After a couple of years as NAF President, and with less than 2 weeks to go, I thought it would be a good time to offer a few points about what the job involves, and what you can and can’t do, partly to inform the choice that people are making in the election, and to give some background to some of the questions that people are asking. I will use he throughout, as all past Presidents have been male as are the candidates. But I hope we will have a future female President!
The single most important point is that the President is part of a committee of 6 – 4 elected and 2 appointed members. Therefore the decisions he can make by himself are quite few. That said, he can appoint the Vice-President and Membership Director, thus giving half the votes on the committee, so the potential is there for a certain amount of control, but it is traditional that there is a certain amount of consensus, if not always 100% agreement.
The Committee communicate formally by email, through a dedicated forum, and by monthly meetings over Skype, along with personal communication between Committee members by whatever means. Because they are individuals (y’know, with lives) the extent to which each member participates in each conversation changes, but substantial decisions are always taken in meetings.
The next level of communication is with wider NAF staff (NTCs/RTCs), and this is something I tried to do more often with emails, but never to the extent that I would have liked. The NAF forum is little-used, but could perhaps be made busier if NAF staff wanted it that way. With hindsight it would have been good to get more buy-in on decisions like Piling On, and hopefully this will happen with future Death Zone releases.
Then there is communication with NAF members and the wider BB community, through the newsletter and social media. The newsletter is done through dotmailer, as it allows people to unsubscribe and so on, as well as being a useful way of putting the newsletter together. While expensive, at around £100 per newsletter, newsletters from large organisations do need to be done professionally, and it is the most effective way of reaching the whole membership. There would be options such as only sending to current members, but I always believed that reaching out to expired members would also be useful.
Social media is a tricky one, and I have probably conflated too much my roles as NAF President and an Admin of BB Community on Facebook, which future Presidents would be wise to avoid. This was a hangover from my time as NAF Media Officer, so it would be wise for the incoming President to delegate if possible to a trusted Media Officer or get the Vice President to take on the role of replying to questions, or passing on information from the NAF Facebook page, for example. I was always happy to do it, as it was a good way of communicating individually with members, but probably was not the most sensible role for the elected position.
In summary, communication has not been as good as I would have wanted, but basically, it’s very difficult! People in the hobby are enthusiastic for news as soon as possible, but will also think of things that the committee has not considered, so on an ongoing basis the Committee will have to be prepared for any decision having its dissenters, even when you think a decision is fairly uncontroversial (e.g. the 3 game requirement for the 24 patches).
I was going to include “communication with external bodies” in the section above, but the interaction with GW is important enough to warrant its own section. I have always done my best to maintain open lines of communication with GW, but this has never been able to be public, due to GW’s policies of keeping development in-house, so it has not been possible for the NAF to have formal engagement, for example, in developing the rules. As a result the NAF have to deal with whatever we are given, and the “power” will always inevitably lie with GW. The NAF has an active membership of around 3,000 and an all-time membership of around 15,000, which is miniscule compared to the sales of the board game and even more so compared to Cyanide, so while our members may be extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable, they don’t necessarily have the buying power to influence a corporation’s decisions.
Finally, on GW, there is a balance between accepting rules changes from GW and keeping the existing player base happy, from which the result is almost always that no-one is completely happy. This is a recurring theme, in general, in any kind of politics, including NAF politics, and something that the NAF committee do have to accept.
The Website and Rankings
It was part of my election pledge to revamp the website, and I believe I have done so, but not in the way I expected. Before I was elected I expected a whole new website on a voluntary basis, but this did not work out, so the committee took the decision to invest in the existing one, having investigated the cost of getting a new one developed commercially. The new coach page and coach finder now provide functionality that I thought should always have existed, and when combined with the wordpress section on thenaf.net it does actually provide a lot of what a centralised hobby network should offer. Not everything, by a long way, but a lot.
This ties into rankings, with a frequent refrain of decay being built in, so that rankings do not last forever if someone stops playing with a particular race. As well as being a major change, about which the committee would have to be very certain, this would be an ongoing talking point. I don’t feel strongly either way, but I think there is plenty for the NAF to be getting on with without it.
A quick word on the candidates, both of whom I have a great deal of respect for. I encouraged Gaixo to stand as he has been an impressive TD, getting on with the day-to-day job as well as having an eye on the wider development of the NAF on a global basis, and being appropriately accessible to members and responsive to other committee members as well as wider NAF staff. Driesfield was involved in a very successful Eurobowl in Belgium and is very well-known and popular among the European community, and has always seemed sensible. Neither is likely to reverse the result of the referendum, and neither is likely to tell GW where to stick their new rules, so hopefully the NAF will be in safe hands.
One of the items I believe should be in the new President’s inbox is the structure of the NAF in general – I started this early in my term, but for various reasons had to put it to one side. There are ways that the NAF works that should be transparent, so that any member can see what is going on, but it is difficult sometimes to document these. It would be a very useful exercise, however.
That leads to an important point. The Treasurer, Tournament Director, League Director and Membership Director all have specific jobs that take up a fair amount of time, whereas the President and VP have more flexibility with their time and what projects they choose to pursue, and this is in my opinion the big opportunity that the incoming President has – he will not actually have a daily “to-do list” that is his responsibility alone. I got involved in resetting passwords and things like that, but this should all be delegated. The President should have a vision as to what they can do to make the NAF better, and then be prepared to push for it and devote time to it.
So my question to the candidates – what one thing will be different about the NAF in 2 years as a result of your Presidency?
Finally however, the important point is that the NAF lives and dies on its members. If a NAF member would like the NAF to do something, the NAF has a certain amount of financial resources and support available to make it happen. But if you care enough to complain about something not happening, ideally you would care enough to make it happen. The Tournament Series badges were a great example of this – they didn’t exist, someone thought it would be a good idea, put it to the NAF, and now they exist. If you care enough to complain that something should change, get involved so that you can influence change.
I am very glad that these two excellent people have put their names forward to be NAF President. Read the Q&A, ask questions, spread the word, make a decision, then vote.