If you’ve been watching our Leadership Team web page over time, you’ll have seen a lot of changes over the past few years. We totally reorganized North Star in late 2013, and fully digesting and implementing those changes has been a multi-year effort. I thought I’d take a moment in this month’s Director’s Message to explain what these changes mean to the purpose and future of North Star.

The first thing that you’ll notice on our Leadership Team page is how many more people are leaders at North Star. As we’ve been able to find and nurture talented people, we’ve been able to do more. That shows up as a broader and deeper organization. Over the past year or two, you’ve seen us deepen our resources and ministry to the LDS transgender community, as well as expand our outreach internationally, as well as solidify the many other things we’ve been doing for years. There is much more to do of course, in these areas and many others. Following the success of our first annual conference—an effort  that required an incredible amount of heart, time and other resources to put together—we grew even more with our second conference this last April.

Until August of 2013, North Star had a smaller and flatter structure, where executive functions as well as supervision and governance were vested in a single body, the Executive Committee. Our new bylaws adopted at that time split those two functions, which provides greater autonomy to individuals within a growing organization while at the same time ensuring proper oversight and unified policy-making. We adopted a structure used in many corporations and non-profits, which have a Board of Directors (and Officers), who then appoint the executives, which we refer to collectively as the Executive Committee. At North Star, this is composed of our President and Vice Presidents, who then appoint and oversee all the Directors and Coordinators. Together, the executives and those they appoint are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization. These are the “doers” who keep the organization functioning.

Because these were new people in new functions, when we appointed Ty Mansfield as President and he appointed the rest of his Executive Committee, the Board decided to give the new Executive Committee as much visibility as possible when they were appointed. The members of the Board of Directors, who were appointed at about the same time (except myself) as the new president and executive committee were announced, stayed in the background to make sure that the Executive Committee’s contributions were recognized, and that they were properly introduced to the community without the new Board appointments distracting from that.

Since the Board did its work quietly and in the background while the new executive committee was off and running, there was some confusion about the Board of Directors. Who were we and what were we supposed to be doing? The Board of Directors is composed of 3-9 independent directors, whose responsibility is to set and approve policy, approve budgets and major initiatives, and to adopt procedures that ensure North Star complies with all relevant laws and regulations, and ensure to the best of our ability that the members of the organization adhere to the highest ethical and moral standards. We govern by consensus and avoid making decisions until we can come to agreement and compromise. Since we are independent directors from diverse backgrounds with varying opinions, it means that we may sometimes take a while to make decisions. That is by design, since the Board of Directors is intended to be the main deliberative body at North Star.

There are currently eight members of the Board of Directors (including Ty because the currently serving President automatically has a Board seat), whom you can read about here. The Board of Directors constitutes the ultimate governing body of the organization, and the organization’s bylaws, as well as federal and state laws, hold the Board of Directors legally responsible for what happens within the organization.

The Board of Directors is the eyes and ears of the organization; the Executive Committee is the hands and feet. Another to think of it is the Executive Committee’s job is to worry about the next 12 months, whereas the Board of Directors should be worrying about the next several years. Both of these explanations are an oversimplification, especially as we have been setting things up. Board members may undertake specific assignments to assist the organization, and Executive Committee members have had a great deal of influence on policy and governance especially in this early time of our reorganization. And the Board will always be eager to entertain proposals and concerns from the Executive Committee as well as the rest of North Star leadership and community. We try to do this in a way that doesn’t interfere with or “micromanage” the Executive Committee and those they supervise, though there are occasionally growing pains as we are learning our respective roles.

What does this mean for you? I see two major points that are useful for everyone to understand. First, North Star is growing and maturing, and with that we are able to do more than ever before. Secondly, you have many different people to take your concerns and ideas to. I am confident I speak for all of us within the leadership of North Star when I say that we are open to and eager to receive input from all of you, within and without the organization, to help us better fulfill our mission.

I am so humbled and grateful for the incredible time and creativity so many people have put into this organization. As one who was there at this organization’s founding, it’s been exciting to see how it has grown, and how much it owes to the tireless service of so many. But this is only the beginning. With more people than ever involved in North Star, with more diverse talents and networks to draw upon, I can hardly wait to see what exciting progress we’ll be making in the years to come.