Jewish Federation’s bylaw updates reflect today’s needs

Greg+Yawitz+is+chair+of+the+Board+of+Jewish+Federation+of+St.+Louis.+Susan+K.+Goldberg+is+vice+chair+of+strategic+planning+for+Jewish+Federation+of+St.+Louis+and+chair+of+its+Bylaws+Committee.

Greg Yawitz is chair of the Board of Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Susan K. Goldberg is vice chair of strategic planning for Jewish Federation of St. Louis and chair of its Bylaws Committee.

GREG YAWITZ & SUSAN K. GOLDBERG

Last fall, an ad-hoc committee of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, composed of members of the Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees and community representatives, began the long-overdue process of updating our bylaws to make them current and relevant for today’s Federation. We were guided by national expert Nanette Fridman, who provided best practices from other federations and nonprofit organizations. 

After updating out-of-date information, we focused on creating an effective governance structure by ensuring that key decisions will be made by those most involved in our work and by aligning the organization’s lay and professional structures. 

This resulted in the following major structural changes:

1. As was historically common practice, the previous bylaws defined Federation members as any adult in the Jewish community donating at least $30 to the annual campaign. The members were responsible for electing the at-large trustees at the Federation’s annual meeting, a role that was primarily ceremonial. However, most individuals at the meeting who met the membership requirements were not involved in Federation’s day-to-day operations and did not have a deep understanding of the organization. In addition, current practice among nonprofits is to have an organization guided solely by a board of directors. Therefore, we have eliminated the membership component of Federation. 

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2. The Board of Trustees, created in 2007 when the Board of Directors was significantly downsized, was a way to maintain engagement with a broad spectrum of community members. Given the changes in the Federation’s structure after the implementation of the 2017 strategic plan, more diverse and meaningful engagement opportunities have been created and will continue to be a priority of the organization going forward, so the Board of Trustees has been eliminated. 

3. As Federation has evolved since implementation of the 2017 strategic plan, it became clear that its lay and professional structures needed to be in alignment. Through a redesign of the vice chair positions and the elimination of ex-officio board members, departmental parity across the organization has been achieved and the board structure is better able to represent a greater cross section of our community. In addition, a focus on leadership development will help ensure that we are cultivating future leaders for the Federation and greater Jewish community.

Additional minor changes will be implemented as well, including restructuring standing committees to reflect current needs, and moving the board to a calendar year cycle.

As required by the previous bylaws, the Board of Trustees had to vote for the adoption of new bylaws, effectively eliminating themselves. This vote occurred June 14, and the new bylaws, adopted by the Board of Directors, were adopted immediately.  

We are grateful to the ad-hoc bylaws committee — Lauren Cohen, Jonathan Deutsch, Burt Garland, Lisa Gravier-Barnes, Michael Lefton and Michael Rubin — as well as our board lawyer, Gary Feder, and Federation’s manager of organizational governance, Tzivia Levin Kalmes, for their time and detailed attention during this process. 

Also, thank you to the members of the Board of Trustees for having the foresight to help the Federation evolve structurally for the future betterment of the organization and community. We are excited to have the bylaws enable both the directors and staff to meet the needs of the community in a more strategic fashion. Through these newly adopted bylaws, Federation is better positioned to be able to serve in our roles as funder, communicator and convener to ensure a vibrant Jewish community in St. Louis and around the globe.

Greg Yawitz is chair of the Board of Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Susan K. Goldberg is vice chair of strategic planning for Jewish Federation of St. Louis and chair of its Bylaws Committee.