Columbia Association gets residents' input for strategic plan

The Columbia Association Board of Directors is working on a new strategic plan that, among other things, will help define its role for residents.

CA Board Chair Andy Stack said the current plan is outdated, and he hopes a new one will clear up confusion and serve as a guiding document for CA's next five years.

"The strategic plan details the things we want to do. It allows us to look at what are we actually doing and ask, 'how does that match with what we believe we should be doing?' " Stack said last Thursday after a board work session. "If there is a mismatch, it needs to be corrected."

Stack said the goals were developed through work sessions, surveys and focus groups with community members.

"Normally, it goes to the board, which has all the discussions, and then it goes to the community. But by that time, we've already made all of the decisions," Stack said. "This year we did it differently. We put it to the board last. We put it out to our stakeholders to find out what needs to be changed."

One thing they discovered needs to be addressed is what CA is responsible for, said Heather Iliff, director of consulting for Maryland Nonprofits who is working with the board on the plan.

"One of the things we found in the environmental scan is that not everyone is clear what the role of the association is," she said. "There is some confusion at times of what the government does, and what CA does. And hopefully the strategic plan will clarify (that) for everyone."

The plan, which could be presented to the board for adoption as early as December, will include a new mission, vision, values, goals and objectives.

"The strategic plan primarily determines what the organization does and for whom -- the niche of the organization," Iliff said.

Board composition

In addition to resident input, Iliff presented personal recommendations, including a suggestion that CA take a look at the composition of its board of directors.

Iliff said the board, which is made up of 10 white directors over the age of 39, needs to add diversity in age, race and background to better reflect Columbia's diverse community. According to a study published by CA in December of 2012, 56 percent of Columbia's population is white, 24 percent black, 11 percent Asian and 7 percent Hispanic.

Some board members raised concern over forming goals regarding the board's makeup given that each board member is elected by the residents from each of Columbia's 10 village associations.

Iliff also recommended term limits for the board of directors, and that terms for each representative be standardized – currently some board members are elected to one-year terms while others serve two-year terms.

The board also discussed if paying board members for service would generate a larger cross-section of candidates.

Iliff recommended against paying board members, stating it's not an industry best practice.

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