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Letter from the President of OrigamiUSA

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Dear OrigamiUSA Members,

On the weekend of February 25-26, 2012 the Board met for two days for one of our rare Board Retreats. It was extremely successful. The Board left feeling energized and excited about what we agreed to and we'd like to share it with you.

Our Long Term Vision and Goals

Imagine this— an architecturally beautiful building which houses the Origami Museum of America. On the first two floors are galleries containing amazing works of folded paper from all over the world. Just off the lobby is our gift shop, called The Origami Source, which sells origami items, with many more available online. Upstairs are classrooms and offices which administer and provide space for our school, library and exhibition preparation for our museum and for travel to art and science museums all over the country and the world.

The Origami School of America in our vision provides a place for origami teachers, therapists, artists and scientists to learn origami and achieve a wide range of certifications giving them credibility and authority as masters of the art and craft we all love so well. The school also provides and develops curricula for schools (from primary to university), community centers and hospitals. We have online classes available through webinar-like technology allowing anyone to learn origami in a setting that gives personal attention to students from teachers. There are also smaller programs supporting the community near the building with origami classes for folders of all ages and abilities.

The building we imagine also houses the main offices of OrigamiUSA which administers the many local chapter groups, our website, magazine, publishing and support for conventions all over the country. There is a paid Executive Director, Administrative Assistant, and additional paid staff to support the Museum, Library and School. But we still have a large and enthusiastic volunteer staff in the spirit of our founders. And we remain true to our mission of spreading the joy of paper folding … origami is for anyone, anywhere, any time.

Our Shorter Term Goals

In the shorter term, we have plans that will be stepping-stones to our long-term vision. One of our top priorities is turning the Local Area Groups into actual Chapter Groups of OrigamiUSA, so that when you go to your local meeting, you will be going to an OrigamiUSA meeting. Our Local Area Groups Committee is currently working on this. They have begun by gathering good contact information for all the groups we know about and will soon be sending a Survey to the group leaders to find out how OrigamiUSA can provide support. This effort will allow existing groups to grow and new groups to form, which will expand and connect the community of paperfolders.

As most of our members are aware, our website has improved and expanded over the past few years. Our plans are to continue these efforts, which might include online classes, e-books, curated videos, and a plan to sell individual diagrams using an iTunes™ model. In fact, we already have the capability to sell individual diagrams through the recently improved website for The Source, something to look for in the coming months. This will be a wonderful opportunity for both folders and creators.

As one of the stepping-stones to the Origami School described in the long-term vision, we are looking at creating a program to certify origami teachers. There are other international origami societies that do this type of certification and we are in the exploratory phases of deciding what will work for us. As we move forward, we will likely form a new committee to work on this. This committee might also address our future plans to create curricula that can be used in schools, community centers and other places where an origami class is wanted or needed.

Whew! That's a lot of vision and plans. To get there, the Board discussed two of the most critical issues: Governance and Fundraising.

Governance

Right now we have a "Working Board" which means that the Board functions as the operating body of OrigamiUSA. We have Committee Chairs that report to the Board either directly (because they are on the Board) or through Board Liaisons. Most of the work is done at the Committee level, and as we are able to find volunteers to step up and champion a project we are able to accomplish some very large projects. Our website, The Fold, the Annual Convention, The Paper and PCOC are just a few examples.

But with this model, we can't grow, much less get to the wonderful vision described in this letter. In addition, we have a small core of volunteers that are essentially doing 10-30 hour per week part-time jobs (often on top of day jobs) and run the risk of burning out. There is only so much we can do with the volunteers we have.

To that end, the Board agreed to do some reorganizing of our governance structures. The Board will appoint/hire an Executive Director (eventually paid, but for now an unpaid volunteer) and give him/her the authority to take responsibility for running our operations. The Executive Director will be ex-officio to The Board (voting rights to be determined).

The new Executive Director will create an Operating Committee to be composed of all of the Committee Chairs. As part of an effort to make our organization more professional, all the Committee Chairs will be promoted to Managing Director of their area of responsibility. The Operating Committee will meet regularly to focus on running our operations. The Managing Directors will be able to report directly instead of going through a Board Liaison. The Operating Committee meetings will provide opportunities to better communicate with Managing Directors of other areas and improve our overall operations with the cross-fertilization of ideas.

This will allow the role of the Board to change from a Working Board focused on operations to a Board focused on vision. This new Board direction will make sure we have the resources to fund and support our activities and that we move towards our goals.

Folders like you

Thank you for reading to the end of this long letter. Please take a moment to think about what origami and OrigamiUSA means to you. What are you willing to give to see our visions become reality? Your time? Your money? We need both. We need you. During the Board Retreat, we learned that 83% of the funds in the USA that keep not-for-profit organizations running comes from lots and lots of contributions from individuals, whether direct donations, membership fees, convention attendances or purchases. As they say on public television—"from viewers like you!" We were really stunned by that number. Corporations account for only 3% of the funding with the remaining 14% coming from Foundations (often small family foundations).

OrigamiUSA has not done a lot of fundraising in the traditional sense. We have our ongoing fundraising effort that allows us to offer the DVD of Portraits of the Artists to donors who gift at the level of $60 or more, and we have sent an annual letter/e-mail to our members asking for donations. While we certainly don't want to bombard our members for requests for donations, we will be coming up with some creative (and hopefully fun for folders) ways to raise money. To reach our long-term vision will require a lot of money. If you are inspired by the vision in this letter, take a moment to login to our website and donate or, if you are already logged in, go directly to the donation page.

A personal note

As I sat down to write this letter to the members, I was writing on behalf of the Board. On a personal note, I would like to add a few things. The Board has appointed me to be our Executive Director, as an unpaid position. We have already organized the Operating Committee described in this letter and are moving forward. I see this as first step to future reorganizations that will be required as OrigamiUSA moves to a more national and professional organization. I am very excited by our plans and believe that we can get to our long-term vision. If you would like to offer ideas, money or time to make our vision for the future a reality, please don't hesitate to contact me at wendy [dot] zeichner [at] origamiusa [dot] org. I would love to hear from you.

I would like to thank everyone who volunteers for OrigamiUSA. We have built an amazing organization that is a solid foundation for a great future! Thank you!

Sincerely,
Wendy Zeichner
President and Executive Director
OrigamiUSA
May 3, 2012