Board of Directors Minutes: June 11, 2014

The Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Studies met by conference call on June 11, 2014.  Those participating were Prof. Kathryn J. Gutzwiller, President, Dr. Adam D. Blistein, Profs. Joy Connolly, Mary C. English, Joseph Farrell, Sara Forsdyke, Bruce W. Frier, Michael Gagarin, Mary-Kay Gamel, Ralph J. Hexter, John Marincola, Laura McClure, Matthew Roller, and Ralph M. Rosen.  Profs. Denis Feeney, Sarah Iles Johnston, John F. Miller, and David H. Porter were absent.  Prof. Gutzwiller called the meeting to order at 2:00 p.m.

Action:  The Directors approved the agenda for the meeting that they had received in advance.

Action:  The Directors approved a draft of minutes they had received for their meeting of January 2, 2014.  Subject to a correction of the list of Directors attending or participating, they also approved minutes of their meeting of January 5, 2014 and of their conference call of January 27, 2014. 

Report of the President

Name Change. Prof. Gutzwiller reported that on May 28 Dr. Blistein had filed the necessary documents to change the name of the Society in the State of Delaware where it is incorporated.  In addition, a committee helping officers to implement the new name had adopted a new logo, which was already in use on the web site and would soon appear in stationery.  She, Prof. Feeney, and Dr. Blistein were working with consultant Laura Mandeles to draft announcements that could be sent to academic institutions and professional societies and to other interested organizations (such as the hotels used for the annual meeting).  Directors discussed further communication of the new name and the possibility of an event to mark the change at the upcoming annual meeting.

Redesign of Web Site.  Guided by Information Architect Samuel Huskey, Profs. Gutzwiller and Gagarin and Dr. Blistein had reviewed proposals from a number of firms to redesign the Society’s web site, and the group had chosen Confluence, a firm that showed considerable technical proficiency as well as familiarity with nonprofit organizations.  The group had also been impressed with Confluence’s thorough discovery process, the early stages of which were already bearing fruit.

New Membership Categories.  A “Making Friends” Committee had developed appeals to chairs of classics departments and to individuals whom Directors and others had identified as likely candidates for the new “Friends of Classics” category.  The Society was gaining a few new members each month in both this category and the Associate Membership for Precollegiate Teachers category.  The upcoming ACL Institute would be an opportunity to recruit new members in both of these categories.

Succession Planning Committee.  Prof. Gutzwiller had formed this Committee earlier in the year to recommend to the Board a list of the skills and qualities needed in the next Executive Director as well as guidelines for conducting the search and determining the suitability of a new site for the office, if necessary.  This Committee would submit a preliminary report in time for the Board meeting in September.

Development

Report of the Development Committee.  Dr. Blistein reported on behalf of Prof. Porter.  An acknowledgment book for the Gateway Campaign had just been published.  This was the culmination of a variety of acknowledgment projects, the majority of which had consisted of one-to-one  interactions between Development Committee members or members of the new Ambassadors group on the one hand and various categories of donors on the other.  The Committee felt that these interactions had had their desired effect of maintaining the culture of giving that the Campaign had created, and they had also generated comments from members on issues in the field that officers were starting to consider.  The Directors had received minutes of the Committee’s meeting in January, and Dr. Blistein noted the section of that document discussing the useful suggestions for changes in appeals that Ambassadors had made. 

Annual Giving. The Directors had received a document describing the growth in annual giving from the 2013 to the 2014 fiscal year.  So far 393 members had contributed a total of just over $56,000 during the current year.  That number of donors represented 13% of all individual members, the level of participation in annual giving reached in 2005 before the beginning of the Campaign.  The Committee’s goal was to reach $60,000 by June 30, and it would likely ask Directors to join it over the next few weeks in meeting that goal.

Financial Matters

Report of the Finance Committee.  The Committee had met on May 15, and the Directors had received draft minutes of that meeting.  Prof. Frier pointed out that the Society had participated in the growth of financial markets, and its four endowments were now worth a total of more than $7 million.  Because of low interest rates and uncertain prospects for further growth, the Society was, at the same time, reducing the amount it withdrew each year from its invested funds.  The Committee was satisfied with its relatively recent decision to make a portfolio of 65% equities and 35% fixed income instruments the target for all funds.  Because the Society’s advisor at BNYMellon could vary from those targets by 10% in either direction, the Committee felt she had the necessary flexibility to deal with fluctuations in financial markets. 

During its meeting the Committee had met with the Society’s advisor and had discussed the fees that BNYMellon was charging.  The Committee was satisfied that the fees were reasonable and that the firm was managing the funds well.  Its performance was superior to some neutral benchmarks and inferior to others.  Because of its size, the Society could not take advantage of some potentially lucrative investments available to larger endowments. 

The Committee hoped to work with the Development Committee to encourage bequests to the Society.  BNYMellon could help the Society to find firms that could help it to accept deferred gifts.  The Committee had reviewed two documents on responsibilities of nonprofit boards and finance committees from BoardSource and recommended that the Board devote some time at its meeting in September to a discussion of one of these documents, possibly with the assistance of a facilitator. 

Preliminary Financial Statement for 2014 Fiscal Year.  The Directors had received a report from Dr. Blistein projecting a surplus of around $50,000 for the year if the Society drew down a total of $110,000 from the General Fund instead of the $125,175 that had been budgeted.  To date the Society had drawn only $90,000 of that amount and might be able to avoid any further withdrawals.  Higher royalty income than expected, good attendance at the annual meeting in spite of bad weather, and the fact that no Newsletters had been printed were responsible for this good result.  In addition, placement income had not dropped as a result of AIA’s departure from the joint Service, and an insurance company was reviewing a claim filed by the Society along with AIA to recover fees refunded to about 50 annual meeting advance registrants who had been unable to attend because of bad weather as well as costs to maintain staff members of both societies who were unable to leave Chicago as scheduled.

Budget for 2015 Fiscal Year.  The Finance Committee had recommended to the Board a budget that anticipated a surplus of about $30,000.  Dr. Blistein noted, however, that the budget’s estimate of registration income might be too optimistic.  It was based on 2,150 paid registrants, 300 below the figure for the recent meeting in Chicago, but 200 above the figure realized at the last joint meeting in New Orleans in January 2003. 

The budget also projected an increase in dues for 2015.  There had been no increase in dues for individuals since 2011, and the Committee had considered a number of scenarios that would reduce the number of dues categories and that would calculate dues at a slightly higher rate for members in higher salary ranges.  Because the number of categories had been reduced and because the proposals called in some cases for calculating dues based on the middle of the new salary ranges (instead of the top of the previous ranges), some members would pay slightly lower dues in 2015 as compared to 2014.  The proposals had also created an additional dues category at the very top of the salary ranges. 

Action:  The Board reviewed the dues scenarios considered by the Committee voted to reduce the number of dues categories and to adopt a scenario in which members earning between $20,000 and $99,999 would pay dues equal to the middle of their salary range multiplied by .00182 and members earning $100,000 and above would pay dues equal to the top of their salary range multiplied by .00182. 

Action:  Subject to discussion with AIA, the Board approved an increase in registration rates of $5 or $10 in each category.

Action:  The Board approved the budget for the 2015 fiscal year recommended by the Finance Committee.

Report of the Executive Director

Name Change. Dr. Blistein stated that he had spent a significant amount of time during the year working with the designer of the logo, the Name Change Committee, and officers.  He expected that the State of Delaware would process the documents he had submitted the following week.  In the interim he had ordered new stationery, checks, and panels for table-top display.  The panels would be ready in time for the ACL Institute at the end of the month.

Campaign Acknowledgment Book.  The printer had mailed this document to all members and to all nonmember donors.  Dr. Blistein and Campaign Co-Chair Michael Putnam were sending copies to certain major donors along with handwritten notes. 

Membership.  As of May 31, nine Friends of Classics and nine Associate Precollegiate Teachers had joined the Society.  The Office had received a modest number of suggestions of individuals who could be recruited as Friends, and the Society’s work-study student would help Dr. Blistein to reach out to those individuals.  The ACL Institute would be an opportunity to recruit Precollegiate Teacher members.  Prof. Gagarin recommended that the Society check periodically to see whether a significant number of regular members were changing to either of the new categories.

Prof. Gutzwiller had approved names of a few more people whom Dr. Blistein would invite to serve on the Membership Committee.  That Committee’s first task would be to work on retention of members who are not yet paid for 2014.

Digital Latin Library (DLL).  The University of Oklahoma had taken over responsibility for administering this project and had just received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that would fund the first stage of implementation.  While SCS would continue to have an advisory and editorial role in the DLL, there would be minimal involvement for the Office.

Web Site.  During the winter Dr. Blistein had helped Prof. Huskey to draft the request for proposals that was sent to web design firms.  The work of interacting with the firm ultimately selected was ongoing.  Also during the winter he and Director of Meetings Heather Gasda had participated in a revision of the annual meeting proposal submission site with Profs. Huskey and Farrell. 

Reports:  Dr. Blistein stated that he had almost completed work on his annual report to members for 2012.  He would then turn to 2013 as well as to a report on his activities that he prepared for the Executive Committee prior to his annual evaluation.  During the summer he hoped to publish at least one Newsletter containing all officers’ reports for the 2013 fiscal year.

Other Business

Next Board Meeting.  Dr. Blistein stated that the Board would meet in Philadelphia on the evening of September 19 and all day on September 20.  Before the meeting Prof. Connolly would give a lecture jointly sponsored by the Society and Penn’s Classical Studies Department.

Links among Society Web Sites.  Because the systems for both placement and annual meeting submissions were independent of the Society’s membership database at the Johns Hopkins University Press, members needed to pay dues to the Press up to a month before the placement and annual meeting systems could recognize them as members.  Directors asked whether the Society could develop a mechanism to take in abstracts submitted by nonmembers at the deadline on a provisional basis and give those authors a fixed amount of time to make dues payments.  Dr. Blistein said that he would discuss this possibility with Profs. Huskey and Farrell and Ms. Gasda.

There being no further business, the call was concluded at 3:55 p.m.

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