As a membership organization, the NASW cannot maintain the "status-quo.” The aging of our organizational membership, the ongoing challenges we face, require us to think beyond our individual positions in NASW to our collective responsibility to leave a viable professional organization for future social workers.
The role NASW plays in elevating social work visibility at the local, state and national levels is a benefit that we often take for granted. Individually, social workers do amazing things, and when we work together, we change society. That is the power of NASW membership.
For more than two years, NASW’s elected leadership and staff has been evaluating different ways to better prepare NASW for the next 60 years. Many of these discussions have addressed the way we are structured to serve members and to maximize our collective resources for long-term viability. These have been thoughtful and at times tough conversations that has been referred to as "modernization and revitalization” of our membership organization.
Important areas of exploration included the relationship between chapter and national offices, and the structure of boards at the chapter and national levels. In order to achieve this, the National Board of Directors (Board) created several task groups to research and investigate options for reinvigorating our Association business model. The overarching goal was to focus more resources on member services, preserving a strong local presence in each state and territory that NASW serves while reducing the administrative costs of operating a national association. As a membership organization we need to re-envision how NASW is structured to best meet the challenges for the next 60 years!
After seeking feedback from Chapter Executives and Presidents in multiple forms and forums since November 2013, the NASW National Board on June 26, 2015 voted to do the following:
1. Strengthen our focus on local programs: Delivery of high quality local programming through the chapters has long been a hallmark of NASW. In addition to preserving our chapters, we seek to increase our local focus on enhancing member engagement, benefits and services. This will be accomplished by transferring fiduciary and legal authority from the chapter boards to the National Board of Directors, enabling the chapter boards to reduce the amount of time and expense dedicated to governance and administration and increase their focus on programmatic, advocacy, and policy efforts at the local level.
2. Nationalize chapter staff: In order to enhance local programming for membership and provide better national support for local initiatives, chapter and national staff will be consolidated into an integrated unified national association workforce with chapter executive directors receiving support and supervision directly from the national office. Significant collaboration, coordination and planning will occur between the chapter board, executive director and national office to ensure that support and supervision from the national office aligns with local priorities and initiatives.
3. Consolidate administrative services: To create a more sustainable organizational structure, administrative services, including finance, accounting, human resources and information technology, will be consolidated by centralizing the functions at the national office. The current operational structure incurs administrative duplication and process redundancy, and consolidation aims to reduce the amount of local time and energy required for routine administrative functions. Supporting chapter staff on routine administrative functions will allow for more attention on developing and delivering local program activities and initiatives. This will make better use of our financial resources and reduce overall operating costs at a national and state level.
4. Enhance association branding programs: NASW is a trusted organization across the United States and in the global social service community. NASW’s strong reputation helps leverage issues of importance to the social work profession and opens doors of opportunity for social workers. Raising visibility for the NASW brand and speaking with one voice is important to our members. The Association will work to establish and maintain more consistent branding and messaging by developing collaborative marketing and communications plans between chapters and the national office.
5. Update the national board structure: NASW members have expressed a desire to have more diverse areas of social work practice represented on the National Board of Directors. Members also value reduced costs for governance. Therefore, the NASW National Board elected representatives will be reduced from 21 (22 in years with a president-elect) to 15 (16 in years with a president-elect) and will include four practice area experts and five regional representatives. This action will reduce the costs of governance while better reflecting the broader social work profession on the Board.
These decisions were the result of nearly two years of careful analysis and debate. They mirror recommendations made in 2001 in an independent consultant review on the future growth of our Association. The proposed operational and governance changes will be implemented beginning in July 2016 through the work of multiple teams comprised of national and chapter staff.
How would modernization and revitalization impact NASW-PA?
- Currently, the NASW-PA Board of Directors holds fiduciary responsibility over the approval of our operating budget. Under the modernization plan, the NASW-PA Board would no longer have sole approval of the budget but would work in collaboration with the NASW for annual budget approval. The NASW-PA Board of Directors would develop and approve the annual operating budget at a state level, then submit the budget to the NASW national office for final review and approval. The NASW-PA Board of Directors would have advisory input on the financial operating budget but no longer hold sole fiduciary responsibility
- Chapter staff would become direct employees of NASW national. The Board of Directors would still remain actively involved in advertising, interviewing, and hiring an Executive Director should that position become vacant as well as having input on the Executive Director annual performance evaluation working in collaboration with the NASW national office.
- The NASW-PA Board of Directors will remain intact and serve in the capacity of an Advisory Board. The Board will continue to elect a President, Vice President, and Secretary but will no longer need a treasurer due to financial oversight being consolidated under NASW. There is discussion of having a fourth elected official that will coordinate fiscal matters with NASW national but the title would be different. The Chapters will continue to have elected Division Chairs and Division Representatives that will serve on the NASW-PA Board in the same capacity as they do now.
- Legislative issues will continue to be directly handled by each state chapter since every state has varying needs around advocacy and policy related concerns. NASW-PA has a strong advocacy and robust legislative agenda that will not be impacted moving forward.
- NASW branding, marketing, and information technology services will be shared with NASW-PA to streamline costs and increase use of up to date technology for greater member touch and improved overall member services.
- The most important highlight is that modernization and revitalization allows for more chapter time and resources to be dedicated to having a greater member touch and overall member experience for our members!
Change is never easy, but often necessary. As we discussed plans to modernize and revitalize our membership organization, there have been ongoing concerns by members about the specific changes and around the process NASW has been using to involve and communicate the details to state chapters. This led to the creation of a coalition who met regularly to engage National in dealing with those concerns, the need to be involved in process, and the need for open communication and transparency regarding modernization and revitalization. Over the past two years, there has been much progress made in the above areas as concerns have been appropriately addressed. The coalition launched a petition campaign and secured the necessary membership signatures as delineated in the NASW Bylaws to call a membership meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the proposed modernization and revitalization changes being made to our association. Information about the meeting can be found HERE.
NASW-PA leadership has been actively participating in ongoing calls with the national office to provide our input and feedback, and we believe that the plan to modernize is vital to the longevity and survival of our professional organization. We also believe that the process of working with all stakeholders, and obtaining input from both supporting and opposing voices, will ultimately strengthen modernization and the resulting changes. As feedback has been continually exchanged, we have seen changes to the modernization plan that we believe are beneficial. The efforts of the modernization teams will ensure that improvement process continues throughout the implementation. NASW-PA leadership will continue to provide input as needed to strengthen modernization as a whole and to best benefit NASW-PA members.
Submitted respectfully on behalf of the NASW-PA Board of Directors,
Troy L. Brindle, LCSW, QCSW
President | Board of Directors NASW-PA
Johanna Byrd, ACSW
Executive Director | NASW-PA