Monday, June 11, 2012

Siobhan Esposito For Board of Directors of Gold Star Wives of America

Gold Star Wives should be the nation’s preeminent organization when it comes to promoting the interests of surviving spouses and families. In that light, it is important that candidates for the board of directors indicate what they wish to achieve should they be elected to serve on the board.

My background is in public administration with a focus in nonprofit management; specifically, I am a handful of credits shy of having my Masters degree in this field from American University.

In the course of my studies, I have learned much about the hallmarks of effective nonprofit organizations. I have had the opportunity to study several nonprofits in depth, and learn from both their successes and mistakes. I hope to apply these lessons to making Gold Star Wives a more effective voice for surviving spouses.

As a member of the board of directors, I will propose the following nine points:

  1. I will work to help the board of directors improve the quality of its leadership of Gold Star Wives. I will work to insure financial and program accountability, promote peer review among the members of the board, and impose term limits.
  2. I will call for monthly board of directors meetings. I believe that an organization with thousands of members brought together because of a life-altering event as dramatic as losing a spouse requires active and ongoing board leadership.
  3. I will call for the hiring of a professional executive director to manage the day-to-day affairs of Gold Star Wives, to include legislative advocacy, coalition-building, fundraising, and member services.
  4. I will work to see that a parallel 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization be created in addition to GSW's current organization. Gold Star Wives is currently incorporated as a 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code, which means that Gold Star Wives may lobby Congress to pass legislation, but private donations to the organization are not deductible on one's taxes. By creating a new 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization to work alongside the existing organization, Gold Star Wives will dramatically increase its ability to raise revenue for its members’ benefit.
  5. As Gold Star Wives must increase its outreach and actively recruit younger widows and widowers from America’s more recent wars, I will work toward this recruitment by ensuring that GSW offer services that younger surviving spouses need in the face of their loss, and work to expand knowledge of our organization in the military community.
  6. As Gold Star Wives must be an easily accessible clearinghouse on information about government survivor benefits, I will work to have the national organization make experts available to members in areas such as grief counseling, financial planning, and child-rearing in the face of loss, just to name a few. Local chapters could then host these experts as guest speakers—adding value to the local chapters' meetings. At root, Gold Star Wives needs to dramatically increase the services that it provides to its members—and not leave it to other service organizations to fill in the gaps.
  7. As one of Gold Star Wives' primary purposes is effective government advocacy, I will work to ensure that the interests and needs of surviving spouses are respected by our nation's political leaders in Washington, and I will work diligently to expand GSW's grassroots voice.
  8. I will propose that our organization change its name to "Gold Star Spouses of America" to reflect the changing face of America, and the changing nature of military service.
  9. I will propose that membership in our organization be open to all surviving spouses of eligible military service members, regardless of the current citizenship of the surviving spouse. It would be horrifying to turn our backs on the surviving spouse of a fallen American hero merely because that surviving spouse was not American themselves—a needless slap in the face to someone who has already suffered enough. 
Ultimately, I will work to ensure that Gold Star Wives of America exists as an effective advocate for surviving spouses, and I ask for your help and support in this effort. Surviving spouses have given their husbands and wives in the service of our nation. In return, these survivors need and deserve a well-managed organization that is equal to the many challenges that they face in their lives. Through the death of my late husband, Army Captain Phillip Esposito, in Iraq in 2005, I have come to know many of these challenges personally, and I seek to stand with my fellow surviving spouses as we face them together.

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