Minutes – Jan. 20-21, 2012

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

Dow Lohnes Offices, Washington, D.C.

In attendance:

  • Christine Montgomery, President
  • Jim Brady, Vice President
  • Cory Haik, Secretary
  • Jody Brannon, Treasurer
  • John Keefe
  • Juana Summers
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Meredith Artley
  • Amy Webb
  • Josh Hatch
  • Mario Tedeschini-Lalli
  • Will Sullivan
  • Burt Herman
  • Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
  • Sean Connolly, Web Editor
  • Jeanne Brooks, Community Engagement Manager
  • Chris Shaw, Consultant
  • Jon Hart, Counsel


  • Katie King
  • Rob King

9 a.m.: Opening
Christine Montgomery and Jane McDonnell
Christine opened up the board meeting by talking about the role of the board members in guiding the financial health of the organization and how much of the hands-on work happens in the committees. Our goal is to think strategically about the organization and what that growth means.

Jane did welcome and introductions and laid out the agenda for the day. She gave an overview of the board book and explanations of the policies, with an emphasis to board members to read these. The Board role is now at a higher level. It is no longer operational. We have spent the last year putting together a three-year strategy plan and we are working today to get approval on the plan and the business development, in particular. This is a brand new direction for us and unusual for a nonprofit in that we’ll be looking at biz revenue in a way that non profits do not. We want to make sure our ethics are aligned with our values. Our discussion over the next few days will be on this.

We will begin with the budget and finances, with the goal of approval for the 2011 budget (Year End numbers only). We don’t have the projected budget for 2012 ready yet, so we cannot vote on this today. We will vote on this on the February Board call.

The MJ Bear fund has grown quite a bit and we have spent some time putting together an investment look and review. This will be the first time we are investing money for ONA, so this is a milestone.

9:30 a.m.: Carolyn Skinner, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, via phone
Budget and Financials, 2011 (Presentation/Discussion)

The most recent financial statements are the Nov. 30, 2011 statements. We don’t have December’s numbers included because we need to give vendors time to get bills to us. We do have some preliminary results from December.

The board reviewed the 2011 Revenue actual and the 2011 Expenses actual. The headline is that our financials for 2011 are strong. This past year was the first time we had a clean audit, with no questions or missing policies. This was also our first full audit using the accrual method of accounting. We are in great shape.

There was Discussion by the board about line items in the 2011 financials, particularly around where we fell short on our projections for revenue and the actual return.
The Food and Beverage totals for the 2011 conference were high. Discussion about new ways to pare down in 2012, i.e., meal ticketing and prepays.
Bank fees: Jody Brannon is looking into how to reduce high fees.
Communications line item: There was a gap in projected and actual to the good. Jim Brady is investigating.

MJ Bear investment, Jim Brady
After discussions on potential investment strategies for the MJ Bear Fellow Fund, it was decided to bring in an investment adviser to an upcoming Board call.

10:15 a.m. ‐ noon: Three‐Year Strategy Overview, Part I
Chris Shaw, Consultant; Jane McDonnell, Executive Director

Membership Growth and Initiatives:
Jane: We are more mature. We are growing. But we have some challenges. How do we manage growth? How do we give members benefits they need? A Strategy Committee was put together about a year ago to determine the best way to use the $200,000 Knight funding we have for a business development person. But first we hired a consultant to put together a strategic plan.

Chris Shaw presents the strategic plan for ONA.

There are three Cs that are integral to ONA — Connections, Conference, Content. The goal of the strategy plan is to realize a consistent and sustaining revenue pattern and build the ONA brand. The plan was a lot bigger and broader than we originally set out to do.

ONA membership: We have a huge bump for conferences, and that’s been mitigated by changes in the ONA11 fee structure. The idea is to spread membership growth as evenly as possible throughout the year.

Chris presented ONA charts around membership by types. A focus should be to grow student and associate members as these groups have potential to help grow the organization. We will be looking closer at our membership types and hiring someone to do a deeper dive. This will be reported back to the board.

The Board reviewed a heat map of ONA membership by state. Membership is heavy on the coasts and areas where we have had ONACamps and student groups. We will be working to address this. The numbers for internationals is down ~6 percent year over year.

On projected membership growth through 2014, strategic focus is that students should grow through ONALocal and ONA Student Groups and International members should grow through partnerships.

Jeanne Brooks:
Discussed the ONALocal groups.
Why students / educators? Greatest need, short-term benefits, long-term benefits, branding, competitive reasons.
We have systematized ways to organize ONA Local accounts, building out a way to give members our logos, organize and engage with their communities.
International partners: Working with two potential partners, as well as the IInternational Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, through Board member Mario Tedeschini Lalli.
Collaborative approach to outreach and innovation, including programming,, web content, communications and revenue. We now have 30 ONALocal groups.
We are now systematically measuring our engagement with tools like Sprout Social..
We want to engage developer professionals who are playing in this field, possibly by continued partnering with Hacks/Hackers, which is growing.

The group discussed how to grow membership in strategic areas including educators, young professionals, diverse and under-served communities, programmers, and international representatives, while also keeping in mind how to balance the growth and scaling with limited resources while maintaining valuable member benefits.

Noon: Executive session: 50 minutes.

1:00 ‐ 3:00 p.m.: Three‐Year Strategy Overview, Part II (Presentation/Discussion)
Chris Shaw, Consultant; Jane McDonnell, Executive Director

Board presented with Revenue Projections around:

  • Business Development/Staff Position (qualifications, requirements, background)
  • Partners and Sponsors
  • Conference
  • Membership

The board went over the packages that Chris prepared in the strategic plan. Discussions around reasons for growing revenue, qualifications of business development hire, parameters around new sponsorship and website packages.

Conversation by the board on general features in the package

Meredith will work on organizing the Business Development hire with Jane.

Decision to have a three-person oversight committee to set up guidelines, monitor the business development progress in an ongoing way, possibly with quarterly reports.

2011 Conference: Jane McDonnell

Conference revenue projections: Where are we philosophically on growing the conference?

The host city has become a big part of the conference and we are looking at larger venues for 2013, including in Denver. We want to be where there is a tech community, and in a place that feels like an ONA community place.

Discussion on “ladder” of events: First, we host an ONACamp, then we organize an ONA Local group, and then we perhaps think about a conference there.

Jane will look at Chicago and Denver and will do a quick breakdown on prices and report back to the group. Also, if we decided to do a smaller conference in 2013, we can look at feasibility of a mini-International conference, possibly in London in the spring.

3:00 ‐ 3:15 p.m. Online Journalism Awards (Presentation/Discussion)
Josh Hatch, Chair

Entries are growing, and the awards are becoming the prime digital award.. We are looking at logo and branding a logo and Sean is going to work on a micro site, with content around the winners and their work. Josh has sent out an email and asked for feedback.

Conversation about judging and making sure the people who are judging are actually involved in doing online journalism. NAHJ have separated the awards from the conference and it’s working. Idea to move the awards to the beginning of the conference and then give winners time later in the conference to talk about what they did. Suggestion to add more categories to International awards.

Josh will bring ideas to a future Board call.

3:15 ‐ 4:15 p.m. Website, Phase II (Presentation)
Sean Connolly, Web Editor; Jane McDonnell, Executive Director


Guiding principles for 2012: Just making everything easier to use for the staff and members.

  • Refresh of ONA Local content
  • Better SEO
  • Building on social media
  • Doing some a/b testing
  • More tagging
  • Better organization of archives
  • Implementing a comment policy and installing a discussion board

Timeline for March / April / May:
Expanding Drupal commerce
Paid event registration — this will be onsite for Awards, ONACamps and ONA Local meetups
Expanding the sponsorship packages

Broader goals:
Content migration
Refreshing the infrastructure
Developing new sources of content
Looking at metrics to adjust our content strategy
We are getting to a place where we can be more sophisticated about our communication

Idea to use other social channel APIs to fill in member profiles.

The group discussed the logistics for developing the micro site for the OJAs, Meredith and Sean will start outlining that.

Visits and uniques are up. Most of our traffic is coming from social
Most read are How they did it and Social Shares. MJ Bear Fellow blogs have good numbers, too.

4:15 ‐5:30 p.m.: Board Approval on Strategy Plan (Board Action)


Jane will go back to strategy plan and look at that with fresh eyes. Decision was made to revive the membership committee to work on member benefits.

5:30 p.m.: Meeting Adjourned.

Day Two — Jan. 21, 2012

In attendance:

  • Christine Montgomery, President
  • Jim Brady, Vice President
  • Cory Haik, Secretary
  • Jody Brannon, Treasurer
  • John Keefe
  • Juana Summers
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Meredith Artley
  • Amy Webb
  • Josh Hatch
  • Mario Tedeshini-Lalli
  • Will Sullivan
  • Burt Herman
  • Jane McDonnell (Executive Director, ONA)
  • Sean Connolly (Web Editor, ONA)
  • Jeanne Brooks (Community Engagement Manager, ONA)
  • Chris Shaw, (Consultant to ONA)
  • Jon Hart, Counsel


  • Katie King
  • Rob King
  • Amy Webb

9:30 a.m.: Meeting opens

Board elections for 2012
During in-person voting, with 12 members present:
Jim Brady was elected President
Meredith Artley was elected vice President
Jody Brannon was elected Treasurer for second term
Will Sullivan was elected Secretary

All votes were unanimous.

Conversation on board responsibility and committee work led by Jim Brady
Vision / Strategy: Board members / Staff
Tactics: Committees / Staff
Operations: Staff

Josh: I think getting to some of the tactics are helpful and inform vision.
Robert: Agile, workflow. I feel like we have to build some of this in.
Cory: Could we use this as a framework for the conversations?
John: Some of the ‘trouble area’ did lead to success yesterday, i.e., reviving the membership committee.
Christine: The good ideas are important, but we need to own that, get it on a list. Send a memo to Jane. Get on a committee.
Jim: As many ideas as you can throw are great but we need to get them in the pipeline.
Jody: I think complication is that so many of us are also committee chairs. And we tend to overshare. We need to figure out a better way to step back from that.

Legal committee and other committees

Discussion on building on ONA’s recent stance on SOPA and the work of the ONA Issues Tumblr, Legal Affairs and Issues Committee and having some process around that.

Discussion on having each committee take minutes, as per bylaws. Agreement that we should make sure that happens.

Counsel Jon Hart updates group on a amicus brief that was filed yesterday and there is agreement that we should look into being more involved with groups that focus on these issues, including ASNE, the Media Law Resource Center and the Sunshine in Government Initiative. “We’d have to agree on the board strategically if we think we want to commit at this level.”

Jane will be developing a grant proposal to support more in-depth legal work.

10:30: 2012 Board nominations and 2013 Election
Memo from Teresa Hanafin, Nominations Chair, and Katharine Fong, Committee Member

Board members up for reelection:

  • Jody Brannon
  • Cory Haik
  • Katie King
  • Amy Webb
  • Will Sullivan
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Josh Hatch

Eligible for reappointment:

  • Robert King

Discussion on appointments to board, campaign guidelines, candidate expectations, possibility of appointing a non-voting board member, moving up the dates to open and close voting. Conversation around the prism of Wisdom, Wealth and Work for slate nominations.

11 a.m: Committees: Volunteers

Advisory Board: Amy Webb, Chair
Members: Jim, Rob, Christine

AP‐Google Journalism & Technology Scholarship: Will volunteered as member

Awards: Josh Hatch, chair
Members: Will, Mario, Katie

Conference 2012: Burt Herman, board liaison

Diversity: Juana, Chair
Member: Robert

International: Katie King, board liaison, Mario Tedeschini‐Lalli, Co-Chair
Member: Meredith

Issues: Will Sullivan, Chair
Members: Robert, Cory and Jeanne Brooks (staff)

Legal Affairs: Josh, Chair;
Members: Jon Hart (General Counsel), Burt, Dick Meyer

MJ Bear Fellowship Fund: Amy Eisman, Chair (non-board member)
Members: Will, Jody, Jon

Website Redevelopment: Meredith, Chair
Member: Jon, Sean Connolly, staff

Education Committee: Jody, Chair
Members: Will, Robert

Membership: Robert, Chair
Members: John, Jim, Christine and Jeanne

Oversight committee: Meredith, Chair
Members: Rich J., Cory, Jim, Christine

Conference updates: Jane
Still looking for Job Fair chair
Also looking for any sponsors on the West Coast; please pass along any keynote ideas.

We are looking at holding Thursday as a one-package registration. Still working out price modeling. This will simplify registration online and on site.

Meeting adjourned at noon.