A View from the Inside: Serving on the Society Board
Guest column by Jeremy Brann, Society Board Member at Large (BMAL)
I’m seven months into my three-year term here on the Society Board. I absolutely love the work. It is also nothing at all like I had pictured it.
Because we need a spectacular slate of candidates for the special election this Fall, I thought I might highlight some of the ups and downs of the job to help you determine if YOU might be the right candidate for the Society Board of Directors (SBOD).
Ups: the opportunity to hang out and ring tags with some of the most fun people I’ve ever met.
I didn’t know any of my fellow Board members prior to my election, aside from the occasional chat with (Immediate Past President) Skipp Kropp at a Cardinal event. Today, I consider them all friends. These are good people who truly want to serve. They all have a hundred other things going on in their lives but they make time for the important work of the Board.
Downs: the pay is awful, if you measure it in dollars.
We’re volunteers, but this is not a “spend a couple hours helping at the food bank”-type gig. I’ve taken two weeks off of work to attend BHS events where we have meetings. I’d conservatively estimate that I spend 150-200 hours annually on SBOD matters between in-person events, scheduled meetings, ad hoc meetings, and task force/committee work.
Ups: the ability to weigh in on some very important topics.
Last fall we tackled the touchy subject of contest expansion. I had hoped that would be the most controversial one in my tenure, and then this spring we had to address the misalignment with Harmony Foundation International. In addition, I’ve learned more about youth protection and sexual abuse insurance policies than I wanted to, but we know that these issues are incredibly important to keeping our members and fans safe.
Downs: people yell at you.
Sometimes this happens in person. Sometimes it happens via our Society Board email inbox, or via telephone when we’re reaching out to members. Make no mistake, Society Board members and Harmony Hall staff can be targets for whatever a member doesn’t like about where we are, or where we’re heading. Sometimes that’s just people blowing off steam. Sometimes the attacks are personal, out of line, and offensive. My message to potential candidates is that having a thick skin helps.
Ups: get to play a role in making more harmony in the world.
I firmly believe that most members just want to get together and sing (especially this year!), and that they aren’t particularly concerned with the minutiae of how the Society is run. That’s perfectly fine. Heck, that’s how I felt my first few years as a member. Turns out though, that it takes a lot to keep this thing we love healthy and vibrant. It takes money, literally millions of dollars. It takes a strategic plan, and we are lucky to have a good one. It takes adjustment and analysis to make sure we’re doing the right things, and the ability to pivot when, you know, a global pandemic strikes. We need a diverse board of strategic thinkers making the decisions that will ensure this Society exists when my (5-year old) son is ready to join, and when his kids are ready to join. That’s the outcome that matters, at least for me.
In conclusion, a Society Board position is nowhere near as low-key and boring as I had expected. (Actually, I’d welcome a boring board meeting right now after the past few months; they’ve been very lively!) If you really care about this organization, this role is incredibly rewarding. I stand behind all the decisions we’ve made. I appreciate the careful consideration and analysis that goes into them. I believe we are doing the right things.
I would genuinely encourage anyone who feels that their perspective is not represented on this Board, and who’s willing to do the hard work involved, to please apply to fill the one year left on John Donehower’s “Board Member at Large” term.