FERNDALE – Affirmations has shortened its name and changed the bylaws of the organization to create a board directorship model of governance. At the May 22 annual meeting, members voted unanimously to make the changes, which board directors say will protect the organization and help it grow.
Most people already know Affirmations as just that, Affirmations. However the full name of the organization was Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center. Executive Director Dave Garcia said that the new name welcomes everyone, including transgender people and allies. Removing the word “center” means that “Affirmations is more than just a building,” and it allows for expansion of programs beyond the walls of a physical location.
“Some people did not want to give up the tags,” said Director I J Campbell, “but it brings the name into what the logo already says. The organization may be in many places in the future, not just this building. Wherever we may be, if we do programs in other places like Wayne County or Washtenaw County or wherever, it’s a brand people will recognize.”
The changes in the bylaws affect how Directors will be placed on the board. “We are trying to bring Affirmations into the future and into the best practices of nonprofits. It used to be when you formed a nonprofit 20 or 30 years ago the traditional structure is what’s called a membership organization,” said Director Frank Aiello. “We’ve been operating as a member organization hybrid for a while where both members can elect members of the Board of Directors and then the Board also has the power to appoint Directors itself. Most nonprofits these days have moved to a directorship model where the board appoints board members itself.”
Aiello explained that by having a directorship model, it can help them continue their commitment of having a board that is diverse and it can prevent outside parties from coming in and making radical changes, like a hostile takeover, by getting enough members to vote leadership in that may not agree with Affirmation’s mission.
Donors to Affirmations will remain members, and there will still be an annual meeting. Board of Director meetings will remain public, and Garcia assured the public that “Affirmations will always be responsive to the needs of the members.” Members are anyone who donates $1 or more to Affirmations. Members have access to the Cyber Center, are on the organization’s mailing list and “fundamentally it makes them part of a community,” said Director Zip Johnson.
The annual meeting also was a time for members to get an update on Affirmations’ financial health and programming. Treasurer Adam Powell’s report about the center’s million-dollar budget was read aloud by Campbell since Powell was ill and unable to attend. “2012 was a challenging year for us, but expenses were generally in line with our expectations, and on a cash basis we were fairly neutral for the year, meaning we brought in about as much as we spent, which is ok for us as we’re a non-profit and the goal is to use money we receive on providing services for the community,” the report said. It also noted that the Spring Bash was the most successful yet, bringing in enough money for 1-2 months of programming expenses.
Garcia spoke of some of Affirmation’s accomplishments, including a move towards sustainability with insurance billing for counseling services. The Shore 2 Shore bike ride is a new event that he hopes will grow to be a large fundraiser for the organization, and soon there will be GED training available. Garcia also said that Affirmations has been doing more door knocking and phone banking than any other organization in Michigan.