At this year’s Annual General Meeting one of our members posed an important question. He asked why the Board of Directors was as large as it is, and why COPA couldn’t be governed by a smaller Board to reduce costs. There might be other members wondering this, so I will try to explain.
First the Board consists of 15 elected members from across the country. The distribution is roughly reflective of the population and size of each electoral region. There are: 2 for BC & YT, 2 for AB & NT, 1 for SK, 1 for MB & NU, 1 for northern ON, 3 for southern ON, 2 for QC, 2 for NB, NS & PE, and finally 1 for NL.
The blunt answer to the question is that COPA could easily be governed by a smaller Board if that were all that Directors had to do.
The size and distribution of the Board was established a number of years ago with specific responsibilities in mind that go well beyond governance. Here’s a breakdown of the three hats each Director wears.
First and foremost Directors are responsible for the governance of the association. For the most part they engage in this activity only at Board meetings, of which we have three per year. These are usually one day in length but periodically we hold a two-day meeting when doing strategic planning.
At Board meetings policy is set, budgets are approved, major issues are discussed and strategies developed to deal with them, our on-going legal challenges are reviewed, member services are discussed, etc.
The Board provides guidance to COPA management on what COPA members expect COPA to do. In addition Directors must participate on various Board Committees to deal with specific tasks for the Board.
While the governing process only takes place at meetings, the Board of Directors provides the primary link between the association and the members. Each Director brings to the table a unique aviation background, unique qualifications and a unique link to COPA members in his or her constituency. Through the democratic process of discussing and voting on motions and resolutions Directors call upon all of this experience to reach a consensus on action which is best for our members as a whole.
To be effective, a Director must be actively engaged in Personal Aviation and involved with COPA Members at the local level.
This brings me to the second hat. Directors act as representatives of COPA in their respective regions, extending the reach of COPA head office. As representatives they attend fly-ins, safety seminars, COPA Flights activities and in the process of doing so connect with the membership.
They look forward to opportunities to attend meetings of COPA Flights or flying clubs, which is an opportunity to brief members on some of the burning issues COPA is dealing with and gather input from members.
Directors are often asked by local members, or COPA Flights, for information or to be pointed in the right direction for information and help. Sometimes Directors are just sympathetic listeners to members’ aviation problems. This type of interaction is good in that it gives Directors the input they need to form a picture of the needs and concerns of members. Nonetheless, it is an additional responsibility requiring time and availability.
There is a third hat worn by COPA Directors, that of advocacy. Many Directors get involved with advocacy issues in their constituencies, often by supporting the efforts of a COPA Flight. This can range from keeping airstrips open to local airspace restrictions.
Advocacy often involves attending meetings with local governments, meeting with local Flights, writing to government officials, attending Transport Canada and Nav Canada meetings or making presentations. In this capacity Directors extend the advocacy role of COPA across the country.
The roles of regional representation and advocacy are not governance roles. They are roles that extend the capacity of COPA head office. If we had a smaller number of Directors, elected from larger regions, they would not be able to take on all of these responsibilities and there would be less contact with members. The result would be a requirement for more COPA staff in order to accomplish the same work, which would drive costs up.
Remember, Directors are volunteers.
I hope this helps explain the Board structure and what your Directors do in their spare time. This might be a good time to remind you that we will be holding elections next year for Directors in the following regions: BC & YT, southern ON, and QC. If you live in these regions please give some serious thought to who you know that would like to make a difference by volunteering for one of these important positions. Start with a look at yourself. There will be a call for nominations in the December issue of the newspaper.
Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.