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06-15-2023 Questions and Answers

06-15-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: How important is it to get a receipt? We always have an electronic copy of the check from our bank but is that enough? Prior to COVID we would drop off checks to management companies or landlords in person and receive a receipt immediately. During COVID we generally would mail a check along with a letter with information about the help we were providing, requesting that they either email or send us a receipt, in the mail. Most send receipts but some do not.

A: Every effort should be made to get a receipt. If it is not possible, then a note from the Vincentians involved with the transaction saying that the receipt was not given should be used in place of the receipt. This should also be recorded in the case record.

Q: The Rule and Manual talk about a festival meeting, and that you can receive a plenary indulgence for it. How do you define a festival meeting, and could a Morning of Reflection be considered as such?

A: The Rule is explicit about what are considered festival meetings. According to the Rule, Part III, Statute 9, Vincentians celebrate “Festival Meetings,” by attending Mass together. Members meet on one or more of the following: Ozanam Sunday (the last Sunday of April, in honor of the April 23 birthday of Frederic Ozanam), the Feast of Blessed Frederic Ozanam (September 9), the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul (Sept. 27), the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), a Conference Mass celebrated once a year, and another feast day of local custom. A Conference Day of Recollection by itself cannot be considered a Festival Meeting unless it is held in conjunction with a Mass that all members attend on one of the above days.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Qué tan importante es obtener un recibo? Siempre tenemos una copia electrónica del cheque de nuestro banco, pero ¿es suficiente? Antes del Covid, dejábamos cheques a compañías de administración o propietarios en persona y recibíamos un recibo de inmediato. Durante el Covid, generalmente enviábamos un cheque junto con una carta con la información sobre la ayuda que estábamos brindando, solicitando que nos enviaran un correo electrónico o un recibo por correo. La mayoría envía recibos, pero algunos no.

R: Se debe hacer todo lo posible para obtener un recibo.  Si no es posible, entonces se debe poner una nota de los Vicentinos involucrados en el caso, diciendo que el recibo no fue entregado, y en lugar del recibo usaran copia electrónica del cheque.  Esto también debe registrarse en el expediente del caso.

P: En la Regla y el Manual habla de una reunión festiva, y de que se puede recibir una indulgencia plenaria por ello.  ¿Cómo se define una reunión festiva, y se podría considerarse una Mañana de Reflexión como tal?

R: El Manual es explícito sobre lo que se consideran reuniones festivas. De acuerdo con la Regla original y la tradición de la Sociedad, los Vicentinos celebran “Reuniones Festivas”, cuando se reúnen para la Santa Misa y una reunión. Los miembros se reúnen en uno o más de los siguientes: Domingo de Ozanam (el último domingo de abril, en honor al cumpleaños del Beato Federico Ozanam el 23 de abril, la Festividad del Beato Federico Ozanam (9 de septiembre), la Festividad de San Vicente de Paúl (27 de septiembre), la Festividad de la Inmaculada Concepción (8 de diciembre), una Misa de Conferencia celebrada una vez al año, y otra fiesta de costumbre local. Un Día de Retiro de la Conferencia por sí solo no puede considerarse una Reunión Festiva a menos que se celebre junto con una Misa a la que todos los miembros asistan en uno de los días anteriores.


06-08-2023 Questions and Answers

06-08-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: One of our Vincentians has asked if our Conference can spend funds to improve the poor boxes in our parish church. We receive the contents of the boxes each week. They’ve gotten a little shabby, and our pastor has been working on improving the church’s environment with new pews, new stations, etc. 

A: Since the funds from the poor box are given to SVdP, the Conference may purchase replacements for the poor boxes and treat it as operating expenses. However, the Conference may not contribute funds directly to the parish to purchase the replacement poor box, as this is against the Rule.

Q: Is it permissible to handle requests for assistance from repeat callers via a telephone call? Our Vincentians will typically make Home Visits to a neighbor in need. Sometimes a follow-up telephone call is made to the neighbor in respect to their assistance request for which the Home Visit was made. Sometimes weeks or months after this request is resolved, the neighbor in need may call back and make another request for assistance. May our Vincentians handle these calls via a telephone call instead of another Home Visit?

A: Most of the calls received should be handled through a Home Visit, but a determination can be made individually, case by case. If several months have passed since the last Home Visit, Vincentians should reacquaint themselves with the neighbor’s situation and not assume it to be the same. Therefore, it may be necessary to reevaluate their circumstances. The telephone call may be appropriate for follow-up on an existing request, but not for new requests.

Spanish Translation

P: Uno de nuestros Vicentinos ha preguntado si nuestra Conferencia puede gastar fondos para mejorar las cajas para los pobres en nuestra iglesia parroquial. Recibimos el contenido de las cajas cada semana. Se han puesto un poco en mal estado, y nuestro pastor ha estado trabajando para mejorar el ambiente de la iglesia con nuevas bancas, nuevas estaciones, etc.

R: Dado que los fondos de la caja para los pobres se entregan a SVdP, la Conferencia puede comprar reemplazos de esas cajas para los pobres y tratarlos como gastos operativos.  Sin embargo, la Conferencia no puede contribuir con fondos directamente a la parroquia para que ellos compren la caja de reemplazo, ya que esto va en contra de la Regla.

P: ¿Está permitido manejar las solicitudes de asistencia de las personas que llaman repetidamente a través de una llamada telefónica? Nuestros Vicentinos generalmente harán una Visita Domiciliaria a nuestros prójimos en necesidad. A veces se hace una llamada telefónica de seguimiento a la persona con respecto a su solicitud de asistencia para la cual se realizó la Visita Domiciliaria. A veces, semanas o meses después de que se resolvió esta solicitud, la persona en necesidad puede volver a llamar y hacer otra solicitud de asistencia. ¿Pueden nuestros Vicentinos manejar este caso a través de una llamada telefónica en lugar de otra Visita Domiciliaria?

R: La mayoría de las llamadas recibidas deben manejarse a través de una Visita Domiciliaria, pero se puede hacer una determinación individualmente; caso por caso.  Si han pasado varios meses desde la última Visita Domiciliaria, los Vicentinos deben volver a familiarizarse con la situación del prójimo y no asumir que es la misma situación.  Por lo tanto, puede ser necesario reevaluar sus circunstancias.  La llamada telefónica puede ser apropiada para el seguimiento de una solicitud existente, pero no para nuevas solicitudes.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Bylaws — What They Are and Why They Matter

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Bylaws — What They Are and Why They Matter 1200 628 Jill Pioter

The original Bylaws presentation was developed and presented by John Berry, SVdP National President-Elect. This article was written by Mike Syslo.

The Boring Stuff

What are Bylaws: Bylaws are a nonprofit’s operating manual. Bylaws (or Bylaws and Articles of Organization) are the main governing document for a nonprofit organization. They are the main official documents of an organization, nonprofit or for-profit. One of the important things to remember about Bylaws is that the operations of your organization must be in line with what you say they are in the Bylaws and Articles.

The purpose of the Bylaws is to guide the nonprofit Board’s actions and decisions. They are helpful in preventing or resolving conflicts and disagreements. They can protect the organization from potential problems by clearly outlining rules on authority levels, rights and expectations.

If the Board of Directors fails to follow the Bylaws, it can be held liable for breaching its duty to the organization.  Breach of duty can cause a significant liability for the Board of Directors.  Breach of duty can also result in the organization losing its nonprofit, tax-exempt status. The loss of nonprofit status would mean a loss of tax deductibility for donors and the need for the organization to pay taxes on their income.

“Bylaws determine how an organization is structured.   For example, most Bylaws specify whether an organization has members, define the duties of officers and Board members, and identify standing Board committees. An important function of Bylaws (if this matter is not covered in the Articles) is to specify how Board members are selected.” (BoardSource)

What About the Rule?

All groups require rules for effective operation. Our Rule is drawn from the lives and experience of all Vincentians throughout the world. It describes the elements that are needed to maintain the unity of the Society.  There is no group or organization that exists without some set of rules.

In 1835, two years after its founding, the Society formulated its Rule, a series of Articles based upon the practical experiences of the first Vincentians. The Rule of the Society has continued as the guide and blueprint for the Society for the past 188 years. This, alone, is a tribute to its efficacy and to the Holy Spirit who inspired it.  The Rule has gone through a few modifications over those many years, but the essential spirit of the Society that is reflected in the Articles and Statutes is the same as in the first Rule.

Bylaws and the Rule: The Relationship 

Bylaws are significant written rules by which an organization is governed. They determine how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is structured and, along with state law, determine the rights of participants in the structure.

Membership in the National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. requires that every organizational unit (Conference and Council) have Bylaws.  Prior to 2003, the Rule included both the philosophy of the Society and its structure and responsibilities.  Since 2003, philosophy has been in the Rule and the structure and responsibilities have been in the Bylaws.  Having the original format of the Rule split into two separate documents has caused the need for all Conferences and Councils to adopt a set of Bylaws and operate in accord with both Rule and Bylaws.

Conferences and Councils must maintain their Bylaws (including any and all amended articles) in updated and amended form. The Conference or Council must keep a copy of their Bylaws together with the Rule document (The Manual 1.3).  In addition, the next higher Council should have a copy of the Bylaws.  For example, a District Council should have a copy of the Bylaws of each of its Conferences.  The Diocesan Council should have a copy of the Bylaws of each of its District Councils.

The Rule is the paramount authority of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Should any bylaw, rule or regulation adopted by a Conference or Council conflict with the Rule and statutes of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as now promulgated or hereafter adopted by the Council General International or the National Council of the United States, such bylaw, rule or regulation shall be void and of no effect (The Manual 1.3).  This needs to be very clear in everybody’s mind.  You cannot put anything into the Bylaws that in any way conflicts with the Rule or Nationally Approved Bylaws.  If a conflict exists, the Bylaws will be rejected by the next higher Council; and you may not proceed with them.

BUT – Bylaws have been created to be used by SVdP entities across the country and as such do not include language that may be required by your state and local law (see listing of multiple versions of Bylaws on page three).  It is strongly advised that legal advice be sought from a local attorney concerning matters such as the following:  non-discrimination policy language, tax-exemption requirements, and any other areas of the Bylaws in which modification of the language is necessary in order to be in alignment with applicable state and local law.  As of this date, we have not found anything of substance in the Nationally Approved Bylaws that conflict with state and local law.

Since the Bylaws have been developed to be in conformity with the Rule of the Society, Bylaws should be modified only to address alignment to state and local law (Bylaws Introduction, SVdP USA).

Where Did Our Bylaws Come From? 

In 2003, the Council General International approved an updated version of the Rule of the Society.  Each separate Superior/National Council was invited to draft their own Part III of the Rule to define the items of the Rule that are unique to each country.  This new version of Part III of the Rule for the United States was different from the former Rule in that details of structure and governance were removed.  Those details were then placed in Bylaws which varied with each type of SVdP structure within the United States.  Placing the structure and governance concerns of the Society into a separate document has forced Conferences and Councils to adopt an appropriate set of Bylaws for their use.

The Bylaws documents were approved by the National Council Members at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s 2005 Annual Meeting and have been revised as needed (last in 2021) so that good governance policies are in place and are in compliance with:

  • The Rule of the Society,
  • The Charter of the Society (a.k.a. Articles of Incorporation),
  • Bylaws of the National Council while leaving flexibility for compliance with national and state laws that govern charities.

How Many Kinds of Bylaws Are There for Councils and Conferences?

Because of the possible structures that exist for unincorporated and incorporated Conferences and Councils, multiple versions had to be created.  There is one set of Bylaws for the National Council and three sets of Bylaws to choose from for each Conference, District Council and Diocesan Council.

  • BYLAWS for Conferences without a Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for Conferences with a Separate Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for District Councils with a Separate Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for Archdiocesan/Diocesan Councils with a Separate Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for the National Council
  • BYLAWS for District Councils with an Integrated Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for Archdiocesan/Diocesan Councils with an Integrated Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for District Councils without a Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for Archdiocesan/Diocesan Councils without a Board of Directors
  • BYLAWS for Conferences with an Integrated Board of Directors

Why Do We Need These?  Let’s Just Follow the Rule.

Because Bylaws may be cumbersome, they are frequently neglected or even disregarded as a tool for governance.  They are, however, essential to maintaining order and propriety within the organization.

SVdP governing entities must pay careful attention to Bylaws. They can take on added importance during governance disputes centering on the way an organization is carrying out its mission.  These disputes can take many forms:

  • A non-conforming entity needs dissolution.
  • A Board member who is voted out of office seeks reinstatement.
  • A dissident group within the organization attempts to gain control or a faction mounts a legal challenge to a Board decision.

In these difficult situations, carefully-crafted Bylaws, and adherence to them, can help ensure the fairness of governance decisions and provide protection against legal challenges.

Bylaws determine how SVdP is structured. Bylaws specify whether an organization has members, define the duties of officers and Board members, and identify standing Board committees.

An important function of Bylaws (if this matter is not covered in the Articles of Incorporation) is to specify how Board members are selected.  This, along with the specification of the maximum number of Board members, determines how workable as a team the governing body is.

Bylaws, along with state law, determine the rights of participants in the structure, such as the rights of members to be notified of meetings, the rights of Board members or officers whom others may want to remove from office and the rights of Board members to indemnification.

Bylaws determine many procedures by which rights can be exercised.   For example, Bylaws may require a certain form of notice for meetings, or they may specify whether Board meetings can be held by telephone or whether elections can be conducted by mail.  Other procedures defined in Bylaws pertain to the election/selection of officers.

The Fun Stuff – Some Real Situations

  1. The Board of the Diocesan Council, in putting together its slate of officers for the next year has asked Christi to serve as Vice President. Christi has been on the Board for the last three years and they all think she’d be a good fit for the VP job. Christi started volunteering with SVdP when her Church, United Methodist, partnered with the Council on their Food Pantry.
    • Bylaws issue or Rule issue?

This is both a Bylaws issue and a Rule issue.  Christi is non-Catholic and cannot serve as an officer.  The President of the Diocesan Council appoints the officers after consultation with the District Presidents – not the Board.

  1. Christopher was just elected as President of the Council. He has never gotten along with Gracie, the ED; so right after he is installed as President, he fires her and puts Jake in the job.
    • Bylaws issue or Rule issue?

This is a Bylaws issue.  It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors (not the President) to hire and fire the ED/CEO.

  1. The new President of the St. Frederic Ozanam Conference presents his new officers to the Conference at his first meeting. Tom raises an objection to the new Treasurer and Secretary and says he will not support them. Others in the room agree.
    • Bylaws issue or Rule issue?
    • Bonus issue!

This is a Bylaws issue, a Rule issue and an Aggregation issue.  The President appoints the officers after consultation with the Conference.  “Consultation with” does not mean “approval by.”  The President may decide that the objections are not sufficient for a change in choice.  The Conference must work as a team and refusing to support the officers is not an option.    Also, it may have been overlooked, but Frederic Ozanam has not yet been canonized – he is Blessed Frederic.  In addition, unless the parish in which the Conference resides is named for Frederic Ozanam, Conferences are prohibited from having his name.  The same holds true for “St. Vincent de Paul.”

  1. At the regular second meeting of the month, Katie, a member of the St. Mary’s Conference and a member of the parish staff, tells the Conference members that the Church’s A/C system has broken and it’s going to cost the parish $60,000 for a replacement system. The Conference President suggests that the Conference use $10,000 from its bank account to ‘help the parish defray the cost’.
    • Bylaws issue or Rule issue?

This is a Rule issue.  Conferences and Councils are prohibited from giving donations to (and this includes raising funds for) outside organizations no matter how worthy the cause may be.  The parish is an outside organization.  The funds of the Society must be used for the purposes of the Society.

In Summary

Because your Conference or Council uses the National Council’s trademarked name “Society of St. Vincent de Paul” with the express permission of and a limited license issued by the National Council, the Bylaws adopted by your Conference or Council must be formally approved.

Conferences must have their Bylaws approved by their District Council.  The District Council Bylaws must be approved by the Archdiocesan/Diocesan Council.  Archdiocesan/Diocesan Council Bylaws must be approved by the National Vice President for the Region.

06-01-2023 Questions and Answers

06-01-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Why is the maximum term for Council/Conference Presidents two three-year terms or six consecutive years total?  How and who decided on that number of years? If, for example, a Conference President is doing a good job and wants to have the position for another term beyond the two served, especially if all members agree and no one wants the position, why is that currently not an option?

A: It’s very simple, it is in the Rule of the Society. At the end of six years, that Vincentian must step down and the Conference must elect another Vincentian as President. The current President must be out of office for at least three years before he/she may be elected again. This requirement helps us assure continued servant leadership through sharing of responsibilities over time.

Q: When our Conference Home Visitors come across a neighbor in need that has put the utility bill in one of their children’s names, should we pay it? Putting the account in a child’s name is basically fraud, but for some families this may be the only way to have electric and gas service. Do we ignore this “crime” and keep the lights and heat on?

A: This is a local decision, but if the request to pay is made by the parent, and both the parents and the child live there, why not pay it?  Don’t do billing work for the utility company.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Por qué el mandato máximo de los Presidentes del Consejo/Conferencia es de dos periodos de tres años o seis años consecutivos en total?  ¿Cómo y quién decidió ese número de años?  Si, por ejemplo, un Presidente de Conferencia está haciendo un buen trabajo y quiere tener el cargo por otro período más de los dos servidos, especialmente si todos los miembros están de acuerdo y nadie quiere el puesto, ¿por qué actualmente no es una opción?

R: Es muy simple, está en la Regla de la Sociedad.  Al cabo de seis años, ese Vicentino debe renunciar y la presidencia, y la Conferencia debe elegir a otro Vicentino como Presidente.  El Presidente actual debe estar fuera del cargo durante al menos tres años antes de que pueda ser elegido nuevamente. Este requisito nos ayuda a asegurar el liderazgo continuo de servicio a través del intercambio de responsabilidades a lo largo del tiempo.

P: Cuando los Visitadores de nuestra Conferencia se encuentran con un prójimo en necesidad que ha puesto la factura de servicios públicos a nombre de uno de los niños, ¿deberíamos pagarla? Poner la cuenta a nombre de un niño es básicamente un fraude, pero para algunas familias esta puede ser la única manera de tener servicio de electricidad y gas. ¿Ignoramos este “crimen” y mantenemos las luces y la calefacción encendida?

R: Esta es una decisión local; pero, si la solicitud de pago es hecha por el padre, y tanto los padres como el niño viven allí, ¿por qué no pagarla?  No estamos haciendo un servicio para la compañía de servicios públicos.

05-18-2023 Questions and Answers

05-18-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Can the “advisors” on a Council advisory committee vote on advisory committee issues?

A:  Yes, the committee members can vote on matters concerning the committee. Committees are advisory. Any matters/recommendations presented to the Board of Directors must be approved by the voting-eligible Board members before the recommendation becomes policy and can be passed on to the Vincentians in the Council at large.

Q: Are Conferences allowed to pay a stipend say of $100 to a volunteer (who is not a Vincentian) that does a lot of volunteer work in their food pantry?

A: We are required by law to pay at least a minimum wage to people who work for us. If this is done often or on a regular basis, then that person needs to be an employee or under contract. If under contract, we need to issue a IRS Form 1099 if the total exceeds $600 in a calendar year. Stipends are usually only paid for a temporary, short-term job.


P: ¿Pueden los “asesores” de un comité asesor del Consejo votar sobre asuntos del Comité asesor?

R: Sí, los miembros del comité pueden votar sobre asuntos relacionados con el comité. Los comités son consultivos.  Cualquier asunto / recomendación presentada a la Mesa Directiva debe ser aprobada por los miembros elegibles para votar antes de que la recomendación se convierta en política y pueda transmitirse a los miembros Vicentinos del Consejo en general.

P: ¿Se les permite a las Conferencias hacer un pago, digamos, de $ 100 a un voluntario (que no es Vicentino) que hace mucho trabajo voluntario en su almacén de alimentos?

R: Estamos obligados por ley a pagar al menos un salario mínimo a las personas que trabajan para nosotros.  Si esto se hace a menudo o de forma regular, entonces esa persona debe ser un empleado o bajo contrato.  Si está bajo contrato, necesitamos emitir un Formulario 1099 del IRS si el total excede los $600 en un año calendario.  Los pagos generalmente solo se pagan por un trabajo temporal a corto plazo.

05-11-2023 Questions and Answers

05-11-2023 Questions and Answers 150 150 Jill Pioter

Q:  Can a former President of a parish Conference that closed become president of an active Conference whose president’s second 3-year term has ended?

A:  They can, as long as the members of that Conference accept him/her as a member, of their Conference. S/He has to be an active member which means attending meetings and performing Conference works.

Q: Where can you find information on the installation of Conference officers?

A: The procedures/prayers for the installation of Conference officers can be found beginning on page 58 of Vincentian Celebrations – Rituals and Ceremonies.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Puede un ex Presidente de una Conferencia parroquial que ha sido cerrada, convertirse en Presidente de una Conferencia activa cuyo segundo mandato de 3 años del Presidente ha terminado?

R: Pueden, siempre y cuando los miembros de esa Conferencia lo acepten como miembro de su Conferencia. Tiene que ser un miembro activo, lo que significa asistir a las reuniones y realizar trabajos de la Conferencia.  Obviamente es católico si fue Presidente de la Conferencia.

P: ¿Dónde puede encontrar información sobre la instalación de Oficiales de Conferencias?

R: Los procedimientos/oraciones para la instalación de los Oficiales de la Conferencia se pueden encontrar a partir de la página 58 de Celebraciones Vicentinas – Rituales y Ceremonias.

04-27-2023 Questions and Answers

04-27-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q:  Our new president was told by our parish priest that he had the authority to shut us down if there were problems within our Conference. Can you give us some insight into this, as I was of the assumption that only our District Council has that authority?

A: The parish pastor does indeed have the authority at any point in time to tell the Conference to go away and not operate in his parish. We are present in parishes at the invitation of the pastor. However, priests do not have authority over the Conference operations. According to our Rule, the pastor and bishop are the Society’s authority only on matters of faith and morals.

Q: We have a Conference celebrating 80 years. Is there a certificate or some other form of acknowledgement available from National? The plan is to celebrate the Conference milestone at a district meeting.

A: A Certificate of Appreciation from the National Council is available in five-year increments for Conferences aggregated, Councils instituted, and for Special Works. For more information, contact Pam Hudson Johnson, phudson@svdpusa.org. You could also request a letter of congratulations from the National Council President.

Spanish Translation

P: Nuestro párroco le dijo a nuestro nuevo presidente que tenía la autoridad de cerrarnos si había problemas dentro de nuestra Conferencia. ¿Puede darnos una idea de esto, ya que yo estaba bajo la suposición que solo nuestro Consejo de Distrito tiene esa autoridad?

R: De hecho, el párroco tiene la autoridad en cualquier momento para decirle a la Conferencia que se vaya y no opere en su parroquia. Estamos presentes en las parroquias por invitación del párroco. Sin embargo, los sacerdotes no tienen autoridad sobre las operaciones de la Conferencia. De acuerdo con nuestra Regla (Cita), el Pastor y el Obispo son la autoridad de la Sociedad solo en asuntos de fe y moral.


P: Tenemos una Conferencia celebrando 80 años. ¿Hay algún certificado u otra forma de reconocimiento disponible de Nacional? El plan es celebrar el hito de la Conferencia en una reunión de distrito.

R: Un Certificado de Reconocimiento del Consejo Nacional está disponible en incrementos de cinco años para Conferencias agregadas, Consejos instituidos y para Obras Especiales. Para obtener más información, comuníquese con Pam Hudson Johnson, phudson@svdpusa.org.También puede solicitar una carta de felicitación del Presidente del Consejo Nacional.

04-20-2023 Questions and Answers

04-20-2023 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Can a Council or Conference twin with their associated or other SVdP-run Thrift Stores?

A: If a Conference or a Council owns a thrift store, they can transfer funds to that store’s operations at any time. This is an internal transfer of funds. For SVdP reporting, it has no income value to the store or expense value to the Conference or Council since the funds are already owned by the Conference or Council. Check with your CPA to affirm this.

However, if a Conference wants to send money to its own separately incorporated store or one owned by any other Conference or Council, this is considered twinning.

Q: We have two friends who recently lost a spouse. Are we allowed to help them with the cost of the funeral?

A: This is a service provided by many Conferences. The extent of help is up to the Conference. Assistance should follow the same protocols and limitations as would assistance for someone unknown to the members.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Puede un Consejo o Conferencia hermanarse con sus tiendas de segunda mano asociadas u otras administradas por SVdP?

R: Si una Conferencia o un Consejo posee una tienda de segunda mano, pueden transferir fondos a las operaciones de esa tienda en cualquier momento. Esta es una transferencia interna de fondos. Para los informes de SVDP, no tiene valor de ingreso para la tienda ni valor de gasto para la Conferencia o el Consejo, ya que los fondos ya son propiedad de la Conferencia o el Consejo. Consulte con su Contador Público Certificado para afirmar esto.

Sin embargo, si una Conferencia quiere enviar dinero a su propia tienda incorporada por separado o a una propiedad de otra Conferencia o Consejo, esto se considera hermanamiento.

P: Tenemos dos amigos que recientemente perdieron a su cónyuge. ¿Se nos permite ayudarlos con el costo del funeral?

R: Este es un servicio proporcionado por muchas Conferencias. El alcance de la ayuda depende de la Conferencia. La asistencia debe seguir los mismos protocolos y limitaciones que la asistencia a una persona desconocida para los miembros.

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part Two

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part Two 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Last week we discussed five groups of people who should be considered stakeholders in what we do as Vincentians. Here are five additional groups:

  • Collaborative Nonprofit Organizations
  • Governmental Entities
  • The Community At Large
  • The Local Bishop (in the case of all Catholic organizations)
  • Pastors and Clergy (in the case of any Catholic organization supported by a parish)

Other nonprofit organizations are stakeholders. We all share a com­mon goal to some degree. All nonprofits influence other nonprofit or­ganizations in their community. Especially important are those nonprofits that we partner with. If the Society does something to dam­age its reputation, then those that collaborate with it also may suffer collateral damage.

Every nonprofit needs other nonprofits to accomplish larger projects. With diversity of missions nonprofits can share the overall needs of those served by sharing our strengths with each other. For example, a person may need shelter that is provided by another nonprofit while the same person also needs clothing or food that is available from our Society.

The city, county, state, and federal govern­ments are additional stakeholders. Nonprofits and their volunteers are significant contributors to the support of the responsibilities of all these governmental entities. If federal and state governments did not allow donations to nonprofits to be tax-deductible, much of our work would be impossible to fund. If nonprofit organizations did not exist, it would be left up to the gov­erning bodies to provide necessary services to the public. Government agencies are very interested in what is done, how it is done, and the level of effectiveness and efficiency with which it is accomplished. They are also responsible to ensure that all laws are followed and that services provided do no harm to those who are served.

The entire community is a stakeholder. It has an interest in how those in need are served. The overall community and its image are improved when the disadvantaged are taken care of. The community is then thought of as a better place to live, raise children and experience a better quality of life. Where the care of those in need is provided by nonprof­its, the taxes necessary for broader social services are lessened.

Residents of the community often consider themselves “owners” of our Society. Because the people of the community see our work, some become donors, some volunteer and some know of someone who was served. Most agree with our work and readily identify with what we do even though they may not be directly involved. They may simply know that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is in their community and helping the poor. That knowledge is im­portant to them.

The finances of the nonprofit corporation are also more important to a wider community than the finances of a for-profit. Everyone who contributes in some way, who receives services, or who simply knows about its work consider themselves an owner or stakeholder. There is a perceived level of stewardship by the community. They expect the nonprofit to be run efficiently and that the money donated or granted to it goes toward intended programs. In fact, many people believe that nonprofit organizations should have plain, inexpensive offices and equipment. To them it is an indication that most of the donations are given to the poor and not to the people running the nonprofit. The people of the community will not tolerate what they consider to be excessive salaries.  In their eyes a nonprofit employee is really a dedicated volunteer and does the work because of a love of the mission and not for a well-paid job. For many employees that is a reality.

In our Society we recognize the need to maximize the amount of our donations that goes directly to those in need. But that maximization cannot come at the expense of our employees who deserve adequate wages. The Society’s Voice of the Poor Committee has developed a policy about a just wage for our employees. That policy has been approved by the National Council Members.

In the case of Catholic organizations, the local Bishop is responsible for all activities related to the Church in his Diocese. Because our Society is in the Diocese at the pleasure of the Bishop, he is a stakeholder. He allows us to be in the parishes because of our close relationship to the Church and the work we do for Christ’s poor. Because the way we operate directly reflects on the Diocese in the eyes of the community, and because our Society also contributes to the spiritual growth of its members and evangelizes by its members’ actions, the Bishop has great interest in what we do. He knows that we assist in fulfilling the Church’s preferential option for the poor. This vital relationship requires regular and close attention. Keeping your Bishop informed about the activities and achievements of your Council should be a high priority.

Pastors and Clergy are stakeholders for reasons similar to those of the Bishop. Our presence in the parish helps the pastor and other clergy serve the poor and relieves the parish burden of responding to the needs of people coming to the Church for assistance. Always keep in mind that St. Vincent de Paul serves in the parish with the pastor’s permission.

(The source of this article is Governance: Council and Board, the original version of which was authored by former National Vice President Terry Wilson.)


Governance — Recruiting New Members

Governance — Recruiting New Members 1200 628 Jill Pioter

*The information in this article was provided by the Governance Committee and Vincentian Life: Conference

In the previous chapter, we focused on how to retain the members you have and how to help them to grow. Keep in mind that in order for the Conference to grow we need to be able to attract new members. New members have the ability to renew a Conference with fresh new ideas and experiences. History has shown that Conferences which do not engage or welcome new members become stagnant and often close down.

Imagine the benefits of gaining a new member is like finding a diamond in the slag at the Kimberly mines. You have no idea of its real value until you chip away the exterior to reveal its inner composition (get to know her/him), and spend time polishing its surface (provide training, motivation and direction).

In this chapter, we will focus on the techniques to use to bring new members into the Conference so that you can discover those hidden diamonds.


It has been proven that the best way to recruit new people for your organization is the personal invitation. Challenge every member of your Conference to invite one friend or family member to join the Conference. Your Conference would easily double in size. This is because people have a tendency to trust the recommendations of people close to them, people whose opinion they value.

If you have enjoyed being a Vincentian, then you probably have talked about it to family members and friends. Spreading the word about something good can prove to be contagious. If being a member of the Society has truly had a positive impact on your life, then you likely want to share that with others.

Start by encouraging them to attend a meeting. Invite them to participate in some activity of the Society. Invite them to accompany you on a home visit to observe how we serve those needing help. Exposure to who we are and what we do is one sure way to make someone want to know more. Of course, keep in mind that all you can do is invite them. It is the Holy Spirit that will move them to sign on the dotted line.


After the personal invitation, the next best recruitment method available is the Invitation to Serve. The Invitation to Serve is a proven recruitment method that is used for starting new Conferences and recruiting new members for existing Conferences. This is touched on in the chapter titled “Getting Started.” This method provides an organized approach for recruitment and has a proven track record throughout the United States and has been used for more than 30 years.

There is no need to go into detail about this recruitment program here. All of the details are described in the program documentation which is available on the National Council website under Growing New Conferences/Councils. Suffice it to say that everything you need for a successful recruitment is spelled out in the program description. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step plan.


Another recruitment method that has been in use is the parish ministry fair. Essentially, the parish picks out a particular weekend on which they invite all of the parish ministries to have a display table with information about their particular ministry and invite parishioners to join. Members of each ministry provide brochures and other information and answer questions the people have about their ministry.

This can be an effective way to get people to join many ministries. It can also be overwhelming to people who are given too much to choose from. For an individual ministry, you are faced with people being offered too many choices, a lot of competition, and the possibility that you will be overlooked depending on your location. Realistically, more time is required and much smaller numbers result from this type of recruitment. However, it does give your organization visibility and an opportunity to talk about the good works of the Society.


In any recruitment effort, we must keep in mind the ethnic and cultural differences of the community in which we live. The membership in a Conference ideally should reflect ethnic and cultural diversity. An example would be if a community has a large populace of Hispanic/Latino people, that membership should be reflected within the Conference. The same holds true with Black Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic or racial groups. Conferences should be aware of and exposed to the cultural competencies needed to service those in need regardless of ethnic, racial or cultural background.

Did you know the Society was founded by a group of college students?  Young adults were at the very center of our existence and growth as an organization. Youth and young adults represent the future of the Society. It is imperative that we make every effort to attract and welcome young people into our Conference. This very important topic is discussed in more detail in another chapter on Youth and Young Adult Involvement.


The biggest failure that occurs in any recruitment effort is when existing members do not welcome the new recruits. In this case, we are not referring to saying “hello” and shaking their hands. “Welcoming” means to allow them to participate in the life of the Conference.

“Welcoming” includes the following:

  1. Allowing new members an opportunity to attend meetings on a regular basis. Sometimes our existing members are unwilling to accommodate changes to attract new members. For example, often times Conferences will hold their meetings during the day because the majority of the existing members are retired and daytime meetings are attractive and convenient. However, this does not allow people who work during the daytime hours the flexibility to attend the meetings. The existing members could adjust their meeting schedule to accommodate the new recruits as a sign of acceptance.
  2. The same holds true with doing Home Visits. Sometimes our members again set all Home Visit schedules for daytime hours with no regard for its new member’s availability.
  3. Our existing members need to partner with the new recruits to make them feel welcome in addition to training them. Sometimes our members are so accustomed to a familiar partner they sidestep the opportunity to partner with new members.
  4. This is also true with activities other than Home Visits. For example, certain members are used to doing a particular job, such as organizing and maintaining the food pantry. They feel ownership of that work and will not allow anyone else to help.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, one of the fastest ways to lose members is to not make them feel welcome.


There are proven ways to bring new people into the Conference: personal invitation, Invitation to Serve, and ministry fairs. However, no effort will prove successful if you do not welcome the new recruits and get them active.

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