Interview between President Steve Walker and Frank Richter, FFFs

Reprinted from Frank’s Facts & Funnies Newsletter, August 29, 2018

Frank (FR):

Good morning Steve, congratulations on becoming our RCMP Veterans’ Association President.

Steve (SW):

Thank you, Frank. And, thank you for offering me the opportunity through your regular Frank’s Facts and Funnies newsletter, to share with your readers some of the important and meaningful initiatives of the Association for the benefit of all former members of the RCMP.


FR:

As a member of the Okanagan Division executive, I feel like I have been on the frontline with the Board of Directors as some of the major changes that have occurred over the past four (4) years. The Association received its Articles of Continuance in 2014, along with new bylaws; appointed a Public Auditor to report annually on the Consolidated Finances of the Association; implemented eVoting for the Annual General Meetings beginning in 2015; reshaped the format of the Annual General Meetings; undertook a renewal of the Association’s website; and just recently launched e-commerce services on the new website. Certainly, some substantive 21st century changes – what do you see as your priorities for the next 3 to 5 years?

SW:

Firstly, I need to acknowledge the significant efforts and determination of President Dave Leblanc and Al Rivard in leading the Association through these changes – most resulting from the Government’s new legislation for Not-for- Profit Corporations like ours. Previously, we operated 30 more or less independent divisions but we needed to transform the Association into One Association-One Member-One Vote. Going forward, we need to live the “One Association” and to remain relevant to our faithful members of many years and to become relevant to the new members of the future.

You highlighted some of the more visible changes of the past 4 years. There have been several not so visible to each member but critically important for the Association’s fundamental purposes of improving member services and advocating for the “Veterans” of the Force. The Association is now recognized as an equal “Veterans’ partner” at several government tables, including full membership in several important government committees, e.g. the Insurance Committee, Pension Finance Oversite Committee, Pension Advisory Committee, Dental Advisory Committees. Also, we have established a regular and meaningful working relationship with the Force on benefits and consultation when changes are considered by the Force and the Government. Significant changes indeed and those “shoes” will be challenging to fill, but I am excited about the opportunities that are before us.

My priorities will focus on maintaining and improving when necessary our relationships with these key players – the Force, the Government and fellow Veteran Organizations; and to see that our members get the best from the Association. Secondly, the focus will be on achieving growth in our membership through a responsible framework of governance for the Association members and the use of necessary 21st century tools and communications to communicate the benefits of belonging to the Association.


FR:

Obviously, we cannot cover everything during this interview. Perhaps, your recent launch of e-commerce and a Trial Membership Fee of $55.00 for new members would be of interest to the readers. What do you see as the challenges to attracting new members – is it important for the Association to have a “common annual membership fee?”

SW:

It quickly became obvious to me that everyone in the Association – the members, the divisions, the Board, etc., feel some anxiety in the shift from the culture of 30 “independent-minded” divisions to thinking in the terms of “One Association.” Our current Active Members (approximately 5250) are the “paying members” that enable the Association to operate. As you know, $37.00 (aka “Dues”) goes to the Association Office and each division charges an additional amount of anywhere from $3.00 to $28.00, so depending on the division, an Active Member pays an annual fee of $40.00 through to $65.00.

To many of our long-time members, the amount of the annual fees and what was done with their fees is important to them – no one likes to see increases in annual costs or not knowing where these dollars are spent. On the other hand, we are an Association carrying on business in an amount over $950,000 each year, on a combined basis (“consolidated”) of all divisions and the Association Office. We also have over $1.4 million collectively in cash or investments, for use to the benefit of the membership. In launching the Trial New Members for $55.00 via the e-commerce facility on our website, we need to represent to prospective new members that we are “One Association” – professionally serving our members. We also need to avoid a new member shopping for the lowest annual fee – whichever division a member chooses the annual cost should be the same. An important reality is that most of our members do not live conveniently near nor attend their division-of-choice meetings; it is estimated that only 10-15% of Active Members would attend regular meetings or events of the division. Our membership, as your readers, are wanting to be connected – reading about and belonging to an organization that will be there should they or their family need help or support and to keep up-to-date on former colleagues and goings-on with the Force.

Many just want current and reliable information and to know that being a member of the Association provides a support safety net for them, when needed. 21st Century communication tools need to be leveraged – the new members of the future are all 21st century technology current – the Association needs to keep in step to be a preferred option for discharging members.

Your question was – what are the challenges to a common annual fee? Succinctly, the challenge is to have all divisions (through their executive teams) playing on the same “One Association” team. In any organizational change, it is not often the change objective but the pace and approach to achieving the changes. We need division leaders on the Board of Directors or on the Board committees to assist/guide this pace of change; constructive critique is welcomed; active participation and informed compromise is part of the solution going forward and much needed at this time.

Secondly, the predominant issue, when the government mandated renewal of our Association’s Articles of Incorporation, was the fear that the Association Office (“Ottawa”) would collect all the pools of divisions’ monies acquired over the years from their activities. All members were assured that no such decision would be taken, and it was reaffirmed in our new bylaws. Those that continue to operate as though this is a real threat, need to step-down from that fear. As a “not-for-profit” corporation, we have a collective responsibility to operate as such and some divisions need to reconsider any excessive accumulation of “retained earnings” and use those funds for their members benefits. One example would be to pay their members’ annual fees, e.g. a division’s dividend, perhaps. On the other hand, some divisions have little surplus funds and they should consider having at least one year’s operating costs on hand – a best practice for not-for-profit corporations, thus increasing their portion of the annual fees would be appropriate.

Putting these challenges together brought us to the $55.00 common fee for the New Member trial. Concurrently, the Board is consulting the divisions on how to achieve a continuing common annual fee and we hope to see a form of consensus when we meet in September.


FR:

For most of the Association’s members, the behind the scenes running of the Association is not often top of mind – as many will say: “We are a social club and left all that other stuff behind when we left the Force…” How do you reconcile the necessary business and costs of keeping our Association running and relevant in changing times and satisfying “members wishing to just socialize?”

SW:

Getting involved takes commitment and a lot of volunteer time across the entire Association. We are all volunteers; operating an Association of our size with one fulltime Executive Office and a shared Assistant would be considered extremely efficient. For the members that just wish to belong and be connected with friends, reconciliation of roles means “accept that there is a cost to belong but also know that those dollars are and will be spent in their interest – maybe not today but when they might need support from their fellow members in the future.” For those members that wish to also be active in the leadership roles of the Association whether at the division or national level, become informed and bring your skills to the table and help steer the Association. Without members we have no reason to exist, without leaders inspiring current and new members to join, we have no Association.


FR:

For those former members that are not currently members of the Association, why should they become members of the Association?

SW:

The RCMP Veterans’ Association has continuously operated since 1886, through its 1924 Charter and its 2014 Articles of Continuance. As an organization, we encourage and enjoy the social benefits of membership, and it is a priority for us. But we’re also an active organization, working in charitable causes to support the communities we live in, advocating for Veterans and serving members on social, economic and health related issues that affect their day-to-day lives, and proudly supporting the RCMP, by cherishing its history and traditions, honouring its service to serve and protect, and assisting it in its important work whenever possible. We’re rich with talent and energy and have ambitious plans to continue to see the Association grow, and to enable the Association to have real impact on things that matter to our members.


FR:

Thank you, for taking time to share your views and on behalf of the Frank’s Facts & Funnies newsletter readers, we wish you success. For our readers and those that wish to follow-up to become members during this Trial Offering and to generally learn more about the RCMP Veterans’ Association, what should they do?

SW:

We encourage all former members of the RCMP Family to go to our website, browse through the information, check out the different divisions, and then click on the “Join the Club” link: rcmpva.org or reach out to the Office contact – a toll-free number is shown on the website.

Thank you, Frank. We look forward to sharing more news on the work of the Association, over the months to come.