First Unitarian Society in Newton

Governance Changes 2009

New Governance Model Begins in 2009


April 20, 2009

To the FUSN Congregation,

The Board of Trustees has spent significant time this year reviewing FUSN’s existing governance structure and considering changes to that structure. This year’s work built on the terrific work done by the Governance Committee last year. That work was performed as a result of issues that had been identified in prior years and still exist. The Board of Trustees has decided to implement on a trial basis several changes to the way FUSN’s governance structure currently functions. When fully implemented, some of these changes will eventually require amendments to FUSN’s by-laws. The board concluded that it would be best to implement changes first on a trial basis and to allow time for feedback from our next called minister, staff, volunteers, and the congregation before taking on the task of seeking congregation approval for any by-law changes.

The proposed changes will require a multi-year effort to implement and many details remain to be fleshed out. In particular, we will need to identify some of the individuals who have the aptitude and interest to make the new governance structure fully functional and there are undoubtedly many issues we have not yet thought about. Following are some of the highlights of the changes:

BOARD OF TRUSTEES – One of our primary goals is to have the Board of Trustees function more as a Policy Board. Currently, the board sets policy, but is also involved in numerous operational decisions, many of which are routine and could be capably handled by others on a more timely basis. As a result of the board’s involvement in operations, needed policy reviews and long term planning often take a back seat. Our thinking is that if many of the operational decisions are moved elsewhere, the board will have the time needed to focus its attention on policy, long range planning, necessary organizational changes, etc. The Board of Trustees will, however, continue to have overall fiduciary responsibility for FUSN’s operations and well being, including goal setting, approval of the operating and capital budgets, staff changes, etc.

OPERATIONS COUNCIL – The plan is to establish an Operations Council. This entity will consist of six members plus one youth member and ex-officio staff members. The members of the council will initially be chosen by the Board of Trustees with a longer term goal to have them elected by the Congregation. The council will work in partnership with the staff, prepare the annual budget, implement major fundraising activities such as capital campaigns, and generally oversee committees and operations. Committees will be organized into six general areas as outlined below. Each of these areas will be overseen by one of the six members of the Operations Council. Our initial plan is to have the Operations Council staffed by a combination of members of the Board of Trustees and others selected by the Board of Trustees, possibly to include committee chairs. The goal over time is that Board of Trustee members will not be members of the Operations Council.

  1. WORSHIP – Includes the Worship Committee, Chancel Committee, Music Committee, Ushers
  2. EDUCATION – Includes the Religious Education Council, Adult Education, Coming of Age, Nursery
  3. FELLOWSHIP – Includes Lay Ministers, Membership Committee, Small Group Ministry, Social Activities (Ferry Beach, Sandy Island), the Fellowship Dinner, and Welcoming Congregation
  4. OUTREACH – Includes Social Action and Denominational Affairs
  5. STEWARDSHIP – Includes the Finance Committee, Annual Budget Drive, Services Auction, Holiday Fair, Planned Giving and Capital Campaigns
  6. FUNDAMENTALS/ADMINISTRATION – Includes Communications, Building and Grounds, Space Use, Computer and Administrative Services, Upkeep, Memorial Committee, Preservation Committee and By-laws/Handbook.

STEERING COMMITTEE – This will be established with the limited function to basically act as a traffic director, routing issues to whichever body is responsible for those issues when that responsibility is presently unclear. The Steering Committee will not make decisions, but may advise on how issues have been decided in the past. Members of this committee will be the Board Chair, Chair of the Operations Council, the Minister and the Director of Religious Education.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE – This committee will be responsible for identifying and providing training to volunteers who have an interest and ability to assume leadership roles at FUSN, including membership on the Board, committee chairs, etc. Right now, there is no body performing this function. The longer term goal is to have this committee assume the current responsibilities of the Nominating Committee and the Committee on Committees as well.

BOARD OF INVESTMENTS – This entity will continue to function as it does now. The major change is that the Board of Investments will be chosen by and report directly to the Board of Trustees. As of now, the Board of Investments is elected by the congregation and operates somewhat independently from the Board of Trustees’ oversight, which may be a breach of the Board of Trustees’ fiduciary responsibilities.

Under the proposed new Governance Structure, the Minister will continue to have overall supervisory responsibility for the staff, including performance reviews and professional development.

Attached is a chart depicting the new Governance structure. We will be holding congregation meetings on Sunday April 26 at noon and on Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 to review these changes with the congregation, answer questions and get your input. I urge you to try and attend one of these meetings.

Pat Rohan, Chair, Board of Trustees

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