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Election 2012

Voting in NAMI Elections

A Message from the NAMI Board of Directors

Among a governing board’s most important tasks is ensuring its own succession. With an eye toward building an ever-stronger NAMI board, we want to articulate the experience, skills and expertise we think we need on this national board. We offer these thoughts in the hope that they will prove useful both to those who are considering seeking election and to those who must cast their votes to select our new colleagues. NAMI Board service is an honor and a privilege. For those who earn the opportunity, NAMI Board service is and must be the top volunteer priority. The NAMI mission—and your interests—are too critical to be second to anyone or anything!

NAMI Board service demands experience, knowledge, commitment and time to help others. Board members must be passionate about NAMI’s goals, values and beliefs. But beyond that critical passion, board members should have some high-level decision-making experience and knowledge in one or more of the following areas: public policy, fundraising, nonprofit legal oversight, outreach and educational programs, technology and communications, marketing, membership development, business, investments, finance or volunteerism. Service on the board of a large nonprofit organization and understanding of the complex and varied legal and fiduciary decisions a board struggles with on a routine basis are also critical to good NAMI Board service.

Board members are elected for a three-year term and may serve two consecutive terms. In addition to attending quarterly meetings of two to three days duration in Arlington, Va., board members should be prepared to dedicate between six to ten hours/week to their NAMI Board service, including service on three or four standing committees, frequent conference calls and other work groups as may be needed, in addition to Board and other meeting travel. NAMI Board members represent the organization before the general public, NAMI members, professional service providers and public officials. Board members are expected to make their NAMI service their primary volunteer commitment and are encouraged to remove themselves from other volunteer obligations to allow their focused attention to this important work.

To know what specific skills and expertise we need on the Board, we first had to know what we already have. In collecting this information, we noticed some important things:

• While among our most important roles as a governing board is fiscal management, we have very few members with specific training in this area.

• While fundraising is critically important as a board function—and an expectation of us all—we have relatively few members who really relish this role.

• While NAMI represents mental illness across the life span, we have no members with younger children or elderly family members who live with mental illness now, and just a few whose adult children became ill when very young.

• While NAMI seeks to represent the communities in which we live all across the country, our board still lacks substantial diversity (NAMI defines “diversity” broadly, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, as well as representation across the lifespan, regionally, urban/rural/frontier, sexual orientation and lived experience, among others.) Although we think we’ve made great progress in our diversity in recent years, we know we need to do more!

This year, five candidates will be elected to serve for a three-year term. Five current board members’ regular terms will expire, and their seats will come up for general election; one has served ably and with great dedication for two terms and cannot seek re-election; four have served a single term and may or may not seek re-election.

The NAMI Board is a working board whose members play active and important roles in setting policy for the success of the national organization. NAMI is best served by board members who are team players, who keep the big picture in mind, and who know that as board members they represent the membership and not any other organization with which they may be associated. Service on the NAMI Board challenges us all to rise above our local and state concerns, or single areas of particular interest, to see the scope of our national needs. To best serve in the board role, members are expected to:

• attend and participate fully in quarterly Board meetings, annual conventions and other organizational functions;

• understand and protect the fiduciary health of the organization;

• understand and adhere to the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of a nonprofit board;

• understand and support NAMI’s programs and public policies;

• be NAMI members in good standing; and

• make what feels to the individual to be a significant financial contribution to NAMI, the national organization, on an annual basis.

The NAMI bylaws require that a minimum of 75 percent of the board be comprised of persons who have or have had mental illness, or parents or their relatives, including civil and domestic partners. In order to ensure compliance with this requirement, all board candidates are asked to identify if they have had a lived experience of serious mental illness. (Candidates’ statements to this effect will be published in the special election mailing along with their campaign statements.) Currently, all Board members self-identify as having this lived experience.

Service on the NAMI Board is a fulfilling experience. We are honored and humbled to represent the members who elected us, and we want only to do the best job possible for NAMI and its vital mission. We invite able and experienced leaders from all walks of life to join us in this remarkable journey—and we thank the thousands of NAMI members who inspire and focus us in our work.

Thank you for all that you do, every day, to support NAMI!

Sincerely, Your NAMI Board of Directors

If you have questions about the election process, contact us at

As a grassroots organization, NAMI draws its strength from its members and leaders. That strength comes in the form of a skilled and active board of directors, bylaws that support the organization’s mission and vision, and resolutions that promote and advance that mission and vision.

NAMI’s board and bylaws can only be changed by vote of the membership—NAMI Affiliates and NAMI State Organizations—that is, by you! NAMI’s future lies in your hands.

This issue of the Advocate includes this election section to help you make those decisions. This year, you are only considering board candidates; no bylaws or resolutions were proposed for your consideration. Please read on—and then join the election debate within your NAMI Affiliate.

You can help shape NAMI’s future. Your vote counts! Service on the NAMI board is a fulfilling experience. We are honored and humbled to represent the members who elected us, and we want to do the best job possible for NAMI and its vital mission. We thank the thousands of NAMI members who inspire and focus us in our work.

Sincerely, Kevin B. Sullivan President, NAMI Board of Directors Janet Edelman Member, NAMI Board of Directors 2012 Election Chair

NAMI elections include selection of board members, possible amendment of bylaws and consideration of resolutions posed by the membership.

NAMI Affiliates in good standing (those embracing the NAMI mission, having at least five members and fully paid dues) and NAMI State Organizations may vote, either by absentee ballot or at the annual NAMI National Convention.

NAMI State Organizations each get one vote in NAMI elections. NAMI Affiliates have “weighted votes” based on the number of members in the group as of 70 days prior to the election. The more members your group has, the more votes you get, ranging from one vote for groups of 5-50 to 10 votes for groups of 800 or more.

Individuals do not vote in NAMI’s national elections, but all NAMI members have an opportunity to participate in the election process by helping to decide how their NAMI Affiliate or NAMI State Organization will cast its vote. Contact your NAMI Affiliate and State Organization leaders for more information about how and when they will be deciding how to cast your vote. Each Affiliate and State Organization chooses someone to serve as their delegate or proxy. That person will cast the ballot on behalf of the group.

Voting Packet In mid-May, a packet of voting information, including the ballot, credentialing forms, a copy of this election issue of the Advocate and instructions for voting will be mailed to each NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization in good standing.

Members can begin convening now to consider the proposals and candidates before you. We urge you to join in this decisionmaking process! You may also have suggestions for the additional vacancy appointment.

Credentialing forms specifying who will serve as delegate or proxy for each group must be submitted by affiliates and state organizations to the NAMI office by June 22, 2012.

Absentee Voting NAMI Affiliates and NAMI State Organizations that wish to vote absentee may do so via official ballots that will be mailed in May. Absentee ballots are due to NAMI by June 22, 2012.

Voting at the Convention Voting will take place on Friday, June 29, in Seattle. The NAMI National Convention program will include a map with the voting area clearly marked. Only credentialed delegates or proxies may cast ballots. Credentialed delegates/proxies may vote between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. All ballots must be returned to the ballot box by 6 p.m.

NAMI Affiliates and NAMI State Organizations that do not return voting credentials to NAMI by June 22, 2012, will be subject to onsite review.

Election Results Results of the votes will be reported at the NAMI business meeting on Saturday, June 30. Results will also be posted on

Candidates are listed in the order in which their nominations were received at the NAMI office. All candidate statements are unedited, presented as submitted.

Candidates were asked to respond to five questions, in a total of 300 words. Extended responses to each of these questions are available on the NAMI website at

The candidates address the following questions:

  1. What brought you to NAMI, and what roles have you played in your NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization?
  2. What advocacy and organizational priority areas do you believe NAMI should be pursuing in the next three years, and how can you help as a Board member?
  3. Please describe any previous service on a board and what you regard as your greatest contribution to that organization’s work through your service on its board. How will you make service on the NAMI Board of Directors your top volunteer priority?
  4. How can you contribute to NAMI’s evolution as a dynamic, well-run organization that seeks and engages a diverse and growing membership, as called for in the NAMI strategic plan?
  5. What fundraising, financial oversight, legal, marketing or information technology expertise do you have to offer to NAMI?

Candidates also provide a personal statement identifying their lived experience with mental illness. The NAMI bylaws require that a minimum of 75 percent of the board be comprised of persons who have or have had mental illness, or parents or their relatives, including civil partners.

More Information Available Online Visit for expanded resources on each candidate, including letters of nomination and expanded responses to the queries above and five-minute “stump speeches” from each candidate.

Candidate Speeches and State Caucuses Candidates will deliver their speeches at the NAMI National Convention on Wednesday, June 27. Candidates will each have five minutes to address convention attendees. State caucuses will also be held on Thursday, June 28, when candidates may visit state delegations. A full list of state caucus times and locations will be included in the NAMI National Convention program.

Meet The Candidates

Hear the Candidates on the Web! Historically, nearly half of all NAMI ballots are cast absentee, which means that many NAMI Affiliates and NAMI State Organizations cast their votes without ever hearing the candidates speak. To give members more opportunity to know the candidates, we have arranged to record a five-minute speech by each candidate, which will then be posted on the Web at

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