10 January 2015

January 10, 2015 was the 2015 annual Board of Directors meeting for BEHS.  Each year, the BOD comes together to discuss the previous year, make plans for the new year, and discuss ways we can improve the rescue.  This year’s meeting took place in College Station.  We had a long day of working (from 11am until 9pm with a break for dinner), and I appreciate the commitment of our BOD members to putting in that long day to getting good work done for BEHS!

We began the day by discussing our personal 2015 goals. My personal goal was to help BEHS increase volunteering by 10% – our volunteer force has really diminished and we haven’t worked to bring new people in much in the past two years (we’ve gotten some great new people, but we haven’t done much outreach).  Many of the directors’ had similar goals.  Others planned to work on grant writing, the Expo and Training Challenge, etc.  All of the goals are great and give us something to personally work towards.

Our second agenda item was to review the BOD restructuring plan that we implemented last year.  Last year, we created an interim BOD to work on the BOD restructuring and brought in new BOD members.  We also revised the Director job description and created a director contract.  These specified the requirements to be on the BOD (attending meetings, working at the Expo, making a personal contribution to BEHS, etc.).  This year we need to create a BOD manual and review and possibly revise the Executive Committee Job Descriptions.  We also discussed hiring a strategic planner or board development professional to help our BOD set the organization’s path and create ways to progress, track progress, and review and revise.  We agreed to a subsequent meeting to create a list of expectations for this personal and create an interview process to help us find the right person.

Next we re-elected our BOD members.  The interim BOD members were brought in last year and had to be elected to full terms.  That includes Susan Brown, Stephanie Harvey, Dani Pedroza, Penny Sather, Karen Strieder, and Julie Upchurch.  Our returning/continuing BOD members are me (President), Denise Crosthwait (VP/Fostering), Penny Talbert (Treasurer), Kathy Fraser (Secretary/Records Manager), Paula Weisskopf (Director), Liz Magyar (Director), Darienne Owings (Member Representative). 

The next item we discussed was the annual members’ meeting.  It will take place on Saturday, February 21st.  We had put out a survey to determine meeting location, and Austin was the top winner.  We’re looking at a location on the south side of town that would be somewhat convenient for Austin, San Antonio, and Houston members.  We’ll have the meeting (working on the agenda in a bit) followed by a social hour (or two) so we can chat, get to know each other, and have some fun.  We’ll also be holding 2-3 gatherings (probably one per quarter) at other locations throughout the state.  I’ll put out an email with more information later this week so members can begin RSVP’ing.

The biggest topic of the day was volunteering:  because if we don’t have volunteers, we don’t have a rescue and cannot help horses!  Volunteering has been decreasing in all areas (fostering, inspections, investigations, booths, and trailering) over the past two years.  We attributed that to 1) burnout (which happens in all volunteer organizations), 2) lack of outreach, and 3) the addition of many new rescues that give people other places to volunteer.  The number of foster homes also decreased as people adopt their fosters and no longer have space.

Although things like burnout and adopting foster horses to fill a barn are not unusual, we’re especially concerned about foster homes as we only have about 20 people fostering right now, probably the fewest we’ve had since the first year or two of BEHS.  That really hurts our ability to help horses.  We discussed three areas we need to work on/develop:
1) Recruitment of new volunteers and volunteer leaders.  We’re looking into having some new promotional material put together (mostly professional videos) that we can use to introduce people to BEHS, can use when approaching sponsors, and can use when approaching media outlets to do stories on us.
2) Area committees/groups:  We’re all so spread out that sometimes it is hard for people to get involved in BEHS.  If you live in Austin, you probably can’t help with booths in DFW and vice-versa.  So our directors are going to lead regional groups that will help with outreach.  The goal of these groups will be to increase current volunteer involvement as well as to recruit new volunteers.  This will be done through holding more booths (one of the best ways of recruiting new people!), hanging flyers/putting out brochures, and possibly approaching media outlets for stories.  These smaller regional groups may also find other avenues for outreach.  For now, we have the following groups:
– Austin:  Director-leaders are Susan Brown, Dani Pedroza, and Paula Weisskopf.
– Bryan/College Station: Director-leaders are Denise Crosthwait, Kathy Fraser, and Jennifer Williams (if someone would like to take over my position here, I can focus on Waco! ).
– Dallas/Ft. Worth:  Director-leaders are Stephanie Harvey and Jennifer Williams (if someone would like to co-lead with Stephanie, that would be great! I am helping because I don’t want her to be on her own!)
– Houston:  Director-leaders are Liz Maygar, Darienne Owings, Penny Sather, Karen Strieder, and Julie Upchurch.
– Waco/Belton/Temple/Killeen:  Director-leader is Jennifer Williams (if someone will co-lead with me I would be grateful)
If you would like to join one of these smaller groups, please drop me a line.  If we have several members in another area who would like to work on these goals, let me know and I can lead additional groups.
3) Creation of Youth Advisory Council:  This was an idea created by Director Stephanie Harvey and youth member Kaitlyn Glass.  It will be a 10 panel council that will lead youth involvement in BEHS.  The first years’ goals for the council is to create the council, accept applications for positions, and then have the council work on a new kids club and new youth activities to get our younger members involved.  I’m really excited about this and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more info out about this soon.  If anyone would like to help Stephanie with this project, please let me or her know.

We then discussed the Bluebonnet Rescue Horse Training Challenge.  Last year was our biggest year ever with more prize money, which brought in more professional trainers.  We discussed the fact that some people were concerned that we were paying out too much in prize money.  We’re putting together some educational information on that:  the money paid in prizes last year was all sponsored (donors knew it was going to prize money) and the money paid out was less than we would have paid if we had sent the same number of horses to trainers for three months each.  Our goal is to continue to grow the Challenge to increase the number of entries.  This means even more horses get the training they need to help them find good homes.  Stephanie (the coordinator for the Challenge) is creating a new rule book, tweaking some of the rules, and revising some of the categories/divisions.  We’ll be putting out information on this soon, too, and hope to begin accepting applications in about a month. 

The budget is always a topic of discussion at our annual meeting.  After examining the income and expenses for both 2013 and 2014, the directors agreed to increase reimbursement for farrier care for foster horses to a maximum of $40 (every 6-8 weeks), to increase non-trailering mileage to 40 cents/mile, and to increase trailing mileage to 60 cents per mile.  We also agreed to set aside some money from our savings for a strategic planning/BOD rebuilding session with a professional.

Finally, Penny Sather gave the BOD highlights of a animal welfare legal seminar she attended on behalf of BEHS.  And Jennifer Williams gave the BOD highlights of Texas Unites, an animal welfare conference she attended on behalf of BEHS.  The big topic from that conference was how to use social media to spread the word about our organization and bring in donors, volunteers, and supporters.  This year, I plan to learn more about managing social media and if anyone has experience with using various social media sites for business or nonprofits and would like to share some tips with me, please email me!

I think the rescue is very fortunate to have such a good group working to guide, protect, and nurture the organization.  And I want to thank each of the directors for sharing their time and expertise with BEHS.