GHI Communications Committee Meeting
At GHI, the Board of Directors, which sets policies and makes decisions, depends on the work of committees and task forces, which study specific problems referred by the Board and suggest solutions. There are several Board-appointed standing committees including architectural review, buildings, companion animal, finance, investment, woodlands, and communications and a smaller number of task forces that work on short-term projects such as ad-hoc yard line, addition maintenance program, by-laws, and rental task force. The committees and task forces generally meet once a month, and on February 27, I attended a meeting of the Communications Committee.
The Communications Committee’s charter states: “To enhance communication with and among members of the Cooperative and the staff of Greenbelt Homes, Inc. through informing, educating, and reporting using a variety of communications channels as outlined in this Charter, including print and electronic media and community events. We provide strategic direction across these communication platforms to assist the Board and staff of GHI in their efforts to improve communications with and among members and produce quality external communications that reflect a leading Cooperative in accordance with the vision of the Board.”
Attending tonight’s meeting at the start are from left Ed Fallon, Marat Moore, Kristi Fletcher (Chair), Sheri Swaim (Staff Liaison), Anna Socrates, and Jo-Anne Fournier. The committee meets in the front lobby of GHI administration building.
Kristi Fletcher, chair of the committee, opens the meeting by announcing that Communications, after having been a task force for a while, is now a standing committee. Sheri Swaim, the committee’s staff liaison, then distributes GHI’s Committee Operations Manual to those in attendance. The manual includes a summary “How Committees Work”, a list of current standing committees and their charters, committee guidelines, and descriptions of the board liaison’s role, staff liaison’s role, and volunteers’ rights and responsibilities. Minutes and reports from previous meetings are then accepted.
Sheri Swaim shows the upcoming production dates of GHI News in Review in the Greenbelt News Review. They are scheduled to be published on April 5, May 3, June 7, July 5, August 2, and September 6, generally the first Thursday of the month. These are full-page “advertorials” and GHI pays about $600 a month publishing them.
In addition to the GHI News in Review, the committee is also in charge of GHI’s quarterly print publication called “Communicator.” Marat Moore was the editor for the spring edition. The committee discusses but does not decide who the summer editor will be.
There are discussions of the upcoming annual membership meeting in May. By tradition there will be door prizes, and committee members talk about a trivia quiz which will ask people to search GHI’s website for answers.
Committee work is not all work, no fun. Committee members also update each other on personal happenings since their last meeting. Jo-Anne Fournier tells that after spending a year writing her thesis, she has received a masters degree in distance education.
Marat Moore (right) says that she has recently located the first descendant that has been linked directly to Mother Jones. Moore is writing an historical novel about Mother Jones, a prominent labor organizer.
With both the spring Communicator and the February News in Review in press, the rest of the meeting focuses on GHI’s website. Anna Socrates (center) says that the website looks professional. She tells that she recently started volunteering at the Greenbelt Museum and met a couple there. The wife had been reading the website to learn about the cooperative, and the couple was interested in buying into the community. Fletcher asks whether GHI materials such as brochures and Communicator are available at the museum, and Socrates says she will check next time she volunteers.
Amy Headley (second from right), a visitor tonight, says that the website does not work fully on mobile devices, and Christine Gyemfi (sitting between Fletcher and Swaim), a GHI staff member responsible for web development, tells that she is waiting for an update of the Drupal software on which the website runs.
Andy Carruthers (left), moderator of the Greenbelters Yahoo Group, has joined the meeting.
Sheri Swaim reviews the website.
GHI’s main website, ghi.coop, was created in the 1990s, and later the Marketing Committee created a smaller site called greenbelthomes.net. In 2009 the Board of Directors appointed the Website Redesign Task Force to combine these two sites and bring information to date and hosting architecture to standards. 4Site Studios of Washington, D.C. was awarded a $25,000 contract and the new site was launched last year.
The most popular page on GHI’s website is Homes for Sale, and users have suggested making it easier to find and adding more information such as floor plans, square footage, and pictures. On the Contact Us page, some users wish to see staff email addresses listed explicitly so they can email multiple persons at the same time, although, a member of the committee mentions, this can bring spam problems. There are also discussions about which pages should go under which headings and asking each committee to appoint a member in charge of its own webpage.
Jo-Anne Fournier (second from left), a member of the Website Redesign Task Force, talks about the accessibility issue. This has to do with The Americans with Disabilities Act which requires reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Fournier talks about the large print feature.
Lauren Cummings, who has joined the meeting, talks about a volunteer group to review the website quarterly for usability issues and to consider enhancements. She says that after spending $25,000, the website still needs to be actively maintained else it will become obsolete. The committee agrees that Lauren Cummings and Jo-Anne Fournier will lead the website subcommittee with the assistance of Sheri Swaim and Christine Gyemfi.
Andy Carruthers (right), moderator of the Greenbelters Yahoo Group, says that he is impressed by the committee’s work and is willing to help out.
After the meeting has adjourned, Lauren Cummings talks to Sheri Swaim about the Rental Task Force that the Board has recently appointed to study GHI’s rental regulations. She says that people are interest in it but do not know that the task force is starting to meet tomorrow.