Members, Money and Make-Overs

By Sue Lichtenfels, President

In previous issues of The PCB Advocate, I promised to keep you up-to-date with PCB leadership’s efforts to redefine our membership model. I will attempt to do so in a way that is clear and concise. The proposed bylaw amendments under consideration at this year’s convention have been printed later in this newsletter. While the information is lengthy and the amendments are numerous, there is one substantive issue underlying most of the proposed changes; moving from a dues-based membership enrollment to a registration-only enrollment. In many amendments, the original intent of the bylaw remains while some phrasing has been reworked to account for the proposed shift in enrollment. Other amendments deal strictly with the renumbering of sections and make no change to the content. Below I describe the proposed changes related to restructuring our new membership model.
Modifying our enrollment process goes hand-in-hand with our rebranding of PCB as an open, peer network for all people impacted by vision loss. We believe what PCB has to offer people should not be limited by who paid dues and who has not. In fact, PCB’s newsletter, our Philmore announcement line, our discussion calls, our conference, and the vision loss resources we provide are all already open to anyone. It no longer makes sense for PCB to collect dues from some people while others pay nothing. As a council affiliate, our role is to advocate on behalf of all persons with vision loss and welcome everyone. Therefore, PCB leadership wishes to drop state membership based on dues collection and move to a free, registration model where interested people can sign up for membership in our network by filling out a registration questionnaire either online, by contacting the PCB office, or through a chapter.
We’ve seen first-hand both in our chapters and at the state level that just because a person pays dues, this does not mean they are actively engaged in the organization. This registration approach to membership says, “We want you for more than your $10. We are truly interested in learning how PCB can meet your needs and in which ways you would like to become active in our organization.” The Membership Development Team has created a more comprehensive membership registration form which not only gathers standard data, it provides an opportunity for registrants to share data about their needs and interests so we can do a better job of actively engaging them in the organization, not just checking off their name as paid in our membership rolls.
In the proposed registration model, PCB would no longer charge dues for membership in the state organization. Membership would be based on a free registration process. As a benefit of becoming a registered member, PCB leadership is proposing that PCB would pay annual ACB membership dues for all Pennsylvania residents. Thus, chapters would no longer be required to collect state and national dues. Under the proposed amendments, chapters would still have the right to charge local dues in whatever amount they desired. Once we move to the new model, chapters would no longer be required to provide annual membership data to the PCB office. It will become the PCB’s responsibility to re-affirm the member’s status every two years. The chapters will only need to provide PCB with registration information for new members as they join.
Some of the other proposed amendments deal with voting and governance. In practice, At-large members have always been given an individual vote at the convention. However, that right has never been specifically granted in the bylaws. With the proposed amendments, that oversight is corrected and every registered member will be entitled to one individual vote so long as they were already a registered member at the time they registered for the state conference. There is no change proposed to the allocation of up to two delegate votes to each chapter and special interest affiliate. What is included in the proposed language is clarification that an individual member may only serve as delegate on behalf of one chapter or special interest affiliate. For example, member, Advocate Jones could not be a delegate for both ABC chapter and XYZ special interest affiliate. Another proposed amendment tweaks the eligibility of who can run for a Board of Director’s position by adding a length of membership requirement. The revision calls for eligible candidates to be registered members for at least 30 days prior to the opening of the conference.
Once the proposed bylaw amendments are approved, membership within PCB will work as follows:
Anyone interested in becoming a part of PCB’s statewide peer network will fill out the free registration questionnaire and submit it to the PCB office either directly, through our website, or by way of a local chapter.
The registrant’s data will be entered into PCB’s membership database. If he/she is a Pennsylvania resident, PCB will submit to ACB $5 for dues and the person’s contact information.
Based on the member’s interests indicated on the registration questionnaire, he/she will receive additional information about getting involved with PCB and someone from the membership team will follow-up with him/her.
If a member wishes to participate with a local chapter or special interest affiliate, he/she may have to pay an annual fee to that entity.
If the member begins at the chapter or special interest level, the entity must notify PCB of the new member by submitting the member’s registration questionnaire to the PCB office on his/her behalf. Every member of a PCB chapter must be registered with the PCB office.
Each registered member will be entitled to an individual vote at the convention provided he/she became a member prior to registering for the convention. In other words, those who become “registered” members on-site at the conference will not be eligible to vote at that conference.
Every two years, on the approximate date of the member’s initial registration, the PCB office will contact the member to reaffirm his/her membership.
Regarding transitioning current dues-paid members to “registered” members, we will make the process as easy as possible. The plan I have proposed to the Membership Development Team would automatically renew all 2017 paid members as 2018 members. So, if you paid dues in 2017, PCB would pay for your ACB membership for 2018. Additionally, as a 2017 dues-paid member, you would automatically be given your individual vote at the 2018 convention.
I would like for us to use 2018 as a transition year to have every current member complete the new registration questionnaire. We would provide whatever level of assistance is needed to gather the new registration data including paper forms provided to chapter leaders, email and online options, one-on-one telephone assistance, forms provided directly to members in their preferred format, etc. The goal would be to have all current members officially registered within the new model by December 31, 2018. Transitioned members would then begin the two-year re-affirmation cycle. So, for example, sometime in 2020, the PCB office or a membership representative would reach out to you to update your contact information and reconfirm your interest in being a member.
In closing, I would like to share a personal story which I believe is illustrative of our efforts to revitalize our organization.
My husband Bob and I had our house built 12 years ago on one of the last residential lots available in our preferred suburb of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, like most of the real-estate in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the lot sits on an uphill grade. The builder excavated just enough to fit our fully accessible home on the lot. At the time, we paid $10,000 to have a 79-foot long, 5-foot high, stone retaining wall built immediately behind our home to hold up the remaining hillside. Of course, the builder made sure there was just enough space between the house and the wall for me to navigate through with my wheelchair. Years later, the wall is dangerously leaning toward our house. One section has encroached so close I can no longer wheel through. There is an eminent threat of the entire wall toppling and the hillside collapsing. The damage to our home could be catastrophic.
We’ve been consulting with our current landscaper about fixing the wall before it totally gives way. According to him, the original contractor built the wall on top of the ground; rather than digging into the ground and creating a more solid foundation. He also said the stone blocks were just stacked separately and not pinned together. Pinning the blocks together will strengthen the wall. While he may need to bring in some more blocks to account for the underground layer, all the current blocks we have can be reused in the new structure. To get the job done, we will need to temporarily take down some of our yard fencing so they can bring in a small excavation machine.
As I began to reflect on his explanation, it all made perfect sense to me because it is so very like our current situation with PCB. The leaning wall which threatens collapse of the hillside is symbolic of PCB’s declining membership which, if not addressed, will lead to the demise of the organization. The individual stone blocks are representative of our members. As individual members, we are supportive of PCB’s cause, but together when we work as a network of peers is when we make a real impact; just as pinning the blocks together strengthens the wall. Bringing in some new blocks, or new members in the case of PCB is vital to the reconstruction effort. When it comes to creating a more solid underground foundation for the wall, we are trying to accomplish this within PCB by moving from a dues-based model where anyone who gives $10 annually is considered a member, to a registration model where people who are truly interested in being engaged in the projects and efforts of PCB make up our membership foundation. Yes, PCB will have to rework some of its processes, just as we may have to re-erect our fence. Although a minor inconvenience, the tasks are manageable and well worth the effort.
There is one area where PCB’s situation diverges from the retaining wall. The move to this membership model does not have to be set in stone. Our bylaws can be revised when it becomes necessary to do so. If after a few years, this new model seems to not be working, we can revisit the issue and propose changes.
Right now though, we need your support for this new membership model. We must be able to offer new ways and opportunities to attract and engage new members. The threat to PCB’s existence is real and it is becoming direr with each passing year. I hope you will have enough faith in PCB’s leadership and love for this organization to support the efforts to save it.

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