THE COST OF EDUCATION
I ’m sure there are many co-op board members, who from time to time look at the cost of attending a MAHC or other organizational conference and think "Wow! It sure does cost a lot to go to a conference." Then we start thinking of ways to cut corners. Over the years, either as a cooperator, an educator or as a student, I've seen and heard many horror stories from cooperative board members. Some of the statements I've actually heard are:
* "My Managing Agent lets our board know when we will have a board meeting".
* "That's the way we've always done it".
* "I was against it but was pressured into it by the rest of the board".
* "I'm new on the board so I just depend on the rest of the board".
* "The manager pays the bills, all I do is sign the checks".
* "It's not my responsibility".
* " I didn't have the experience of the rest of the board".
* " I thought it may be wrong, but I didn't want to argue with the other board members".
If any of the aforementioned statements sound familiar, or if you're really not sure before you make a decision, then the real question should be "can I afford not to be educated"? Think for a moment in terms that is a little closer to home and may be easier to understand. It's April 15th. You have to file your income taxes. Normally you go to H&R Block but your friend convinces you to let them file it for you free online. You agree and receive a return higher than you've ever received before. A couple months later you get a letter from the IRS stating they want to talk to you. It seems your friend made an error and now you have to pay back taxes, fines and penalties. Why? Because remember it was you that signed the return.
As a board member you sign documents, budgets, and contracts all the time. Let's not forget that you are part of a board that oversees the running of a multi-million dollar corporation. And remember this; to be a part of a board that makes decisions for this multi-million dollar corporation, all you had to do to get there is be popular. No prior experience necessary.
Hmmm. Think about the board of directors at AT&T, Consumers Power or General Motors being run by a group that had no prior experience in their company, yet their shareholders invested money hoping to make a profit on their investment. Think about that and realize you are in the same situation.
Organizations like MAHC teaches you your roles and responsibility as a board member from every office seated on the board. MAHC and other organizations use professionals like attorneys, managing agents and accountants to keep you educated of current, and future issues involving cooperatives. Attorneys can advise you of the legal ramifications of your decisions as a board member.
But it's not just becoming educated from trainers at the conference. You can hear the issues that other co-ops experience from other directors themselves. Conferences give you the opportunity to interact with others that may very well be experiencing the problems you're going through. In the classrooms you have an opportunity to ask questions regarding an issue that may concern you, or simply hear an issue from someone else that you've never thought of. The bottom line is, when you consider cutting corners to save money, you may want to consider if your decision to save money may in fact cost your co-op more money than you think you're saving. MAHC offers educational classes at various locations during the year and will even come to your co-operative to educate you. In these tough economic times there are many choices you have to really save your co-op money. You can call the MAHC office at (734) 955-9516. Or go online at http://www.mahc.coop/.