By Richard Weaver, Chair, US Servas Board of Directors
On April 14 & 15 the US Servas Board of Directors gathered in the home of its chair, Richard Weaver, to explore a number of issues including strengthening our relationship with Servas International, goals for the year, new financial realities, new membership level, and what it means to be a “peace organization.”
Normally, the Board of US Servas meets monthly to conduct the business of the organization. These are efficient meetings moving quickly from one business item to the next that keeps the organization moving forward. However, behind many of these decisions are complex issues that cannot be addressed in our two-hour monthly meetings. But they are still very important, and our semi-annual retreats allow time to explore them.
The purpose of this retreat was to discuss these important issues and get to know each other better. The retreat started with a virtual chat with the Board of Servas International as we seek a more aligned approach for Servas across the globe. Our Board felt it was a very productive exchange.
L-R Bill Magargal, Shyla Esko Bare, Shelly Mitchell (video) Tys Sniffen, Eileen Rowley
As the retreat began, each Board member had an opportunity to state what they wanted US Servas to accomplish this year and what obstacles are being faced. We were building on the goals for 2023 that were developed in the virtual retreat held in January.
It has been over two years since US Servas became an all-volunteer organization, jettisoning both an office and staff. This has dramatically changed the financial position of US Servas. Now that the pattern of revenue and expenses is clearer, it is time to have a discussion about the role of the sizable financial reserve that had been previously required. This will be an ongoing conversation before tangible decisions are made.
The new corporate by-laws, adopted in the Fall of 2022, created a level of membership that covers the time between an individual paying the annual membership fee and completing the profile required to travel or host. Some people choose to stay at this level so they can support Servas and remain affiliated. Various names for this level of membership were discussed. The one gaining the most support was “friend of Servas.”
As an all-volunteer organization, the recruitment, assignment, and support of volunteers is critical to success for US Servas. Much progress has been made over the past two years but more needs to be done. The Board explored both what is currently being done and how to progress further.
The retreat concluded with a lively discussion about what it means to be a “peace organization.” Traditionally, it has been said that Servas contributes to world peace by creating cross-cultural exchanges through its travelers and hosts. US Servas is frequently asked to take public stands on world events and conditions as well as to provide money for a wide variety of peace-related activities. Agreeing on a definition of Servas as a peace organization is necessary to determine the boundaries of what would be acceptable public positions and financial support. This is an ongoing discussion in which our members will be asked to share their thoughts.
Overall, the retreat was very productive. Important conversations were shared, and groundwork laid for future business decisions. Additionally, through Servas and personal conversations and other activities, relationships among Board members were strengthened that are foundational to improving the Board’s decision process.
L-R Richard Weaver, Bill Magargal & Marie Spodek, Tys Sniffen, Shyla Esko Bare
Editor’s Note: After two days of meetings the board needed some exercise and fresh air, so Richard led us on a rigorous hike up and through the cliffs at Torrey Pines State Park near San Diego. When we hiked back down to the beach, the tide was in, so we had to scramble over loose rocks the whole way back. We all slept well that night, albeit a few with tender feet and aching muscles.