August 2023 Minute with the Board

Noah Borton, AFA President, and Carolyn Whittier, Ph.D., AFA Foundation Chair

Happy summer everyone! Last June, both the Association and the Foundation Boards met in Indianapolis, Indiana and made outstanding progress on strategic goals for both entities of the Association. The shared work and alignment of our Association and Foundation continues to be strong and partnership-centered, as the work of the Foundation is critical to the success of the Association, and vice versa. 

[Carolyn Whittier, Ph.D.] The gifts in support of the AFA Foundation Day of Giving allowed the AFA Foundation to meet and exceed all of our donor goals for the 2023 fiscal year! Through the generous support of our donors throughout the year, and during the Day of Giving, the AFA Foundation is experiencing our most successful year in number of donors and overall gifts in support of the important work of AFA. Thank you to everyone who made a gift in support of our collective work this year, and if you have yet to make a contribution this year, we welcome any treasure you are able to share in the final month of our giving year. 

During the Foundation Board meeting, we welcomed Katie Abernathy, Executive Director of Alpha Gamma Delta, as a new member of the Foundation Board. We also recognized four Foundation Board members as they retired from their service on the Foundation Board:

  • Christian Wiggins, who joined the Foundation Board in 2015 and served as both the Chair and the Treasurer 
  • Andy Huston, who joined the Foundation Board in 2016 and served as the Treasurer
  • Bonnie Wunsch, who joined the Foundation Board in 2017
  • Shane Taylor, who joined the Foundation Board in 2021  

We are deeply thankful for the time and talents of these four individuals and the significant impact they made on the work of the AFA Foundation. 

Together, the Association and the Foundation are thankful for our collaborative work and the opportunity to serve all members of AFA!

[Noah Borton] From the Association perspective it was great to be able to join the Foundation Board for their summer meeting and Day of Giving. I was appreciative of the ‘front row seat’ to see how committed and dedicated our Foundation staff and volunteers are to supporting and funding the work of AFA. 

I was also happy to be able to welcome the Association Board to Indianapolis for a few days. It was certainly a treat to be able to host our board on my home turf. We had a jam-packed agenda. A lot of our time and attention was directed toward how we can ensure AFA is a high-performing organization. Forward to 50, the AFA Strategic plan is moving along, and as a Board we want to do everything we can to set our staff and volunteers up for success as they work through these strategic objectives.  

Here are some highlights of our time together in Indianapolis:

Board Development – At each Board Meeting we like to take some time for board development. These experiences can expand our thinking and help us better understand our work. For this meeting we were joined by Chris Woods from Plaid. While providing insights based on Chris’ own journey as an entrepreneur in our industry, Chris challenged us to really drill down into the central purpose of our Association, and to focus on what we are best equipped to accomplish. He facilitated some excellent discussion around how AFA can become more innovative and entrepreneurial in how we support our members. 

Board Structure – We invested significant time discussing the organization and structure of the Board. Tara Fuller, Teresia Williams and Chris Graham have been taking the lead on a Governance Workgroup. The purpose of this group is to review the structures and policies of AFA to ensure we are set up for success. As a result of this work we have created a Governance Committee for the AFA Board of Directors. This committee will continue the work of developing proposals to address structural governance and policy issues for AFA. 

Member Outreach – In an effort to connect with members of the Association, and to thank our valued volunteers and partners, we hosted a casual reception for AFA members and friends in the Indianapolis area during the Board meeting. In addition to being an opportunity to say ‘thank you’, it was also an opportunity to highlight the important role AFA can play in creating a forum for individuals who are passionate about working with fraternities and sororities to connect. We were joined by friends and partners from local campuses, headquarters staffs, umbrella groups, volunteers, and business partners. We will continue to find opportunities to connect with local members during Board meetings. We will also look to identify areas with a concentration of AFA members and partners for future Board meeting locations. 

Executive Director Panel – Continuing the spirit of community building, we were able to have lunch with several fraternity and sorority Executive Directors. We were able to learn about the challenges they currently face, and the priorities on their agendas. This fostered some great brainstorming around ways that AFA can work to provide value for members who work for organizational headquarters. In addition, we had an interesting discussion about how AFA can support increased collaboration among headquarters and campus staff members through training and skill development for young professionals. 

Strategic Plan Champions – If you have paid any attention to AFA communications in the last year you have probably heard about Forward to 50, our Strategic Plan. Of course, at some point we cannot just talk about our strategic plan, we need to act on it. As such, we have decided to incorporate Board Champions for specific stretch goals within the plan. This will allow Board members to take greater ownership over specific priorities in the plan with the intention of pulling in resources and fostering support toward the achievement of those stretch goals. We will be providing additional reports on our progress toward achieving specific stretch goals in future communications and meetings. 

Annual Meeting – The AFA staff provided us with an update on their planning for the 2023 Annual Meeting. This provided Board members with an opportunity to provide additional feedback and guidance to the staff as we look to set high expectations and establish priorities for the meeting. We spent time discussing member feedback and concerns regarding the location of the Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida. 

The AFA Staff and volunteers are working diligently to finalize their plans for the Annual Meeting. I expect we will have more information to share soon regarding the work that will take place to ensure an Annual Meeting that delivers an outstanding member experience, focused on member value, in an inclusive environment for all AFA members, while doing everything within our control to ensure members can feel safe, supported and valued during their time spent with us. 

As you can see from this synopsis, our agenda in Indianapolis was packed. It is not hard to understand why our meetings ran long every day we were together. While our time was well spent, it was only the beginning. You can expect to hear more in the second half of the year as we endeavor to turn this strategic talk into tangible plans and meaningful action.

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