General Secretary’s Report of Staff Activity, January 2018

General Secretary

In January for the first time, the three governing councils held their meetings concurrently and in the same space.  This allowed them to begin their separate meetings with shared worship.  Additionally, I gave the monthly General Secretary’s report to the combined group rather than first to one council and then to another. The opportunity for the three councils to be together, worship, learn and ask questions together was a meaningful experience that they look forward to repeating.  They plan also to share highlights of what each one is working on beginning next month.

My oral report focused on the guiding values and goals in staffing the yearly meeting in response to questions at one of last month’s meetings.  The highlights of that report are below, followed by the written report of the staff activities for the month.

Some of the values and goals that guide my staffing choices include:

  • Increase staff capacity to address the Strategic Directions
  • Maintain a steady FTE count
  • Treat staff well: solid benefits that are meaningful for families, fair hourly rates, and salaries, have minimal to no positions without health insurance (kicks in at 60%)
  • To the extent possible, welcome and deliberately make space for employees to be active in threshing ideas that affect them and to ensure they know the basics of what is happening within PYM and on staff so that they can voice their opinions and experiences.

Some examples of how this is manifested include:

  • More dedicated administrative support is available to all staff
  • Two positions have fewer direct reports
  • When we are staffed up we will have increased communications support
  • Our FTE count has decreased slightly; the number of part-time positions on staff has remained steady.
  • Six children of staff members are now covered by health insurance because the PYM subsidy has shifted to cover family members
  • For the last two years, we’ve been able to scale the employee contribution to insurance with the employee’s annual wages. So those who earn more pay more and those who earn less pay less.
  • No hourly wage is lower than the minimum wage advocated by POWER ($15/hr).
  • A standing weekly meeting holds space for the General Secretary to share the work that is happening in the governance structure as well as space for staff to thresh issues and decisions before us – such as the staff handbook or the supports and expectations for staff posting news of the yearly meeting.

As always, questions, thoughts, etc are welcome!  Contact me at cduncan-tessmer@pym.org or 215-241-7210.


General Secretary Report on Staff Activity to Councils
Mid-December 2017 through Mid-January 2018

Business, Finance & Development

  • Received the Audit which is unqualified – which is as good as it gets!
  • The rest of the Theodore H. Nitsche Fund came in from the banks and it is now complete at Fiduciary and totals just over $3.1 M.
  • Firmed up draft policy for unrestricted bequests to ready it for Finance Committee
  • The response to the December mailed appeal is steadily coming in the door.
  • The response to email appeals was much higher than its ever been in the past, possibly because we sent out more than we have in the past. We also got one communication asking us to not send so many.  That person was happy to be placed on the once-a-year solicitation list.
  • We do not have tools actively in place to be able to do much analysis as our database staff hours are all going to data clean-up so it can be migrated to a new database. The data cleanup and migration must be our priority so that we can begin to use a new database but it is handicapping our development efforts.

Program & Community Engagement

  • The first Friends in Fellowship event – on education – had to be postponed due to snow. The second – on the law – had a low attendance but met all of the goals of drawing in people who we don’t frequently see at YM events and non-Friends. A third of the attenders had never been at a single YM event before. And the speaker was absolutely fabulous.  We are looking into posting the audio recording.
  • The Winter Young Adult Friends Gathering was held at Swarthmore Meeting. The theme was “Empowering our Inner Leaders.” There is a trend toward increasing first-time attenders with five coming to the fall retreat and another five attending this one.
  • The Winter Family Overnight was held at Camp Onas with 28 Friends exploring variations of what it means to be present – in worship, with our friends, when we work, play and eat s’mores. A camp-fire, walks in the woods and grown-up time for parents are all standards of this beloved program.
  • Set in place the administrative support for re-activating the State of the Meeting reports under the Quaker Life Council. An email went to all MM clerks from the QLC clerk, a news story is posted online and a form is set up on the website to receive submitted reports.
  • The next stage of the training for Social Justice Resource Friends is a weekend retreat that is scheduled this weekend.
  • Collaborated with the Program Committee to develop criteria for evaluating collaboratives and checking in with them on a regular basis.

Communications & Technology

  • Sent copies of Faith In Practice to Quaker Schools to share the work of our meetings with them.
  • Sent individually signed and hand addressed Holiday Greetings to nearly 300 households and organizations. Sent an email to all PYM Friends on Christmas day.
  • Completed one massive part of the data cleanup of our old database to prepare it for the new one. With that complete we’re able to get a grip on the timeline for the rest of the work.  We’re giving ourselves plenty of room for something disruptive to crop up and with that we believe we’ll be fully operational going into next fall.
  • Worked with staff to develop draft of guidelines and expectations for our posting stories to the PYM newsfeed with more frequency.

Staffing and Administration

  • Youth Program Staffing is complete. All positions are filled and the program facilitators who run the family, middle school and high school programs are reporting to the new Youth Engagement Coordinator position
  • The Community Engagement Coordinator, Tricia Coscia, ended her many-year tenure with PYM at the beginning of January and moved on to a new position. Tricia has been at PYM long enough that her personality and fingerprints can be seen in many of the things we take for granted, such as the smooth functioning of our Sessions. We will miss her!
  • Eric Berdis has served as the Sessions Assistant for a couple of years and worked closely with Tricia. He has agreed to immediately step into the role of Sessions Coordinator as the need for support for continuing and annual sessions is everpresent.
  • Annual Reviews are complete with the exception of two positions (one being the General Secretary) that are on a different time-table.
  • Our employment lawyer has reviewed the fast-tracked policies (Staff Voice, grievance and social media) and they are now in effect. They will be reviewed again in the context of the entire handbook.
  • The Staff Handbook draft is in the hands of the Personnel Committee and the staff for review.
  • Completed our first month of using a time tracking tool for all staff. It was an unusual month because of all the holiday and vacation time.  However, broadly it can be seen that a) the categories in which nearly everyone spends some time are the categories that have the most cumulative time – Paid Time off (for December anyway) and Routine Administration. After that, the categories with the most hours put in are Engagement (program, relationships, supporting the PYM community, Sessions & Grants) and Communications (web and print communications, writing, publicity, and database). This is a preliminary view while we are still learning to use the tool.
  • Two high-level positions remain open: Associate Secretary for Advancement & Relationship and Director of Staffing and Inclusion. The first round of applications yielded a small pool and I am reposting the positions with a different strategy for making them known.

Anti-Racism

  • Completed and posted the position of Director of Staffing and Inclusion
  • Continued to work with the National Council of Churches on their initiative to end racism launching with a rally on April 4. I’ve been seeking ways of supporting communications and logistics for people in this region to attend.
  • Took first steps in beginning to work with a coach on antiracism from the Mennonite Community.
  • The Associate Secretary for Program & Religious Life attended Beyond Diversity 101 with Niyonu Spann