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12-2-2021 Questions and Answers

12-2-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Some Conference members purchase Christmas gifts with their personal funds, which they deliver, along with a member of their family. Is this allowed?

A: Vincentians should refrain from providing help using their own personal resources, especially since those we serve will view the assistance as being provided by SVdP. This is permitted as long as it is done in the individual members names – not in the name of SVdP – and there would be no reimbursement in this case. Many Conferences throughout the country have Christmas Tree or Adopt-A-Family programs. The connection is for parishioners to provide gifts for the families. Members and their families may also participate in these programs.

Q:  If we collect funds in excess of our needs, can we combine the excess funds into our general account, or must we maintain them in a “special works” category in our accounting?

A: Funds can be used as the membership body determines. Excess funds collected for seasonal assistance (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) do not have to be escrowed into a special works account for annual use. Our friends are in need daily, and all resources should be available to serve those in need.

Assisting and Guiding Conferences

Assisting and Guiding Conferences 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

HELP IN COUNCIL EFFORTS

Conferences should be involved in a regular and frequent basis in the operation of the Council. This can be accomplished by involving them as Council Members, as volunteers, as committee members, on special projects, on fund raising, in special works, in general membership meetings, and in every other way that may be appropriate.

FORMATION/TRAINING

The Council should provide formation and training to all members of the Council especially new Vincentians. The National Formation and Spirituality Committee has developed formation/training programs that are available across the country. The National website (www.svdpusa.org) has many documents, power points, etc. available that should be used to form and train Vincentians.

By a resolution of the National Council, all new members of the Society have to attend an Ozanam Orientation within their first year as a member. Also, any member, who is elected to or appointed to be an officer at any level in the Society, must have attended an Ozanam Orientation or must attend one within the first year as an officer. It is highly recommended that all members of the Society attend the Ozanam Orientation at least once. Attending the Ozanam Orientation every three to four years as a refresher is recommended for all members.

This places a burden on the Council. The Council must provide the Ozanam Orientation formation program within the Council area as often as is necessary to fulfill the requirements for training prescribed by the National Council. If the District Council lacks the resources to provide the Ozanam Orientation on an as needed basis, it should seek assistance from the next higher Council to provide this training.

CONFERENCE/COUNCIL VISITATION

Conference visitation by a District Council (District Council visitation by a Diocesan Council) is an extremely important responsibility of the Council. The Officers and Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director should each attend one Conference (Council in case of Diocesan Council) meeting each month to facilitate communications and solidarity with them. That means that five meetings a month could be attended if the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director each participate. In many District Councils, this would mean that each Conference is visited at least twice a year. For Diocesan Councils, coverage depends on the frequency of District meetings. A staff person should come along on some of the visits to explain what that department or special work does and how they can assist the Conference/Council.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

A planned program for youth involvement is very important. Many aids are available for recruitment, involvement and understanding how we can utilize one of our greatest assets. There are so many aids now available, such as brochures, outlines of how to start a youth conference, power point recruitment, and many more. There are Regional Youth chairs you can contact that are eager to offer ideas and assistance. With no intent to overuse an old cliché, “youth are our future.”

DIVERSITY

The United States is a melting pot of race, creed, language, and culture. It is important that our Conferences reflect the diversity of our local community within its membership. Councils should emphasize awareness of community demographics and assist Conferences to build their membership based on who comprises their community. Councils should also strive to develop diverse leadership both within the Conferences and Councils themselves.

A Time for Thanks

A Time for Thanks 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

At this special time of the year when our thoughts turn to giving thanks, it is appropriate to reflect on the many reasons Vincentians have to be grateful.

Perhaps the two most important are the ongoing guidance of Divine Providence, which has been wondrously at work on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the past 188 years, and the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit evidenced so beautifully by the way Vincentians respond every day to the challenges we face in serving Christ’s beloved poor.

We are privileged to participate in the perpetual miracle of our Society:  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things which restore hope to those who have none and change their lives for the better. Our countless benefactors, whose generosity makes it possible for us to help so many people in so many ways, deserve our gratitude as well.

On the most personal level, going to the essence of Vincentian spirituality, we should be thankful to those we serve for the blessings they bestow on us which transform our own lives.

Very importantly, we have each other, truly something to cherish.  Loving and supporting one another while helping the poor is an integral part of our mission.

Vincentians have been graced by God to be members of one family throughout the world living Blessed Frederic’s divinely inspired vision of a global network of charity and social justice.  We should thank God for our Vincentian vocation, a blessing of eternal value

And, ultimately, how blessed we are with the gift of faith, and in that faith Christ’s greatest gift – the Eucharist.  How fitting it is that “eucharist” means “gratitude.”

11-24-2021 Questions and Answers

11-24-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: We are an agency of Second Harvest. We have held two mobile pantries, one serving 250 families and the other 200. Should we report this in the “in-kind food” column? We also give out food every third Thursday that is provided by Second Harvest. We average 35 families. We have just started this a few months ago. Please advise if/how we would report this on the Annual Report. Not sure if I could be accurate on the value.

A: Unless you have a special arrangement with Second Harvest, the food you get from Second Harvest is purchased, so it is not in-kind. When you say that you “also give out food every third Thursday that is provided by Second Harvest,” do you mean that Second Harvest is doing the distribution and you are helping, or that Second Harvest gives you the food free of charge and you are distributing? If it is the first, then you don’t record anything except your time. If it is the second, then you record the food distributed as in-kind.

Q: I have a real problem with the ethnicity breakdown requested on the Annual Conference Report. The federal government has a special form for Ethnicity and Race Identification. I see no value in providing this information.

A: The Society does not use this information in any discriminatory way. The ethnicity information is collected only in the aggregate. Based on our Rule (Part I, Article 3.2), we are not to discriminate in membership. The breakdown in the annual report is simply to show how diverse and inclusive the Society has become. Occasionally, there are questions related to this from major funders.

Spanish Translation

P: Somos una agencia de Second Harvest. Hemos tenido dos despensas móviles, una que atiende a 250 familias y la otra a 200. ¿Deberíamos informar esto en la columna de “alimentos en especie”? También repartimos comida cada tercer jueves que es proporcionada por Second Harvest. Tenemos un promedio de 35 familias. Acabamos de comenzar esto hace unos meses. Indique si lo informaremos en el Informe Anual y cómo lo haríamos. No estoy seguro de poder ser exacto sobre el valor.

R: A menos que tenga un acuerdo especial con Second Harvest, la comida que obtiene de Second Harvest se compra, por lo que no es en especie. Cuando dice que “también reparte comida cada tercer jueves que proporciona Second Harvest”, ¿quiere decir que Second Harvest está haciendo la distribución y usted está ayudando, o que Second Harvest le da la comida gratis y usted está distribuido? Si es el primero, no registra nada excepto su tiempo. Si es el segundo, registra los alimentos distribuidos como en especie.

P: Tengo un problema grande con el desglose étnico solicitado en el Informe Anual de la Conferencia. El gobierno federal tiene un formulario especial para la identificación étnica y racial. No veo ningún valor en proporcionar esta información.

R: La Sociedad no utiliza esta información de forma discriminatoria. La información de origen étnico se recopila solo en conjunto. De acuerdo con nuestra Regla (Parte I, Artículo 3.2), no debemos discriminar en la membresía. El desglose en el informe anual es simplemente para mostrar cuán diversa e inclusiva se ha vuelto la Sociedad. De vez en cuando, hay preguntas relacionadas con esto de los donantes principales.

                               

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships and having face-to-face encounters with those in need. Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance. We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective. Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement. Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping? Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision. Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning. It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society.  If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in the E-Gazette. We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness. In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

11-18-2021 Questions and Answers

11-18-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Conference Bylaws, Document 1, indicates Conferences should meet at least twice a month. The standardized Conference and Annual Reports have a possible meeting time of once a month. Please confirm, or not, that if a Conference meets once a month they are not in compliance with the standardized Bylaws, document 1? Also, if a Conference meets less than once a month, what should be the selection  for on the Annual Report, “Other?”

A: “Monthly” and “Other” are on the Annual Report for Conferences to be honest in when they meet. However, the Rule (Part III, Statute 5) is also emphasized in the bylaws. It is up to the Conference to be compliant with the Rule. It is the responsibility of the Conference President to ensure this. It is the responsibility of the District Council to ensure that all Conferences are compliant with the Rule. Any action related to bringing the Conferences into compliance must be initiated by the Conference President and the District Council. If this is ignored by the Conference President and the District Council, then the Conference, the Conference President, and the District Council are all non-compliant with the Rule. In that case, upper Councils must take action when they know this condition exists. Refusal to be compliant with the Rule is grounds for removal from the Society.

Q: How do we report the number of people helped with cash i.e. rent, electric etc.? There is a reporting section for in-kind activity but not cash.

A: The number of people helped with cash is not captured on the annual report separately, but is reflected in our Visits and Services to People which includes in-kind services. As described in the Annual Report instructions, expenses gathered under the treasurer’s report reflect all funds expended for goods and services provided to those we served, including cash, checks, certificates, bus tickets, and gift cards. The principal method for payment of aid will be check, paid directly to the provider of those goods or services. This also includes the cost of food purchased to stock your food pantry. For those Conferences that operate stores and other Special Works, this includes dollars spent for direct aid to those in need.

Spanish Translation

P: Los Estatutos de la Conferencia, Documento 1, indica que la Conferencia debe reunirse al menos dos veces al mes. La Conferencia estandarizada y los Informes Anuales tienen un tiempo de reunión posible de una vez al mes. Por favor confirme, o no, que si una Conferencia se reúne una vez al mes, no cumplen con los Estatutos estandarizados, documento 1. Además, si una Conferencia se reúne menos de una vez al mes, ¿qué debería ser la selección en el Informe Anual, cuando una Conferencia se reúne menos de una vez al mes? ¿Pondría “Otro” en los formularios?

R: “Mensual” y “Otro” están en el informe anual de las Conferencias para ser honestos en cuando se reúnan. Sin embargo, la Regla (Parte III, Estatuto 5) también se enfatiza en los estatutos. Depende de la Conferencia cumplir con la Regla. Es responsabilidad del presidente de la Conferencia garantizar esto. Es responsabilidad del Consejo de Distrito asegurarse de que todas las Conferencias cumplan con la Regla. Cualquier acción relacionada con el cumplimiento de las Conferencias debe ser iniciada por el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo Distrito. Si esto es ignorado por el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo de Distrito, entonces la Conferencia, el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo de Distrito no cumplen con la regla. En ese caso, los Consejos superiores deben actuar cuando saben que existe esta condición. Negarse a cumplir con la Regla es motivo de expulsión de la Sociedad.

P: ¿Cómo informamos la cantidad de personas que recibieron ayuda con dinero en efectivo, es decir, alquiler, luz, etc.? Hay una sección de informes para las actividades en especie, pero no en efectivo.

R: La cantidad de personas a las que se ayudó con efectivo no se registra en el informe anual por separado, sino que se refleja en nuestras Visitas y Servicios a las Personas, que incluyen servicios en especie. Como se describe en las instrucciones del informe anual, los gastos recopilados en el informe del tesorero reflejan todos los fondos gastados en bienes y servicios proporcionados a aquellos a quienes servimos, incluido efectivo, cheques, certificados, boletos de autobús y tarjetas de regalo. El método principal de pago de la ayuda será el cheque, pagado directamente al proveedor de esos bienes o servicios. Esto también incluye el costo de los alimentos comprados para abastecer su despensa de alimentos. Para aquellas Conferencias que operan tiendas y otros Trabajos Especiales, esto incluye dólares gastados para ayuda directa a los necesitados.

Councils and Their Conferences

Councils and Their Conferences 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

This document is about Councils; yet, the starting point of this document is Conferences. Why is that? As you will see below, Councils don’t exist without Conferences and the Council’s primary role is to support the Conferences.

CONFERENCE PARTICIPATION IN THE COUNCIL

This is an important principle to keep in mind: Conferences that do not want to participate with the Council have not been convinced they receive anything of value from the Council and its activities. Councils should never be formed simply for the sake of forming a Council. Councils have a particular purpose and the Conferences must understand what that is.

In the Rule that was in effect prior to 2003, there was a statement that was a clear definition of the purpose of any Council. This statement was in Part II of the Rule, Article 15:

  • Councils are responsible for animating and coordinating the work of SVdP units within their respective jurisdictions.
  • They serve the Conferences. All Councils are first and foremost at the service of the Conferences with a view to furthering charitable activities. Because every Council gathers information about human needs and services from a variety of sources – the community at large, as well as the Conferences – it keeps Conferences in touch with changing social problems and new programs for helping
  • … each year, each Council obtains and compiles a consolidated annual report of all the Conferences and Councils attached to it. The Council’s report is then forwarded with any comments to the next higher Council for the preparation of the annual report of the National Council of the United
  • Councils encourage initiatives and strive to bring about the establishment of Conferences, Councils and new works, and the revival of dormant or defunct
  • A Council reviews and evaluates applications for aggregation and institution that are submitted by its affiliated SVdP groups. If approved at District and Diocesan Council levels, the application is forwarded to the National Council for transmittal to the Council General (International).
  • Councils organize, to the fullest possible extent, training and formation sessions for members and potential members on spiritual themes, the Vincentian vocation, and problems of social action and justice.
  • To coordinate Vincentian work, Councils keep in regular contact with their Conferences and Councils and inform them of the activities of the
    The Council represents its constituent units in contacts with religious and public
  • Each Council determines the expected contribution (solidarity) from attached Conferences and Councils in order to meet its necessary expenses and assist needy Conference and Council groupings attached to
  • Special works of the Society conducted by the Councils must rely on the Conferences for support, personnel and

In the current Rule, these responsibilities have not changed. They are also spelled out but not in so compact a form.

The fact of the matter is that all Conferences should be aware of what the Council is doing for them. Conferences should be receiving benefits from the Council that clearly provide value to them. It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that Conferences understand this clearly. Ultimately, it is the Conference members themselves who make up the Councils and who make the decisions in support of the Conferences.

STRONG CONFERENCES

Strong Conferences make a strong Council!! It is the Council’s responsibility to assist and guide Conferences in fulfilling the mission of the Society. The best way to do this is to ensure that Conference leadership and members understand what the Society is all about, what the role of the Conference is and what is expected of members.

When Conferences get into trouble (begin to decline or get into some other difficulty), it is far better to be proactive rather than reactive. It is recommended that each Council form a Conference Resources and Concerns Committee to:

  1. Promote understanding and compliance with the Rule, Bylaws and Manual;
  2. Develop resources that will help Conferences to understand and fulfill their roles in the Society;
  3. Provide training materials for Conference leadership;
  4. Monitor Conference activity and act to assist Conferences who are in trouble;
  5. Promote and assist in establishing new Conferences;
  6. Assist in revitalizing existing Conferences, where needed; and
  7. Mediate Conference concerns where

A well-formed Conference Resources and Concerns Committee can monitor Conference activities and offer many aids to make a Conference more effective.

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships, and having face-to-face encounters with those in need. Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance. We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective. Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement. Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping? Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision. Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning. It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society. If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in the E-Gazette. We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness. In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

11-4-2021 Questions & Answers

11-4-2021 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: How are gift card purchases or gift certificates for food reported on the annual report?

A: Gift cards or gift certificates purchased by Conferences for food should be reported as expenses in the annual report under “those we serve” since the expenditures are on behalf of neighbors in need. Gift cards or gift certificates that have been donated to the Conference are treated as in-kind and are reported as they are used. 

Q: Is it correct that we should not use a friend in need’s name and picture in our advertising – even with their permission?

A: Using our friends in need name and photograph on advertisement is not a violation, with written (authorization) advance permission. We want to be sensitive to a person’s situation, including financial, family, and safety. There are additional sensitivities when dealing with the identities of children. Many SVdP Councils/Conferences have case record forms that have a disclaimer on it; perhaps it will work for this purpose. Others have a separate release of information form for our friends in need to sign. The release of information form is different from a release to use images/photos and normally does not include permission for photographs or advertisements. There is usually a separate release form for this purpose. Contact the National Communications Team, Jill Pioter (jpioter@svpdusa.org) or Michelle Boyer (mboyer@svdpusa.org) about this. A question to ask is if the real name is truly needed: can you tell the story with an alias? Could you use only a first name and have the same impact? The critical point here is the picture, whether you use their real name or an alias. Many people do not want their pictures shown.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Cómo se informa las compras de tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo para alimentos en el informe anual?

R: Las tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo comprados por las Conferencias para alimentos deben declararse como gastos en el informe anual bajo “aquellos a quienes servimos,” ya que los gastos son en nombre de los vecinos con necesidades. Las tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo que se hayan donado a la Conferencia se tratan como en especie y se informan a medida que se utilizan.

P: ¿Es correcto que no deberíamos usar el nombre y la imagen de un amigo con necesidades en nuestra publicidad, incluso con su permiso?

R: Usar el nombre y la fotografía de nuestros amigos con necesidades no es una violación, con un permiso previo por escrito (autorización). Queremos ser sensibles a la situación de una persona, incluidas las finanzas, la familia y la seguridad. Hay sensibilidades adicionales cuando se trata de las identidades de los niños. Muchos Consejos/Conferencias SVdP tienen formularios de registro de casos que tienen un descargo de responsabilidad; quizás funcione para este propósito. Otros tienen un formulario de divulgación de información por separado para que lo firmen nuestros amigos. El formulario de divulgación de información es diferente de una autorización para usar imágenes/fotos y normalmente no incluye permiso para fotografías o anuncios. Por lo general, existe un formulario de autorización por separado para este propósito. Comuníquese con el equipo nacional de Comunicaciones sobre esto. Una pregunta que debemos hacernos es si realmente se necesita el nombre real: ¿puedes contar la historia con un alias? ¿Podrías usar solo un nombre sin apellido y tener el mismo impacto? El punto crítico aquí es la imagen, ya sea que use su nombre real o un alias. Mucha gente no quiere que se usen sus imágenes.

 

The Meaning of Good Governance

The Meaning of Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Good governance. What does it mean anyway?

Governance means:

  • Responsible use of assets and funds.
  • Ensuring the group/organization is fulfilling its mission.
  • Openly communicating with others and listening to others at all levels of the organization.
  • Accurate recordkeeping for the benefit of the organization and those we serve.
  • Maintaining good legal standing through compliance with IRS section 501(c)(3) requirements.
  • Serving as a good role model: In the Vincentian world this also includes embracing servant leadership.

Governance does NOT mean:

  • The leader cannot share responsibilities.
  • Numbers are more important than people.
  • Opinions of others do not matter.
  • Turning the organization/group into something distant from its mission.

Basically, good governance means good leadership. It means taking good care of the Society; it means taking good care of those we serve. It means taking care of each other, encouraging the spiritual growth of all members and friendship among members, and person-to-person service. It means serving with integrity, accountability and in a trustworthy manner. Taking advantage of ongoing learning opportunities and identifying helpful collaborations can help Vincentian leaders govern and lead with great effectiveness and joy.

St. Vincent de Paul once said, “There is great charity – but it is badly organized.” Let us be inspired by St. Vincent’s good governance and leadership and allow the generosity of others to be put to good use.

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