Making the Sausage: Revising the HAPS Bylaws in 2018

This year the HAPS board has focused on clarifying our financial instruments and has completed a top-to-bottom review of our policies, procedures, and bylaws.  This sort of work is detail oriented and can drag on, but is necessary for organizational efficiency. Some of the things that the board found during this process were surprising and some were reassuring.  All of the findings reaffirmed the fact that HAPS is in a strong financial position and is focused on ways to help members far into the future.

The proposed set of revisions to the bylaws will increase financial transparency, clear up some confusion about past donations, and improve financial management.  We’ll vote on these revisions at the Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio on May 29th, during the general membership meeting.

So what was reassuring about our finances?  HAPS has grown its donated funds from essentially zero in 2009 (when fundraising began) to nearly $120,000 today.  All these donated funds, and the interest generated from them, have been left untouched since at least 2013 to facilitate growth (HAPS has been funding scholarships out of the operating budget since 2013).  Now that we have a sizable nest egg, the next step is to create a management and spending plan that is both sustainable and prudent. Through the proposed bylaws revisions, the HAPS board has created a new committee to do just that – the HAPS Finances Committee will provide guidance to the board on the management of both donations and general savings.

So what was surprising?  Despite talk of a foundation for years, it turns out that no foundation was ever formally created – and apparently, that is a good thing! A foundation is an body that is formed around some problem or idea. A foundation is not specific to a single organization. For example, one might form a foundation to cure cancer and then give the foundation’s money to anyone working to cure cancer (not just to one institution).  Obviously, HAPS donors never intended to give money to HAPS only to have HAPS give that money to a separate foundation. The HAPS “foundation” was just a misunderstanding of the terms being used, but the idea of supporting HAPS via donations is alive and well.

So what is changing in the bylaws?  There are three main changes.

  1. First, we will be following the suggestions of our attorneys and removing article 17 from the bylaws.  This is the article that specifies a foundation and a bunch of other overly complex financial structures that HAPS does not need.
  2. Second, we will be establishing a restricted endowment to properly channel some past donations.
  3. And third, we will establish the aforementioned Finances Committee to advise the board on proper management of all HAPS funds.

If you’d like to brush up on some of those terms, check out the glossary in the “lots more info” tab in the 2018 conference app.

None of this is as exciting as HAPS Synapse! or any of the Update Speakers or workshops or posters, but governance has its place at an annual meeting.  Hopefully we’ll see you there!

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