By Julie Deering, AAEA President
Last Friday, April 13, AAEA – the Agricultural Communicators Network Board of Directors met in Kansas City for its spring meeting. I’m proud to say this is a working board that isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues, that thinks about the short- and long-term impacts of decisions made, and that holds itself accountable to members. While the board covered a great deal of ground last week, here are the Top 5 actions on which the board approved:
#1. Financial Reserves. The board adopted a written policy for the reserves account and operational cash flow, and a plan for how to achieve it. Basically, the association will work to maintain a reserves account with a balance of at least 50 percent of our annual budgeted expenses. The board must have a majority vote before any money can be removed from this account. If funds are removed, the board should aim to replace them within 12-24 months. This reserve is separate from an operational cash flow or money market account, which can be accessed with approval from the Executive Committee as needed to support normal expenses for the association. The balance for this account should remain anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent of annual budgeted expenses for the association. To achieve the reserves goal, any income earned from the Ag Media Summit (AMS) above $15,000 will be deposited into the reserves account. Furthermore, the board may annually decide to direct any year-end revenue from the association into the reserves account to supplement this effort. Not only will this help strengthen AAEA’s financial standing, but it will create increased financial discipline and prevent such heavy reliance on revenue generated from AMS. Thanks to Mike Wilson, Josh Flint and Samantha Kilgore for their leadership in this area.
#2. Special Programming and Non-Dues Revenue. With the primary focus of adding member value, and a secondary focus of creating non-dues revenue, a working group has been designated to research and look into the feasibility of creating a certification and/or a leadership program. In theory, the certification program would serve as a continuing education program and offer skill-level communications training that aims to improve the participant’s knowledge and the caliber at which that participant/employee performs. As an example, one such skill would be writing. Meanwhile, a leadership program would focus on just that, the development of the person as a whole. Areas of focus might include diplomacy, negotiations and navigating conflict. As of now, the working group comprises Pam Caraway, Josh Flint and Julie Deering. If you’re interested in helping research these programs, please email [email protected].
#3. Membership Structure. The board approved one of two proposed options for a new membership structure and categories. After hearing from members, taking into account the strategic plan, and through the diligent work of a special taskforce, the board decided to keep a modified version of the existing structure with five different membership categories, with a description that adds clarity to each category. Members will need to vote on this at the annual business meeting, held in conjunction with AMS, this year in Phoenix, Ariz. Please look for more information on this in the coming weeks. A big thank you to Amy Roady for leading this effort and to the entire taskforce for asking tough questions and having honest conversations.
#4. Your Inbox. The Communications Committee, with the addition of the Ag Communicators Network Podcast will modify the distribution of the weekly Byline. Members will receive original Byline content the first and third weeks of the month, with the podcast being published the second week. During the last week of the month, the Byline will feature aggregated content from the weeks prior. Kelsey Litchfield will be hosting the podcast. If you’ve got something you would like to share with members or a story idea for the Byline, please let Holly Spangler know at [email protected].
#5. AAEA 100-Year Anniversary. AAEA’s centennial celebration, to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in conjunction with AMS, will include a Saturday tour to Chicago, where the very first meeting was held in 1920. Additionally, we look to celebrate AAEA’s rich history throughout AMS with a mini exhibit that showcases the tools ag journalists used, and the work they did throughout the decades. Plus, Jim Patrico is spearheading a book that hones in on the work of members with photography, stories and layouts to help share the association’s history. We also plan to celebrate the 100-year anniversary throughout the year with a few digital components, that are still being determined. Holly Martin leads this committee. If you’ve got ideas and are willing to lend a hand, please contact her at [email protected].