Dear GDUI Members,
First, the big announcement and invitation! You are all invited to our first Membership/Town Hall Meeting of 2017! The meeting will take place via conference call on Saturday, February 18, beginning at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (11:00 a.m., Pacific Standard Time) at this number: 712.432.0075. Your Participant Code will be: 919245-Pound. We expect the conversation to last for at least 90 minutes, with a possible end-of-meeting time of 4:00 p.m., Eastern Time. We hope that many of you will come ready to participate in our conversation. Bring us your concerns. Tell us what you like, where we can improve, how you want to help, and how you see Guide Dog Users, Inc. meeting the needs of the 21st Century guide dog users’ community.
We anticipate that our meeting will incorporate several themes, including these:
1. Membership Involvement in the governance of GDUI: Since GDUI’s members voted to embrace universal, accessible voting, we have been proud to accept guidance from all of our members. With the advent of universal voting made available by phone and online to every GDUI member, GDUI was no longer guided by mandates from the relatively few members and GDUI affiliates’ representatives who could attend our annual conventions. Each of us can submit proposed amendments for the consideration of GDUI’s Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, and vote proposed bylaw amendments up or down via a universally accessible election ballot, as well as cast our votes for the candidates of our choosing. We believe that this system is a good one, especially since via telephone, e-mail and web site feedback, members have many opportunities during the course of the year’s day-to-day conversations to communicate with directors and officers, and our administration has tried hard to take your comments and suggestions into account, to add items you have submitted to us (often via e—mail or phone calls) to our meeting agendas, to welcome you as observers and participants at our board meetings, and to share information and concerns with you via these announcements, and in the pages of PawTracks.
Yet, some of our members are asking, can this representative kind of democracy respond effectively to members’ concerns and guidance? Are there other ways for members to participate more directly in decisions and discussions that influence GDUI’s operations and direction? Now that members don’t recommend and vote upon GDUI policies while participating in the annual GDUI business meetings at our summer conventions, what are effective ways for members to make their wishes known and direct the activities of the organization? How can resolutions be introduced, discussed, considered, and acted upon? Is there a danger that just a few who have the time and inclination to participate on GDUI e-mail discussion lists and bimonthly affiliates calls are the only members whose needs and concerns will or can be addressed? Is there a danger that the attention of directors and officers will be drawn toward those few members who don’t hesitate to find fault or express discontent while they may not find a way to hear from members who may want to share more positive suggestions, i.e., is it only the “squeaky wheels” who are capable of attracting board members’ attentions? What role does or should PawTracks (or Facebook or Twitter or www.GuideDogUsersInc.org) play in fostering forums for member involvement and feedback? What about members who either by personal choice or because of lack of opportunity don’t participate in online discussions?
We welcome your participation in this discussion. On our part, we will ask Maria Hansen, Chair of the GDUI Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, and other board members to explain how members can participate in crafting, understanding and voting upon bylaws and bylaws changes, and in the resolutions process, as well.
Dixie Sanderson, who chairs this year’s Nominating Committee, will outline plans for the coming elections, including the process for becoming involved as a candidate for office and also participating in our planned candidates forums.
2. What role should and can members play in funding the work that GDUI does on their behalf?
GDUI’s individual membership dues have not been increased for many years.(In an informal poll of board members, I couldn’t find anyone who remembers paying less than$15 annually – ever!) Yet, during that time, the costs for providing members’ services have increased dramatically.
Online and telephonic voting do not come cheap! During last year’s election, we paid $5.00 for each member eligible to vote, and we just received a quote for this year’s services from VoteNow, which will cost the same. VoteNow which conducts our elections, assists members who encounter difficulties, tallies the results, and assures that our system is entirely secure provides good service to us, and theirs was the lowest bid among companies we surveyed in order to select the best service provider.
Of course, we have additional ongoing expenses as well, including those for PawTracks, for maintaining our web site, and for putting on an excellent GDUI national convention each summer. We provide a toll-free number for our members who reside in the USA, and there are expenses associated with advocacy as well as with our affiliation with ACB.
Dixie Sanderson, who serves with Maria Hansen, Lynn Merrill, Sarah Calhoun, and me on the GDUI Budget and Finance Committee, is gifted at explaining exactly how your membership dues figure into our overall budget – and the resulting shortfall that we are experiencing.
We want you to understand why we’re proposing an increase in members’ dues, and we want to hear about your ideas for other ways of finding the money to meet your needs.
Part of this discussion will also include the disposition of GDUI’s reserves, and Maria Hansen and Lynn Merrill will discuss our beliefs about how and when investment funds should be tapped, and when and how we might find other ways to raise funds.
3. GDUI exists to support our members, most of whom are guide dog users themselves, to advocate for our civil rights as people who are blind who choose to travel with guide dogs for independence and safety, and to educate the public about our dogs, our rights, and the many benefits of partnering with guide dogs. What directions should GDUI be pursuing in terms of support and advocacy?
Charlie Crawford, who chairs the GDUI Advocacy and Legislative Committee, will be eager to provide the latest info on what we’ve been doing to advocate for you and on your behalf, and to hear from you if or how our advocacy goals should be expanded.
So, there you have it! This is a lot to cover within just a short afternoon, and we promise to keep our remarks as brief as we can, to give all of you ample opportunity to tell us what you think and guide us in the directions you want us to go.
We propose a two-minute time limit for each member who wishes to speak on a given topic, and Sarah Calhoun, GDUI’s Secretary and Office Manager, will be using her IPhone to make sure we don’t stray from that limit.
Background noise has been a persistent problem on board meeting calls. We implore each of you to mute your phones when you are not speaking so that all of us can hear one another. Our conference calling service does include a feature by which all callers, except for a few, can be muted and a central authority can then allow individuals to speak – while everyone else’s line is kept quiet. As tempting as it is to utilize this feature, we hesitate to do so. Honestly, this exact feature has been used in less democratic times to silence members who wished to speak and to promote only one, favored point of view. We believe in open dialogue, and frankly we don’t want to even imply that those actions from a darker period in GDUI’s history could be adopted again. So, please, if you’re not speaking, mute your phones (Star6), and if you can’t make your smart phone fall in line, keep the background noise at a minimum! We appreciate your cooperation.
In any meeting of this sort, it’s easy to fall into the mind-sets of complaining, criticizing, and accusation. We hope that this meeting can rise above that kind of negativity. Please share with us those things that you like about GDUI as well as those ways we can all listen and respond to one another’s needs and wishes and hopes effectively! We all joined GDUI for similar reasons. We whom you have elected to represent you hope that we’re measuring up to your expectations, and we’re eager to hear from you about the best ways to meet your needs and facilitate your participation in decision making.
We are looking forward to hearing from many of you on Saturday, February 18. We’ll be there at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. We hope you will be too.
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Deanna Noriega, First Vice President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
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