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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.

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.

So You’ve Been Elected President…

So You’ve Been Elected President… 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with fellow Conference and Council members as well as those in need. As with all involvement in the Society, we hope your work as a Vincentian servant leader will lead you to greater faith, an increased desire to serve and stronger friendships.

Do you feel some anxiety about taking on a Vincentian leadership role? Let’s take a look at a few common myths behind that anxiety.

Myth #1: You need to know everything now.

No Vincentian has taken a leadership role already knowing everything; to be honest, no current Vincentian leader knows everything now. What most Vincentian leaders do learn is where to look to find information, where the resources are and who in the Society has experiences and wisdom to share.

Truth #1: You will learn and grow during your time as a Vincentian leader.
Myth #2: You are now in charge of everything.

A Vincentian leader is a servant leader who understands the role of God’s providence. Your ultimate role is to harness the gifts and spirit of your members and direct them to growth in holiness and increased love for one another, and in ways of service to others. To do this you will need to allow God to direct you.

Truth #2: God is in charge of everything. You are called to discern where God is leading and to follow through — and help your members do the same.
Myth #3: You are all alone in figuring things out.

This myth could not be further from the truth. The Society is truly a global network of charity. Fellow Vincentians in 155 countries are serving those in need, as you are, and desire to do so with love and in an effective manner. As you attend regional and national gatherings, or reach out to other Vincentian leaders, you will find that many people are more than willing to share their knowledge. You will only feel all alone if you do not participate in such interactions and relationships.

Truth #3: Most Vincentian leaders love to talk about their experiences and help each other.

We will share useful information relevant to your new responsibilities in these Frederic’s e-Gazette articles in the coming weeks. Reach out to other Vincentians — even if they are not from your area — for advice and support. Thank you for being willing to serve through leadership, and may you be blessed through your witness of following God’s lead in your Conference’s/Council’s service while encouraging others to do the same.

We remind you of the valuable resources on the National website and urge you to review the Governance Page, where the Governance Training DVD and the other material the National Governance Committee has prepared can be found. Then make plans to use these tools. Your Conference and Council will be better off if you do so.

Conference Collaborations — Enhancing Our Network of Charity

Conference Collaborations — Enhancing Our Network of Charity 1200 628 Jill Pioter

In August of 1833, Leon Le Prevost, a member of the first Conference who later went on to establish the Religious Order of St. Vincent de Paul, wrote: “In this moment there is a great movement of charity and of faith…” The same could be said of our time and our place in this world. Although we are often distracted by negative forces, influences and movements, we must never lose sight of the hearts of our non-Vincentian brothers and sisters who like us long to help others. We witness that concern and compassion flow out of the actions of individuals, families, corporations, faith-based groups and civic organizations as they respond to natural disasters and other large-scale tragedies.

From the very early days of the Society, our founders understood the need to work collaboratively with the government and other organizations in order to better assist the poor and suffering. In December of 1833, the first Conference accepted the role of “Commissioners of Charity” for the administrators of the La Bienfaisance neighborhood. While our present-day Councils often enter into collaborative agreements and relationships, our local Conferences tend to function primarily in cooperation with other Conferences and Councils, seldom reaching out to other groups in their local area.

If Conferences are isolated and do not interact and cooperate with other local faith-based groups and charitable organizations, we are overlooking resources including potential volunteers who can assist us in providing assistance to our neighbors in need. By joining forces we not only increase our ability to help others but we also engage the community and provide others with the opportunity to be actively involved in helping those in need. Additionally, our outreach efforts help spread knowledge about the Society and our mission of charity and love.

On the Conference level, most collaborative relationships do not require a formal contract but more of a mutual understanding based on agreement in protocols and policies. Identifying groups in your area should be the starting point followed by outreach and relationship-building. Such relationships should start by sharing with the group’s leaders or members our history and mission, as well as letting them know how we currently serve those in need in our community.

The process must include a two-way conversation that provides us with an understanding of who they are and how they currently serve the community. Once that relationship is built, we can begin a conversation on how we can work together to benefit the needy, always keeping in mind that we can only function within the Rule of the Society. Just as we honor who they are and their procedures and guidelines, they must honor ours. For example, potential collaborative partners need to understand early on we cannot share funds with them or any project that our members are not involved in through person-to-person contact with the poor.

When Frederic Ozanam helped to establish the Society, he envisioned a network of charity that would encompass the world. Vincentians are only part of that network. Our vocation calls us to reach out and serve beside other people of goodwill to help relieve poverty and injustice. By reaching out to them we can enhance the work of our Conferences and provide opportunities for them to join us in service to the least among us.

Such collaboration can make a huge difference. Ask yourself, “How can our Conference build relationships with other groups and churches?” With the help of others, we can do more and experience the love of Christ in those whom we serve and in those whom we serve beside.

A Time For Thanks

A Time For Thanks 1200 628 Jill Pioter

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 189 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.”

(The series of excerpts from Vincentian Life: Council will resume next week.)

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Monitor Special Conditions
The following special conditions should be monitored regularly and addressed as necessary.

1. Conference President’s term of office is limited to two consecutive three year terms. After the two terms, the President must be out of office for at least three years before being elected once again. Technically, as soon as the six years expires, the President is no longer in office and the Conference operates under the leadership of the first Vice President until the election of a new President takes place. In the case of violation of this rule, the Council must ensure that an election is held to replace the outgoing President as soon as possible.

2. Each Conference is to have at least four officers: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Each office must be held by a separate person. No one person may hold multiple officer positions. In addition, Statute 12 of Part III of the Rule indicates that a President may not appoint his/her spouse or other closely related individual to an officer position.

3. Service area comes into conflict often within the Society. The District Council should ensure that Conferences provide service only to those people living within the boundaries established for the Conference. These boundaries should be established as a formal agreement between the Conferences in the Council. In some cases, the boundaries will simply be the parish boundaries. In other cases the boundaries may be more extensive, as long as they are agreed upon by the Council. This way, people seeking service cannot simply go from Conference to Conference seeking help. The Conference covering the area where that person or family lives is the one that makes the decision as to help or not help.

Voice / Vote in the Council
Conferences should have a voice in every major decision. No Voice, no Vote, no Vincentian will be at the meeting or activity. It is important that every Conference is represented at the District Council and that the Conference President (or his/her designated representative) is there to speak for them.

Most Council bylaws have a clause that will remove a Conference President from Council membership/voice/vote if the President misses a certain number of meetings. This removal is a tragedy for the Council, the Conference and the people we serve.

Up-to-Date
Conferences should be aware of all conditions and circumstances both local and global that will impact them or the Council. Conferences should be especially aware of any major situation that threatens the well-being of the Council. Therefore, it is an obligation of the Council to keep the Conferences well-informed and in a timely manner.

The Council should strive to develop a fabric of communication. One that goes up and down the normal channels but also goes sideways from Conference to Conference and from Vincentian to Vincentian. A strong fabric of communication will strengthen the Council and avoid the problems of it relying on a few people to make it run. If those few leave the Council for any reason it can take weeks or months to learn all that needs to be known on how the Council operates. A fabric of communications creates an informal communications network that helps keep the members informed.

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.

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Jill Pioter

A new fiscal year for our Society will start soon and this 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 materials provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year the National Governance Committee will address some of these important matters further in Frederic’s 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.

Governance — Good Stewardship

Governance — Good Stewardship 1200 628 Jill Pioter

*Information provided by the National Governance Committee

What does stewardship look like in your life? Then think of this through the prism of a Vincentian lens which should have a spiritual and biblical foundation.

Then ask yourself what stewardship means to you, to members of the Society, and to your respective Councils and Conferences.

Certainly, as good stewards we need to give thanks for all the gifts we’ve received. This means thanks to God, thanks to our bishops and pastors for allowing us to serve within their dioceses and parishes, thanks to our volunteers and employees, and thanks to every person who has helped us by donating goods and money.

Good stewardship involves, among other things, accepting and acting on the following principles:

  1. The principle that everything we have is a gift from God who has given us the ability to serve others
  2. The principle of responsibility
  3. The principle of accountability.

Let’s examine these further:

First, stewardship includes recognition that it is God who created everything and through whose grace and blessing we have been given the ability to serve others and to receive the funds needed to do so effectively. It is God who has given us the graces we need to discern how best to help people.

With this comes the principle of responsibility to use the gifts bestowed on us wisely. This may mean helping other Conferences and upper Councils as well as those who come directly to us. We help those who come to us or who we have sought out and found because they are God’s children. We help other Conferences because we know the people coming to them also need help. We help upper Councils mainly, but not exclusively, through solidarity dues so they can animate and promote our Essential Elements of Spirituality, Friendship, and Service. Responsibility also means not hoarding funds but rather honoring donor intent that those in need be helped in whatever way is prudent and will alleviate material, spiritual and emotional need and anxiety, and that the help be delivered by men and women who are well formed in what it means to be a Vincentian.

The principle of accountability also needs to be considered when discussing stewardship. When we as Vincentians become stewards of resources and money given to us, we have an absolute responsibility to give an accounting to all of our stakeholders – they were discussed in recent articles. This includes filing annual reports which have information that is shared with bishops across the country and helps the National Council fulfill its obligation to account to the greater church.

In short, we all have an obligation to be faithful stewards of all God has bestowed upon us and to see that in the end we are serving the common good and furthering God’s Kingdom.

The Meaning Of Good Governance

The Meaning Of Good Governance 1200 628 Jill Pioter

The information below was provided by the SVdP National Governance Committee.

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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