2013 Commodore S Handbook

2013 Commodore S Handbook

2013 Commodore’s Handbook

I’ve written this “Commodore’s Handbook” to help Walton Stanley (2013Twin Cities Sailing Club commodore-elect) and all future TCSC Commodores do their jobs with relative ease and much satisfaction. Many thanks to past commodore Leif Helgeson for beginning this handbook.

Nine roles and responsibilities of the Commodore are listed below.I have elaborated each with tips, tricks, suggestions, and advice.It’s a combination of what I know and have done, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and recommendations handed down from past commodores.

I hope this document will continue to evolve and that future commodores will improve upon it as they see fit.

Kraig Larson

TCSC Commodore, 2010-2012

Responsibility #1: Preside Over Meetings

Scheduling meetings.Per the TCSC bylaws: “ExCom shall meet at least once a month except in December to conduct regular club business.”Trying to schedule multiple meetings for a dozen or more people is difficult.The best way to find dates that work for many peopleis to select all meeting dates for the upcoming year at the start of the season - prior to the January meeting.Ask officers to bring their calendars to the January meeting in order to review the pre-selected dates, and make changes if necessary.Thus the meeting schedule for the entire season will have been set. (Trying to scheduleeach meeting individually in January takes a lot longer; trying to set meeting dates each month as you go is a waste of time, in my opinion.)After the meeting dates are established, post the dates on the message board and communicate them frequently to all officers as a reminder. All ExCom officers are expected to attend all meetings.I also invite boat captains and other TCSC role players. ExCom meetings are open to the public and the calendar is thus posted online on our intranet (aka “document library”), as are all discussions. However, seldom to never does anyone except ExCom attend.

There is a regular, yearly calendar of topics that the Club needs to discuss:

Pre-season meetings.The pre-season meetings (January – April) are when most of the organizationalplanning takes place and important decisions are made.I recommend holding them on Saturday mornings during these months - while officers are fresh and awake – instead of on weeknights. During the fall “Changing of the Guard” meeting (in November or early December), I recommend creating a list of problems, challenges, opportunities, or other ways in which to improve the club.These issues should be addressed at these pre-season meetings and sub-committee meetings (as needed), prior to launching the boats.Give as much advance notice as possible to all officers regarding when (at which meeting) each issue will be addressed.Several weeks prior to each meeting, appoint someone to lead the charge toward the resolution of each issue.The appointee should have some a stake in the outcome.(For example, if there is an issue with sailing instruction, appoint the Head Instructor.)A lot of time and discussion can be saved if the appointee addresses the issue in the meeting by offering a proposal as opposed to asking for suggestions.Ideally, all “heavy lifting” should be accomplished during these pre-season meetings, so more time can’t be spent sailing and having fun during the season!Remember to review and update the TCSC calendar at each meeting.

In-season meetings.(May – August) More than anything, the various Club Officers are checking inwith their standard “in-season reports” during these meetings.Officers are expected to report on what is happening in the areas for which they are responsible.For example, the treasurer will present an income statement and cash balance each month.The membership coordinator will bring the team up to date on membership and skipper numbers.The shore team coordinator will report on daily attendance.(See “Standardized Monthly In-Season Reporting” in the ExCom Handbook for mandatoryofficer reports.)Some operational decisions will need to be made such as when and how many new members will be admitted as the season continues, but it’s best to keep the agenda as light as possible at these meetings.Continue to review the calendar at each meeting.

Annual Meeting.(September or October) At the annual meeting, per the bylaws, members shall 1) elect officers and boat captains; 2) vote on amendments to the bylaws; 3) receive reports on the activities of the club, and; 4) provide suggestions to determine the direction of the club for the coming year.

Also per the bylaws: “Notice and an agenda of the annual meeting shall be provided to each voting member via email not less than two weeks prior to the meeting.

Read the bylaws to better understand how, when and by whom this meeting is organized.

The general practice has become to present a slate of nominees for officers, boat captains and coordiantors at the Annual Meeting, and those members present vote. This slate of nominees are first discussed, approved and “recommended” by the current ExCom at the August ExCom meeting. Thus, to have time to recruit and prepare, you must form a search committee by mid to end of July. Typically, this search sub-committee has been 4-6 seasoned ExCom members to discuss and recruit candidates.

“Changing of the Guard” meeting.(mid November or early December) This is the one meeting both incoming and outgoing ExCom officers attend.The focus is on reviewing the season and ensuring officers are transferring their roles and responsibilities.In the past, time was set aside for counterparts to complete this transfer work at the meeting.In 2009, the format was changed so that officers are now expected to transfer their duties prior to this meeting.The meeting agenda then looks like this:

  1. Introductions
  2. How ExCom Works (Roberts Rules, voting)
  3. Brainstorming
  4. what went well during the season
  5. what needs improvement
  6. review Annual Membership surveys
  7. review discussions from Annual Meeting
  8. Determine priorities for topics and issues, assess needs for further discussion, and create required sub-committees, and calendars for sub-committees to present over the winter months. Typical sub-committees will include:
  9. Membership Admittance Plan
  10. Boat Acquisition and Divestment (update 18-month plan)
  11. Technology Needs
  12. Each new officer presents his/her job description role the rest of the group (to demonstrate an understanding of the role as well and so others are aware).There should be time for questions.
  13. Proposed Annual Schedule for ExCom Meetings

If a new officer is unable to attend this meeting, please ask him/her to present his/her roles and responsibilities as soon as possible at the next meeting they are able to attend.

Leading the meetings.There is a lot of material to cover at ExCom meetings, especially during the pre-season.It’s your job to help steer the group to prioritize by difficulty and benefit to club the issues it should address.Help develop timelines, deliverables and delivery dates.A few tips…

-Read past agendas to get an idea of what to plan for and expect at future meetings.

-Send out a preliminary agenda to all officers roughly 2 weeks prior to the meeting and solicit agenda items up until a few days before the meeting.(This helps for planning and theoretically avoids surprises.)Send two or three reminders for each meeting including one a day or 2 before the meeting.

-Reporting Officers or Chairs should send out a preliminary report to all ExCom members prior to the monthly meeting. The goal is to prepare everyone for the topic at hand, and thus not have to spend valuable ExCom meeting time going over the basics.

-You need a quorum present at each meeting to pass motions.Per the bylaws, a quorum is 40% of elected officers.So if ExCom consists of 17 officers, you need 7 present.

-Read and know the bylaws.(Or at least bring them to the meeting in case you need to refer to them.)

-Review the operational basics from time to time at the meetings.There are new officers present.Not everyone knows all that you know about each issue.

-Use Roberts Rules – or at least a functional hybrid form of them – to structure meetings and get through the agenda.

-Start on time.Or at least as soon as you have a quorum.

-Start the meeting with a couple of easy issues.Then move to the hard stuff.Put issues with lower priority at the end agenda in case they need to be addressed at a later date/meeting.

-People will often wander of the discussion topic.Gently keep them on track.

-Remind people of etiquette and manners if necessary.

-Cap the meetings at two hours.Shoot for 90 minutes.(Easier said than done in the pre-season.)

-Review the calendarat each meeting.

-Ask the secretary to complete the meeting minutes as soon as possible after the meeting.Ensure they are posted on the message board for all members to access.

-Send a meeting summary to all officers and role players as soon as possible after the meeting including highlights of decisions made and information reported.

Responsibility #2: Coordinate the Teamwork of Officers

All officers and other role players are, of course, volunteers. However, they have all committed to do certain jobs and play certain roles. Hold them gently yet firmly to their promises.

Have a strong understanding of – and refer frequently to – each officer’s job description(listed in the ExCom Handbook).You need to know who is expected to do what as you may need to coordinate their work with other members – and sometimes remind and encourage them that there is work to be done.Encourage officers to check in with former counterparts to gain background and a better understanding of their role.

Email is a great communication tool, but use it carefully.Cc: officers who want or need to be in the know.But be careful not to overload people with emails.After a while, it just won’t be read.And be careful to discourage massive cc’ing about issues that can better be addressed in an open discussion at an ExCom meeting.Mass cc’ing leads to disinterest among officers and has driven away otherwise would-be contributors.

A new officer position can be established fairly easily per the bylaws.Don’t be afraid to do it.

Use sub-committees for any issues that seem thorny or need longer discussion. You, as commodore, do not need to be part of a sub-committee unless you want to. Appoint an interested chair person and ask them to report back to the full board at the next ExCom meeting with a reasoned recommendation, on which the full ExCom can discuss and take action.

Responsibility #3: Evaluate the Functioning and Progress of the Club and ExCom

You are “evaluating the functioning and progress of the club” with the goal of improving the club.There are many ways to do this:

-Personal observation.Be at the lake when you can.Attend the parties.Stay involved!(And don’t forget to have fun.)

-Monthly ExCom meetings.Check in with each officer to assess the functioning of the club.The monthly officer reports are meant to stimulate this conversation.

-Annual Meeting group brainstorming.All members are invited to attend the annual meeting at which members shall “provide suggestions to determine the direction of the club for the coming year”.These suggestions should be recorded and considered.

-All-club surveys.For the past several seasons, the club has surveyed all members regarding their satisfaction and participation in the club at the end of the season using Survey Monkey.Some questions are repeated year-to-year.Other questions are gauged to assess particular changes initiated during the season.In past season, either the Commodore or Rear Commodore has written the survey.Consider appointing someone else to do it to lighten your load a little!

-“Changing of the Guard” group brainstorming.All of the above evaluative methods can be summarized at the Changing of the Guard meeting in November.One final brainstorming session in which both incoming and outgoing ExCom members participation to identify both “problems” and “successes” which occurred during the sailing season is a great way to learn more about what works and what needs improvement.Issues at this meeting should be identified, categorized and addressed during the offseason.

Responsibility #4: Represent the Club

TCSC works with many partners.It is important to maintain a good relationship with the following groups while representing the best interests of TCSC.Always put your best foot forward…

-Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.The MPRB administers the buoys, installs the docks, maintains the tenders, and owns (and rents) the sail shed.They also run the sailing lessons.Many TCSC members join the club as a result of an MPRB referral.The MPRB also receives referrals for lessons from our club when our membership is full.One area that has remained underdeveloped is TCSC’s relationship with Park Board Commissioners.It is very important to maintain a good relationship with MPRB.

-Lake Harriet Yacht Club.LHYC is a big TCSC booster.Many LHYC members are past TCSC members, and some people are members of both clubs.LHYC is the primary sponsor of racing activities on Lake Harriet.LHYC rents the sail shed from MPRB.It maintains the safety boats and motors that TCSC occasionally uses for safety operations. TCSC shares in these expenses with an annual contribution to LHYC and by purchasing a certain number of LHYC memberships in order to participate in racing (based on the number TCSC racers and racing starts).

-Calhoun Yacht Club and Lake Calhoun Sailing School.TCSC’s relationship with CYC and LCSS has pretty much fallen away in 2010-2012.In 2008 and 2009, CYC and LHYC invited the others’ sailors to join them on the others’ home lake to gain exposure to sailing and racing on Calhoun. However, participation was very small, and in 2012, TCSC decided not to purchase a buoy on Lake Calhoun, and to instead concentrate all of our regular activities on Lake Harriet.

-Insurance company. It’s important to maintain a decent working relationship with TCSC’s insurer, West Bend Insurance, because the specific insurance that TCSC needs is difficult to arrange and buy. Our local independent agent is Craig McNulty of BW Insurance in St. Paul.Over the last couple years, 2011 and more so in 2012, I have had more direct contact with West Bend.

-Boat repair companies.TCSC purchases equipment and supplies and pulls its boats off-lake for repairs from time to time.There aren’t many places that can do good sailboat repair work around the Twin Cities.Currently, TCSC uses Seven Seas, White Bear Boat Works, Sail La Vie and Hooper’s Yachts.

Responsibility #5: Appoint Committee Chairpersons

The Commodore’s job can get busy quickly and soon become nearly overwhelming.In order to avoid this, appoint committee chairpersons to organize events, accomplish tasks, or address problems.The Commodore can appoint a committee chairperson to do just about anything.Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Of course, youalways want to appoint good people.The trick is to balance choosing chairpersons by selecting known, established, helpful and active club members with new members who display an interest in getting more involved.Bringing newer members up to speed on new projects and initiatives might take a little more effort in the short-run, but it can pay off in the long-run by providing additional “depth” to TCSC’s volunteer “bench”.

Always accept help when offered in one form or another.Try not to overwhelm any one member with work. And of course, try not to over-commit yourself.

Responsibility #6: Ensure the Club has Liability Insurance for Recreational Sailing

The club’s insurance policy was last reviewed and informally put out to bid during the spring of 2008.Insurance should be in place year round, but especially during the sailing season.For the past several seasons, the policy has renewed in early May, prior to the boat launch.

Be in touch with our local insurance rep (Craig McNulty) in April to indicate we want to renew, and ask for a yearly bid and invoice (not a monthly invoice).

-Craig McNulty, BW Insurance Agency, Inc.
T: 651-288-5131 C: 651-387-1565F: 402-918-7585

245 E. Roselawn Ave.#31, St. Paul, MN 55117

-West Bend Customer Care
West Bend Mutual Insurance Company
1900 South 18th Avenue, West Bend, WI 53095
Ph: 866-926-4244 Fax: 262-365-2200
Customer Care Email:

Officers and members always have questions about insurance.It is an issue that is not well understood.In 2009, former Commodore Leif Helgeson wrote a FAQ sheet about our insurance (below). I updated the coverage amounts in 2011.Thus, there shouldn’t be a need for ExCom to spend hours talking about insurance at meetings (we spent about 10 minutes last spring).