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Monday, February 1, 2010


What exactly does a membership entail?  Whatever you do, do NOT ask that question!  Apparently, it's not politically correct to do so.

When charging membership dues, things tend to get sticky.  It gives the members a say, and requires meetings and lots of "clubby" stuff.  When Janie and I put together Gem State Herding, we decided to forego membership dues, and decided that we would take the ideas from the people, and make as many of those ideas come to life as possible.  Period.  There's no "President" or "Vice-President" or "Directors", per se, no titles to make people feel important and inflate their egos.  It's a podunk herding club that no one else cares about.  Nothing to feel superior about.  Really.  Let's keep this in perspective.

I got an email from the AHBA list, specifically from the officer in charge of membership (membership coordinator?), reminding all of the people on the Yahoo group that membership dues are due.  Really?  You can become a member of the AHBA?  I didn't know that.  So I looked on their website, and it talks about the newsletter, but nothing else.

The AHBA Events Bulletin is published five times a year and is available to AHBA members.

Annual AHBA membership is $15. Membership applications are available on the FORMS page.

Both the Word Doc and the PDF are fillable forms. Please type your information directly onto the form and print it out to mail in.

Submitted articles, letters, and photos are very welcome! Please contact Linda Leek at

AHBA offers the AHBA Events Bulletin via email or postal delivery. Even if you have Dial-up Internet access, please try the email delivery option. The AHBA Events Bulletin can be compressed to around 1 KB and if you are not satisfied, we can always go back to postal delivery. Thank you for considering this option.
Well, all that tells about is the newsletter, no?  For $15, you get a newsletter?  Normally with a membership, you also get to vote on issues, which is normally the entire point of a membership. 

So I posted the dreaded question in response.

Thanks for the reminder! Other than the newsletter, what are the benefits of membership?
The membership coordinator writes back and says:
Let me start by noting what's in the Newsletter. It always has all current titles earned (from the last issue) to help you keep track of your dog's titles that it earns and to help you get the stats organized throughout the year. There's the newest AHBA Champions. There are great contributed articles and pictures and a list of upcoming Events. Plus, of course, any pertinent AHBA news.
Then, there is always the wonderful feeling you get from knowing that you are supporting a great organization for so little dues, only $15.
Hmmm ... that didn't really address my question ... so I responded:
I am sure the newsletter is very nice, but most of the information in the newsletter can be found online.
The reason I was asking is because in the bylaws it mentions the Qualifications and Rights of Membership, and talks about "voting members".

Are meetings held, issues raised and votes taken? How does someone become a "voting member"?
None of this is Greek yet, right?  Perfectly valid question, yes?

So the same, very nice woman ... you know ... the one in charge of MEMBERSHIP! ... writes back and says:
I think this is a very good question and I'm guessing there are other inquiring minds out there who would like to know.

I'm not a Board Member and I feel an answer to this question should come
from one of them.

Not a Board member? (She's listed on the "Officers" page on the website. I guess there's a big difference between "Board Member" and "Officer." See previous comment about the ego thing.) What does being a Board Member have to do with whether or not the person in charge of membership can answer a question ... about what membership entails? Ok. We'll move on. Great. Let's see if a Board Member responds.

The President responded.

A large part of the newsletter every printing is awards. Champions are listed publically sort of bragging rights. Earning titles other than champs is for members only. The website is still a work in progress and eventually members will be able to login to view member data.

I'm surprised you didn't see the definition of "voting members" in the
"B. Voting Members

All members who are in good standing as defined in Section I. D. hereafter
shall have the right to vote, as set forth in these bylaws, on the election of
directors, on the disposition of all or substantially all of the assets of the
corporation, on any merger and its principal terms and any amendment of
those terms, and on any election to dissolve the corporation. In addition,
those members shall have all rights afforded members under the California
Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law."

Wow. Did she just quote the text from the link I provided earlier? That's amazing! Do you need to be a Board Member to do that? Oh wait... is the President a Board Member?

The odd part is ... no one has yet answered the questions. By this time, I've almost forgotten what I asked. The old saying comes to mind ... "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance ... baffle them with bullshit." So what did I ask? Let's review. (Going all the way back to the top to copy and paste...)

"Are meetings held, issues raised and votes taken? How does someone become a 'voting member'?"

So Janie posts:

There was a recent post in which someone asked the benefits of AHBA membership and there was a great endorsement of the news letter. The bylaws of AHBA talk about "voting members" yet in the years I have been doing AHBA trialing, I have never experienced or heard about any voting issues. I was not aware that there were voting issues or how they happened. Peggy said in her response that she and Linda had research the duck issue, hence the point allowances for HC. All decisions have to be made by someone so I am thinking this one was made by them. With ideas and program changes, I am wondering how "voting members" fit in here. If members buy a "membership" how does that voting happen? If the "members"
wanted to add a course, change a current ruling (like the duck issue) how would that happen? or is shared decision making not really a part of membership, that membership only really means that you bought a news letter subscription? Just curious.

So Peggy responds:

Someone asked why Linda and Peggy were the ones who decided what the HTCH would be. That's because when the HTCH was created Linda and Peggy "were" AHBA. President and VP respectively.

Ok. (Now wondering if Peggy is a "Board Member.") So I respond with:

In your discussion with Jana about ducks, you were asking Jana for documentation of dogs working ducks in the UK and said that you and Linda would review it. So if Jana were to produce documentation, and you and Linda reviewed it, and the two of you thought that there was enough cause to look into potentially changing a rule, what is the procedure? Is it put to a vote? If so, who votes? How is the meeting held? Are the "voting members" involved? And are there minutes after the meeting for the rest of the membership to review?

If the voting members are not involved, what is the role of a "voting member"?

Then Linda responds with probably the most useful information thus far.

... Decisions are made by the board now (earlier on, there wasn't a board, just people who volunteered to contribute). Organizations evolve as time goes on ...

(The rest of her post didn't really pertain to what I am discussing.)

Ok. Great! We got somewhere, finally! So the decisions are all up to the Board. (Now I am wondering who the "Board" is if it isn't those "officers" listed on the website.) So, back to the membership reminder. If I want to be a member, my $15 is due. So in the bylaws, where it talks about "Voting Member" ... that doesn't really apply, so what are the benefits of membership other than the newsletter? Or are they just selling the newletter for $15, and you get a warm fuzzy feeling that you're supporting the organization? (By the way, through this whole thing, there are people saying, "Where do I send my check?" "I love you guys!" "Don't fix what ain't broke!" Is this really how easy it is to separate people from their cash? Be politically correct, keep your head down, don't ask questions, and just hand over the dough. This reminds me of how my sheep behave. One goes, they all go. Don't ask questions.)

Janie responds:

I agree that AHBA is really growing as shown in the increase of trails and activity on this list. With over 500 subscription to this list, it is evident that there is a great deal of interest in the organization. When AHBA was formed decisions and organizational pieces had to be made, which was done well. If I understand you correctly, there is no voting or mechanism for voting or way to propose voting in place at this time? It doesn't seem that the bylaws of AHBA reflect what is actually happening, if, as you say, the actual rules & decisions are made by the board. Is it not misleading to even mention "voting member" when essentially, if there is no voting, then there are no real membership rights, benefits or shared decision making etc. and "membership" equate to buying a news letter subscription, which is perfectly fine as long as it is clear to a perspective "member" and there is no assumption to believe otherwise.

So Linda responds:

Yes, there is a "mechanism." I was not saying there hasn't been one. What I was saying, is it hasn't been used as much as it might otherwise be, because in the past, when notices were sent out, requests for
suggestions, etc., there was little to no response. I can see that changing. But the mechanism has always been there.

Really? So in the 25 years the AHBA has been in existence, THIS is the first time there has been some sort of activity? Are you kidding me?

My response:

I have enjoyed the AHBA program for many years, and the people running it have done a wonderful job. No doubt about it. Please understand I am not questioning their ability or the job they are doing or have done. I've never been a member of AHBA, and only recently realized that you could become a member. When the reminder came out for dues being due, I started looking into it to see what I was missing out on and what benefits membership offered. Normally, with a club, there are meetings and the members play a significant role in deciding what happens with the club. I'd never seen anything like that come through on the AHBA list, so I checked the website to see what it said about membership. Not finding much, I checked the bylaws. The bylaws read much the same way as a conventional club's bylaws read, which is what led to the questions I am now posting. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of clubs, per se. In fact, our group is not a "club" in the traditional sense. There are no membership dues. There is no newsletter. There are no "members" that vote on anything. There are a couple of people who own stock and offer fun days, trials, clinics, etc. to anyone who wants to participate. Any monies made is kept in a bank account, and the money goes towards feeding the livestock, materials/supplies to keep the sheep and ducks happy and healthy, and putting on different events. We talk to people, we have a google group where we discuss things, and the group tries to put on events that reflect what people want to see and participate in. Will it change at some point? Perhaps. But for now, it works the way it is ... it's a "pay to play" type of thing, and I think people are enjoying it. But, again, we do not collect membership dues.

The AHBA bylaws are almost contradictory to the way the AHBA is actually run. Even stuff like:

B. Annual Meeting An annual members' meeting shall be held on a date and time in January of each year to be designated by the board no later than November 1 of the preceding year and stated in a notice to the members as provided in Section IV.D. of these bylaws. If the board fails to so designate a date and time for such meeting, the meeting shall be held on January 31 at noon, Pacific Standard Time. At this meeting, directors shall be elected and any other proper business may be transacted, subject to Sections IV.D.2. and IV.E. of these bylaws.

Personally, I like the way the AHBA has been run and I think those in
charge have done a great job in putting together a venue that focuses
more on good stockmanship than anything else. I think the easiest
answer would be to continue like it is, just sell the newsletter as more
of a fundraiser, and do away with membership dues and the bylaws
altogether. But ... can that be done without putting it to the
membership for a vote? Is that what the "membership" would want? Or,
due to the size of the organization now, should there be a more formal
avenue for people to be able to suggest changes, and play a more active
role in the changes and evolution of the AHBA?

And Janie responds:

The issue is not whether AHBA is doing a good job as I too would agree that I think it has been done well. I know that management is often an issue as there are never enough workers so I was thinking, (I don't know the answer to this) that if AHBA sells voting memberships, then would it be possible to put a "survey available" designation on each person who has paid membership dues so that as issues arise a "vote" can be done utilizing that option?

Peggy responds:

Reviews/ additions / changes to trial courses would follow the same procedure AHBA followed for adding the HTAD and the RLF. It is a board decision following board discussion. Changing the HTCH would, IMO, change the meaning for all those dogs that have already earned the HTCH. I don't see any justification for it..

Voting members can nominate and vote for candidates for the board and officers on election years. See our bylaws.

Yes, I saw them, thank you.

So I put together a response trying to clarify what a membership entails. From what I can tell, the "Board" (not officers...) make the decisions, so the $15 includes the newsletter and a nomination and vote on "election years" ... and basically said that my money would be better spent going towards an entry fee because much of what's in the newsletter can be found online. I don't have the actual post. Why not?


Janie and I were both moderated.

Yes. Moderated. For asking questions about the membership dues.

For not keeping our heads down and either following along or just blending into the background.

So I wrote to the owner of the group:

It appears I've now been moderated for asking questions. What is wrong with anything I've said? I asked what membership entails. I'm told that you get a newsletter and are able to vote on a "voting year." That's fine. Did I miss something? I just wanted to know if it was worth me becoming a member. I asked what a "voting member" was. It's in your bylaws. What is the problem here?

I guess I am supposed to pay my membership dues, put my head down, don't make waves, and just follow along like everyone else. If you ask questions, you're targeted as the bad guy.

You know ... I've been involved with the AHBA for about 8 years now. I've put on various trials, pushed people in this area to get involved, and successfully encouraged people to become judges so we have a pool of people to draw from to use as judges for our trials. We're basically putting AHBA on the map up in this part of the state, but none of that matters because I asked questions that, I guess, should never be asked.

I have said in the various emails that you guys are doing a great job. I don't care to run it. I just want to know what "membership" with the AHBA means. I didn't even know you COULD be a member until recently. All I did was ask about it.

Please explain why my post was so offensive that it was moderated, and now all of my postings will be moderated on an otherwise unmoderated board. Thank you.

No response.

So I forwarded it to the President, and the two directors (Is this the "Board"? Perhaps.) and said:

I sent this message to the yahoo group "owner," but I didn't hear back, so I am forwarding it to all of you in hopes of receiving the courtesy of a productive response. As a longtime member of the AHBA, and having been on the list for quite some time, I do not feel the moderation is necessary as the questions I was asking were completely relevant.

* Your message must be approved by the group owner before being sent to the group.

I am, therefore, requesting that the moderation status on my membership be removed.

No response.


Janie wrote and received an immediate response. She was also unmoderated that same day. In one of the responses, one of the officers (or is that a "Board" member ... who knows?) basically says (and I'm paraphrasing pretty darned closely) that she thinks Janie feels the board is being dictorial, and that it's not true. She goes on to give the most recent and greatest example is when they created the HTAD course. The Board went and got opinions from "everyone and anyone" but said that the Board will make the final determination for the good of the organization.

Well, I'll be!

Talk about driving my point home!

So let's review once again.

Let's say I pay my $15 for my membership. And all though the happy little year, I get my periodical wonderful little newsletter and that's grand. Discussion of a new course comes up and here's my big chance to have my voice heard. So the message goes out on the yahoo group, and a discussion ensues. The people who did NOT pay a membership fee have the same opportunity to give their input as I do! And the "Board" takes into consideration input from "anyone and everyone" ... whether or not they've paid their membership dues! And ultimately ... it's not a "majority vote" ... it's the Board's decision. But don't dare call it a dictatorship.

Solution? Call it whatever you want, but if you're not going to let the members have a vote, don't charge a membership fee. Sell your newsletter, but call it like it is.

And by golly, don't answer my emails. Sit silently. That's the very professional way of handling things.

So if you're all still reading this ... the moral of the story is ... don't ask questions. Make like sheep and shit wherever you feel like it, but make sure you follow the leader and do not get left standing out in the rain by yourself. It's cold, wet and lonely and you look like an idiot.

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