by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW
NASW has always been one Association. Although the 55 chapters (all states plus New York City, Washington DC, Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) have operated semi autonomously the national office has always set standards for their operations, bylaws, personnel policies, elections and other areas of operation. They have also always been legally and fiscally responsible for our actions.
For many years we have discussed whether it would be more efficient for the national office to take over administrative functions of the chapters. As semi-autonomous entities each chapter has been responsible to obtain its own benefit package for staff, do a separate audit, do separate tax reports, and handle all other administrative functions. There was also a huge discrepancy between the services offered to members in small chapters such as Iowa, North Dakota and Idaho versus the services offered to members in mega or large chapters such as Massachusetts, California, North Carolina or Florida.
In an effort to reduce the duplication of administrative functions over 55 chapters and work towards increased member services nationwide the national board voted to nationalize all chapter staff and all chapter operations over a two year period. Nationalization of chapter staff took place on July 1, 2016 and full nationalization of administrative services will take place on July 1, 2017. At that time the national office will take over the bookkeeping and accounting for all chapters, handle all workshop and conference registration and handle IT, the website and other functions.
The chapters will continue to have a Board of Directors, Executive Director and all existing committees. The state chapters will continue to set their own program and legislative priorities. Although the national office will take over “fiduciary responsibility” for chapters, the chapter boards will continue to develop and review the annual budget and quarterly reports.
Ultimately I do not expect our services to our members and the profession to change. In fact over time it is possible that there will be more services available to our members as efforts are made to expand services nationwide.
This change effort in our Association has been controversial at times and the implementation has been challenging. Some members have expressed concern about the possible loss of power from the chapter boards of directors. Others have even questioned whether the national board had the authority to institute modernization and nationalization. The initial costs of nationalization, including upgrading infrastructure at the national office to handle the human resources and financial operations of the chapters, have been steep. These costs have been divided between chapters and the national office. Both the national office and the chapters are currently struggling with these added expenses.
It is hoped that over time the benefits of modernization in terms of reduced administrative work at the chapter level, increased services to members nationwide and increased coordination between the national office and the 55 chapters will more than compensate for the initial challenges of this change effort.
Any member with questions, concerns or feedback on the Modernization effort, please feel free to contact me at the chapter office at email@example.com or (608)-257-6334.