• Search the Site

Conference

Conference Guidelines

Conference Guidelines 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

*Information for this week’s Governance article came from Vincentian Life: Conference

New members have a real challenge before them when they join a Conference. There is a tremendous amount of “stuff” that they have to learn: who the other members are, principles and history of the Society, spirituality, how to do Home Visits, where everything is, what and when to do something, and what and when not to. It can all be very confusing. Actually, it can all be confusing to members who have been around for a while, as well. That is why it is important to have a set of Conference guidelines.

WRITTEN GUIDELINES

Have you ever heard the expressions: that’s the way we do things, we’ve always done it this way, we can’t do that, or it’s just not done that way. That is one of the most frustrating things about being a member – especially a new one. Not knowing what to do and/or being criticized for doing something the wrong way can be very humiliating. It would all be much simpler if all those ways and things were written down somewhere.

They can be.  They should be. And, the most organized and well run Conferences have a set of written guidelines that are available to all members. They are not just a set of rules that have been accumulated over the years, they are a formal set of guidelines that have been defined, organized and presented in a form that is convenient to use, easy to understand and readily accessible to all members.

Without the written guidelines, the statements above will continue to flow and new members will continue to scratch their heads – some even leaving the Conference. Without the written guidelines, people will give their own interpretation of what is the proper way because that’s the way they remember being taught.

ORGANIZING THE GUIDELINES

Before preparing a set of guidelines, the Conference members should attend an Ozanam Orientation. This is important since it gives members an understanding of what is important and what should be stressed in our ministry. Without this basic understanding, guidelines may be developed simply because they sound good or logical. The guidelines we develop for a Conference should be reflective of our call to ministry.

Preparing a set of guidelines is not that difficult. The Conference should establish a committee of about three people who will take on the task of creating the first draft of the guidelines. They will get together a few times and map out the guidelines which will be reviewed, updated and hopefully approved by the Conference for their use. Your Conference may also get a copy of the guidelines of a neighboring Conference. Do NOT simply adopt someone else’s guidelines as your own. You should make sure your guidelines fit the needs of your Conference and those in need in your parish community.

Look to the other chapters in this book and pay close attention to the topics of food, rent, utilities, Home Visits, etc. Then come to a consensus among the committee members as to what a reasonable expectation should be in dealing with those types of service. Members of the Conference may have already dealt with these issues and some unwritten guidelines or rules may already exist.

“Guidelines” should be just what the word means. These are not firm rules that have to have the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. These are possible ways to approach fulfilling the requests for help. The guidelines should provide possible solutions. One thing is extremely important to remember: guidelines are intended to define how people in need can be served, they are not intended to define how people are to be turned away.

When circumstances dictate, the members can vote to override a guideline for a particular case.

Once the draft is compiled, copies should be presented to all members for their review, correction and final approval. This process may take two or three meetings to complete. This review and approval process is a Conference process and should not be left to only a few people. Once consensus has been reached by the Conference as a whole, the document should be formally published and each member should be given a copy. The Secretary will be given the original to keep with the Conference records. All new members should receive a copy of the guidelines when they join the Conference.

REVIEW/UPDATE/APPROVE

At the beginning of the fiscal year (October or November), the Conference guidelines should be reviewed by the members of the Conference. They should be evaluated to see if they are still appropriate for the conditions that currently exist. The same process that was followed to review and approve the initial set of guidelines should also be used to review, update and approve the new guidelines. Once again, all members should be given copies of the guidelines.

SUMMARY

Conference guidelines are one of the keys to having an organized and well-run Conference. None of the guidelines should contradict the Rule, Manual or Bylaws or any local, state, or federal tax laws. None of the guidelines should in any way indicate who to serve or how not to serve someone in need. If they are properly prepared, the guidelines will help Conference members serve those in need in the best way possible.

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.

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.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Privacy Preferences

    When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

    Click to enable/disable Google Analytics tracking code.
    Click to enable/disable Google Fonts.
    Click to enable/disable Google Maps.
    Click to enable/disable video embeds.
    Our website uses cookies, mainly from 3rd party services. Define your Privacy Preferences and/or agree to our use of cookies.
    Skip to content