FSAA Board Energized During January General Meeting

In January, the Ford Scholar Alumni Association hosted its second annual general meeting in Portland, Ore., with more than 20 people in attendance including alumni and guests. The goal of the meetings is to encourage alumni to participate in the business of the FSAA and to share ideas with and provide feedback to the board of directors.

The excitement that brought many people to this meeting was the scheduled roundtable discussion with the new Ford Family Foundation Director of Scholarship Programs Denise Callahan. The discussion with Denise was greatly anticipated because of what alumni see as her potential to help with the challenges facing the FSAA. Denise has a great deal of experience with improving an alumni organization, as she was the Senior Director of Alumni and Parent Relations for Willamette University prior to being hired by the Foundation.

The meeting opened with the FSAA Board President Andrea Smith welcoming everyone and giving an overview of the FSAA events in 2012. Last year, the FSAA focused on a theme of connecting alumni and raising awareness of the organization through a social media and blogging campaign. The campaign was considered a big success as evidenced by the growth in alumni joining the FSAA Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Engaging alumni will continue to be a focus of board members in 2013 to reach the greater FSAA goal of improved membership involvement and participation in events.

Andrea Smith introduced Denise Callahan, and Denise offered some insights. She complimented the FSAA on its progress and reminded the group not to be discouraged with perceived low participation. Denise elaborated by stating that most organizations have a “tipping-point” in membership where group numbers begin to drive participation and growth. Denise encouraged the FSAA to keep improving the organization’s visibility and, over time, alumni that have not been involved will come around.

When asked how the FSAA could assist the Scholarship Office, Denise suggested that we could help improve outreach and provide valuable feedback. FSAA members have a unique ability to reach rural communities and offer suggestions on how the Scholarship Office could further enhance the Ford Scholar experience. In turn, the Scholarship Office could expand awareness of the FSAA to new Ford Scholars and offer suggestions on improving the alumni experience.

After the discussion with Denise, the topics turned to the role of the FSAA. Board Secretary Marija Kovacevic Hobbs reviewed the group’s Mission Statement and its history in supporting community projects. In the past, the FSAA helped already-established projects by donating money, organizing alumni volunteer events, and announcing alumni projects in the newsletter.

Several alumni present at the meeting thought that the role of the FSAA should go further and that the organization should create community projects where alumni could participate. Suggestions were proposed to the board for developing an easy-to-reference list of “shovel ready” community projects in which alumni could participate either through direct volunteering or through financial support.

Member at Large Rob Teel suggested that the next board meeting should initiate this effort by organizing a meeting around a family-friendly volunteer event, which is scheduled for April 20 at the Gilbert Park Elementary School in Portland. FSAA Board nominees are encouraged to attend this event to provide an opportunity to meet fellow alumni.

At the close of the meeting, all those in attendance were encouraged to run for election to a position on the board for the vacating president, secretary and four at-large positions. Andrea Smith noted that this would be her last general meeting as president of the FSAA and fondly described her experience as FSAA president before adjourning the general meeting. The detailed minutes of this meeting can be found on the FSAA website or on the Facebook group page.