Monday, March 22, 2010

In the spirit of the weekend, a word about government

HA! You thought I was going to get political here, didn't you!? No, I like being Dockyard Superintendant too much to stir up a bees nest like that. But I know some people have been asking exactly how the Naval Heritage Society works - after all there are no dues, fees that are impossibly small and only for the events you attend, and no voting amongst the membership. Rather than have to answer this fifty more times over, I'd rather just point to the blog. So hello, folks, you've arrived at my laziness.

NHS was founded on the premise that most of the people we wanted to recruit - active duty sailors and marines, retired sailors and marines, students, young people, etc - didn't want to have to throw thousands of dollars into a hobby to participate. But they'd show up and pull an oar or march with the best of 'em - and with more energy, too. Membership established, growing, constantly changing - check. So if they don't pay who does?

Being the astute business people that we are (or aspire to be) we then hunted down ways to raise money. This meant bringing onboard people who were willing to make sizeable donations to NHS to buy uniforms (historical costumes), clothing, supplies, materials etc. Most of this is achieved through donation of unwanted items such as old reenacting gear, crap around the house, junk automobiles, etc. Our staff sells the donated items we don't want on eBay and cha-ching there's money in our account, credited to the donor.

Now, crediting the donor is important. If they donate $500 or more in cash or gear (which is measured in what we're actually able to get for the unwanted stuff, and comparable prices for the stuff we keep) they become a Trustee of NHS. Those people vote to elect the governing body of the organization - the Board of Directors. Every subsequent $500 they dontate gets them another vote. Why does this matter? Well, it matters because each Trustee has an opinion on what they would like to see done with their money, and if we ever hope to keep raising money, we have to listen. Electing their representatives means they can nominate who they want (including themselves) to make the actual managerial decisions.

Managerial decisions. That sounds so cool! But no. The Board of Directors is comprised of up to seven people, each elected by the Trustees. Right now, three of the positions are filled by Trustees. Four positions are filled by people who haven't made a donation. The positions are as follows: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Financial Director, Logistics Director, Historical Director, Public Relations Director and Secretary. I'm sure you can figure out - generally - the function of each of those people.

At any rate, they send a constant flurry of emails back and forth, discussing how to govern NHS more effectively. There is a standard letter sent out by the Secretary to all prospective directors that states "be prepared to answer 5 to 6 emails a day, and receive two to three phone calls". So there's a lot of discussion going on there constantly. What does it mean to govern NHS 'more effectively'? It means to work out ways to realize the goals and intentions of the Trustees while ensuring members are having fun and keep coming back. And there you have the membership vote - they vote with their feet. Without participants, nothing gets done. Without donors, we fall apart. It is a delicate balance, and a lot of responsibility.

And then there's me - the Dockyard Superintendant. I am responsible to ensure all of our boats and related equipment are ready for events, and that our new construction projects stay on budget and on schedule. I am appointed by the Logistics Director and report directly to the board of Directors, as does my counterpart - the Commissioner of Supply. He is responsible for all clothing, provisions, supplies etc. We are referred to in NHS bylaws as 'functionaries' - that is, it is our job to make sure the policies of the Board of Directors get carried out in the day-to-day operation of the organization, and we're ready to rock when an event rolls around.

So I hope that answers the majority of questions out there on how that all works.


ALL HANDS this coming weekend is the last major working weekend before re-launching and Sea Trials for the Monomoy Pulling Boat. Come on out to the Dockyard and lend a hand.



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