USA Rugby Board of Directors Meeting Review: May 2019

  • USA Rugby Board of Directors gather for Q2 meeting at union headquarters in Colorado, marks Congress Rep Jeremiah Johnson’s final meeting as his term limit ends.
  • Chief Development Officer Chris Reed presents on philanthropic strategy with new department staff and framework for fundraising efforts, particularly towards the women’s high-performance program.
  • EY representatives present high-level learnings and surveys board as part of initial steps in supporting the development of strategic plan.

LAFAYETTE, CO – The USA Rugby Board of Directors gathered in Colorado this week, following their last meeting in Las Vegas at the beginning of March. As customary, topics of discussion remained around organizational, financial and commercial matters through a general update from CEO, Ross Young. Exclusive to this gathering were also presentations from Chief Development Officer, Chris Reed on the status of a rebuilding philanthropy department and representatives from new Principal Partner EY in attendance. EY surveyed the leadership group on strategic initiatives and presented back how the data would be used to develop a finalized strategic vision. In attendance was Board Chair Barbara O’Brien, Vice Chair Paul Santinelli, James Brown, Julie Lau, Gus Pichot, Phaidra Knight, Todd Clever and Congress representative, Jeremiah Johnson. With the end of Johnson’s term coming prior to the next board gathering, this would be his final meeting with the USA Rugby Board as a seated member.

The meeting began with a general union update from CEO, Ross Young. Young reviewed monthly reports provided by the national office executive staff and opened the floor to questions from the board. A recap of strategic plans for the National Development Summit (NDS) was also presented with discussion around best time of year for the conference to be held. A member-wide survey was delivered to integrate insight from USA Rugby members in these discussions. Survey topics ranged from curriculum, calendar and length of the summit. Survey findings and future plans for the educational conference will be shared this coming quarter. Young closed his time with an update on new staffing at the National Office with five new hires since the last board meeting, coming through the Events, Mass Participation and Marketing departments.

Chief Financial Officer, Eric Gleason next presented updates on current financials of the organization. As Q1 came to a close, preliminary financials were tracking behind projected budget, but by a small and manageable margin. With an attrition in membership registration by comparison to Q1 2018, Gleason and the community department started reviewing exact areas to address ahead of Q2. Gleason then moved on to a recap of USA Rugby Partners financials where Q1 finished on track and is projecting to end better than the budgeted loss for 2019 after payment of licensing fee to USA Rugby.

As lead in the USA Rugby governance reform, Gleason next provided an update on committee structures. With information gathered from stakeholder surveys and the governance working group, a proposal was presented and passed by the board, next moving to congress as the potential restructure will require bylaw changes. The restructure ultimately looks to create better efficiency with committees in the organization. The Board also reviewed advisories from the USOC after recent seminars that encourage each member to define roles and responsibilities based on areas of focus in the organization. Each area pertaining to the professional strengths each member holds.

Mark Griffin next opened the floor to a Commercial update, with summaries of the new EY partnership and plans moving forward with kit supplier, Canterbury. Included in the discussion was information on merchandising plans through Canterbury and World Rugby Shop. Griffin additionally updated on an enhancement of the UL partnership through a new bonus structure for the Men’s and Women’s senior national sevens teams. The structure is contingent on HSBC Sevens Series points earned by end of year, supporting the expenses of full-time athletes in residency at Chula Vista.

Phaidra Knight and Human Resources Manager Charlotte Garbisch then provided context on most recent Diversity and Inclusion efforts with current staffing Initiatives and future implications for recruiting at the national office. The group presented plans to calendar new roles coming into the organization with actionable insight on how to broaden the candidate pool and engage a more diverse population. Knight also touched on the finalizing of nominations for a committee to direct the initiative.

Chief Development Officer Chris Reed soon after provided a synopsis of USA Rugby philanthropic and fundraising efforts with goals centered around restructure and backfilling roles in the department, along with proposed framework for fundraising operations with all high-performance programs. First of many objectives being to alleviate the need for a player fee during Women’s 15s assemblies. The Board offered questions and suggestions surrounding strengths and challenges, including target audiences and building a unified purpose for donation at the national level - followed by notes on how each can support the new strategy both through networking and contribution.

With a broad community of donors from major gift to base level donation, the primary focus is to cultivate trust and consistency with that demographic, supported by new hires in the communications and database departments.

In closing, EY representatives surveyed the board as part of initial steps in supporting the development of a strategic plan. EY collected insight on what the board envisions a successful next 5-10 years would look like for USA Rugby as an NGB and membership organization. Asking if these projected successes align with USA Rugby’s current strengths and what challenges are anticipated. The group next explained how the same workshop will be presented to further stakeholders and contribute to the overall consultancy of a finalized strategic plan.

With the gathering completed, Young notes a statement of gratitude to Johnson as his term finishes, “On behalf of the organization and rugby community, I want to thank Jeremiah for his service over the. Through thick and thin, his dedication is immensely appreciated. While his seated term comes to an end, I look forward to his continued support and involvement with rugby here in the US.”

Meeting minutes on the above will be available on USA Rugby website no later than 30 days after the meeting adjourned on May 7th.