Chinese American Citizens Alliance once again renewed itself biennially, as it has done in recent years in off-Convention years. Held in Los Angeles, hosted by Los Angeles Lodge, over 50 Members from the Grand Board and Local Lodges convened for 2 days in “Road Map to the Future” for a rigorous exercise to envision the future and lay the direction for strategic planning. Among Lodge presidents present were Melanie Chan, San Francisco; James Bok Wong, Los Angeles; Edward Yu, Oakland, John Gee, GSGV, Elaine Wong, Phoenix; Ted Gong, DC; Ming-Ming Edelman, Seattle; and Rusty Chan, Albuquerque. Venerable elder Bro. Henry Gee, Grand Representative of Peninsula was also present. In all, eleven of eighteen Lodges had representation.
Grand President Carolyn Chan declared in opening the conference, “Our goal, as an organization over 100 years old, is to remain relevant in the 21st century.”
This year’s facilitator was Dr. Theresa Lu and her team that included Patti Luuel. In a very full but rapidly moving day in the CCBA (Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association) Hall, Lu took attendees through a review of the Alliance mission, a possible modernized revision, top goals derivative of the mission, and then a short yet thorough tutorial of the basics on nonprofit corporate strategic planning.
The long-running issue of Membership recruitment and retention was addressed with considerable emphasis. There followed the most provocative concept of the day that any latter day nonprofit giving service must recognize a clientele (in the case of the Alliance, its members or its potentials) whose population today comprises four distinctive types of characteristics. Lu presented an informative talk on the four types, using some fun personal examples that had the assembly roaring with laughter. It was noted that the day of a homogeneous populace founded on common ethics and social attitudes that persisted for 50 years up to the ‘60s is now long gone. Personal priorities and attitudes have changed, in some cases turned upside down. Therefore, the successful membership nonprofit, such as C.A.C.A., would have to “market” itself to a new audience with accommodation to these interest changes while preserving cleverly its core principles.
For the remainder of the day, Lu Associates chose three captains for the breakouts: Davace Chin, Helen Ying, and Winston Wu. In the little gathering the rule was enforced that no group could have more than two Members of the same Lodge, and each person had to rotate through the three captains. The first topic to be addressed was “how would you recruit and market to each of the four groups.” For the first time, what had been discussed for years by C.A.C.A. leaders was finally “codified” on flip charts, and some excellent perceptions and ideas emerged, which will be recorded and reported subsequently by Rusty Chan, Grand Secretary. The same effort will be made by the Grand Board on the other two breakout topics on programming and communications and reported to Members.
Next, Lu approached the general topic of programming, again keeping in mind the four distinctive member types. For the very short term, this exercise may have been the most pragmatic and productive of all, since a few of the many rich ideas and concepts were actually adopted the following day at the Grand Board meeting. Subtopics scoped by Lu were C.A.C.A. Leadership both national and local, cultural aspects in programming, civic engagement, continuing education, and social activities. Every captain worked on leadership. Wu’s group also examined social activities and the use of cultural events while Chin took on civic engagement and professional education. Among three groups together, all the subtopics were covered at least once.
The budget process was reviewed by Lu as an essential planning tool for every organized group in this 21st century. With increasing scrutiny by government of nonprofit practices, it will become more important to demonstrate satisfactory practices at all levels in the future, national and local. Featured next was an excellent talk by Grand Treasurer Melanie Chan, introducing the next proposed policies in national fiscal management regarding control of liquid assets. The idea of an operating reserve and its rationale was presented. Grand Board had implemented the concept in its financial management in the past, but without consistency. Grand Board had been best at identifying and budgeting the following year’s needs. Chan pointed out that only by knowing the dimension of the proposed reserve could the Grand Board then identify its remaining assets for investment in the current year. Then she also proposed the concept for a prudent investment policy, updated from the prior document done over a decade ago. Since then, the investment environment has vastly changed. Chan’s presentations carried over to Grand Board consideration the following day.
The final topic of the day was communications, examined again in the three breakout groups using the Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Weaknesses/Threats or SWOT technique. Ying’s group quickly identified that the success to efficient Alliance communications, whether by electronics or paper, was a constantly updated membership database. Inadequate emphasis to the Local Lodges in the past, and possibly inadequate capacity, has led to dormant, out of date, and ineffective databases. There appears failure to capture new members in a timely manner, key to retention, for example. Some of the groups’ findings were bases for immediate Grand Board action.#