on the March PMR) will pay $199.17 to the Grand Chapter from his fall dues. If we keep increasing the chapter fixed costs the men in these chapters feel the pain more than the larger chapters.

It's getting more and more painful for our small chapters to meet the financial obligations to the Grand Chapter. Many of these chapters are at smaller state schools where many of the students are on financial aid and working to stay in school. When the fees go up these chapters have to either cut programming or increase their dues. Both of these options make it more difficult for them to grow their numbers.

I hope the National Board of Directors considers these things before we increase the tax burden to these kids.


The Much Expanded National Housing Corporation
The announcement of an additional employee for the NHC raised more than an eyebrow:
National Housing Corporation Fills New Volunteer Recruiter Position

Sigma Phi Epsilon is pleased to announce that Jessica Faison has joined the National Housing Corporation's staff as volunteer recruiter.

The National Housing Corporation created the new position to focus on recruiting to fill vacant volunteer positions for the 35 Alumni & Volunteer Corporation Boards that are targeted for housing fundraising programs over the next four years.

One writer commented:
Legally, the NHC needs to be such to protect the Fraternity. And if like the Ed Foundation they can support their revenue expenses, then okay. The problem is that they are using the chapter's money to operate and not being very prudent. From what I understand collections are way off, but that does not surprise me. RDs used to have to work to get chapters and AVCs to understand the importance of rent increases and full facilities...it now is at the NHC so falls under the 'not my job' function when in the field - when the conversations are most effective.

Another said
How many "non Brothers" are we going to employ at Headquarters? Could we not find a SigEp to be able to relate to volunteers?

It was learned long ago that staff is ineffective as a recruitment tool for volunteers. No one is interested in listening to a 22 year old.


Suggestion from several:
Someone should propose legislation requiring that the bylaws be amended that all full time jobs should be offered to members of the fraternity who have been initiated at least 1 year. An exception could be made for administrative positions. Should a qualified member of Sigma Phi Epsilon not be available then the NBD may grant an exception and it noted in the minutes.

Justification is that if we are truly graduating the best men out there we should be hiring from that same pool of men. Who best understands our business than our own members?


It certainly has been a busy few days with lots of concern. SigEp needs to pay attention to those who pay the bill - the undergraduate chapters and the volunteers. That would quickly return focus to the right source.