In my campaign statement to the membership, I outlined my reasons for running - focusing on an improved "practical" transparency on the part of the leadership, greater collaboration with the entire membership, and a reinvigorated spirit of community for us all. A link to my campaign statement can be found here.
Although I intend to focus this letter on my experience and leadership abilities, I would like to start by further developing my position on transparency. Practical transparency to me means that the membership of the Imperial Court of New York deserve more- more information, more inclusion, more understanding. Opaque answers should never be given to legitimate questions. For example, an appropriate answer to "How many tickets did we sell to the Ball?" should include a breakdown of how many tickets at each price point, including complimentary tickets. Information about ticket income and ball revenues, both current and historically, is critical in planning for the future. Similarly, a report on ball expenses should be a document freely available to the membership: it's the only way we can build on the successes of one year is to have the knowledge about the previous one. Likewise, the amount that we're giving away to beneficiaries should be projected shortly after the ball. We know our outstanding bills and approximate levels of outstanding income: we don't need to cut a check, but we should be able to tell our membership where we stand.
None of this information should be secret, or even closely held. This is all data that will help the membership feel informed, engaged and trusted to be a part of building toward the event. I firmly believe that opaque answers push individuals aside and foster a feeling that the members don't deserve the truth, or shouldn't want the truth. I believe that we do deserve it and that we should want it and actively pursue it.
New blood and a change in leadership are critical from time to time in an organization's life span, particularly in an all-volunteer organization. Canadian Geese fly in a V formation, but if you watch long enough, you'll see the bird at the apex switch roles with another goose in line: flying in front takes the most energy and can't be sustained. Change brings new ideas, an organic ability to energize people and redistribute roles and tasks within an organization. It keeps people fresh, both those who have served and those whom they serve. It brings a diversity of skill sets to the top of the pyramid and keeps a balance between the creative, the organized and the popular. We need all three types, and rotating them over the course of a several year period adds strength to the fabric of the organization. Lastly, it's a sign that the organization is healthy and can sustain productive change, providing the opportunities for new experiences for all of us.
I am ready for the experience of being President of the Imperial Court of New York, and my leadership roles and previous board service give me the knowledge to aspire and succeed in the job.
Within ICNY, I have produced more than a dozen fundraisers including the 2009-2013 Editions of The Nobles Show, The Gayest Link, my annual 39th Birthday Party, and the very successful Dowager's Bachelorette Party. During my reign as Empress XXVI, the 27th Night of A Thousand Gowns was awarded the GLAM Award for Best Nightlife Event. I believe much of my success in ICNY is my belief that "Tried and True" is a starting point, not a stopping point for producing interesting and profitable events. Indeed, many of these shows have involved a mix of ICNY and external performers, were held in new spaces which have remained open to future ICNY events. For example, for NOATG, Ritz and I tapped three members to serve as our Executive Producers: two of whom were brand new to the role, and one of whom had produced one ball (after only two years in the court). The passion this new blood brought to the table, made all the difference in making that night so special for the entire community.
Additionally, I have extensive experience with the day-to-day operation of ICNY. I have spent two different terms as a member-at-large on the board, one term as Secretary and one as Empress. I have served for two years as your Minister of Protocol. And, on two different occasions, I have served on the by-laws review committee- most recently at the direct request of Gary Cosgrove.
Within the Court System at-large, I have represented ICNY from Providence to San Diego and from Washington DC to Anchorage. I have been a special guest of the Imperial Court of San Francisco for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Emperors and have ridden on the float with the ICWDC in their Pride Parade. I have emceed two balls in Washington DC, out of town shows in Kentucky and Portland, Monarchs around the system have awarded me four "half" titles, and I was one of the first two individuals ever named "Honorary Citizen of Alaska."
Moreover, my professional experience adds a great deal of wealth to my candidacy. As I stated in my campaign statement:
Many among us have the skill sets to look at our model and improve on the good work that's come before. And it will take many of us: fully engaged, fully respected and with a fully renewed spirit to do that. Given the astounding growth of what was originally conceived as a grassroots organization, it's now time to implement systems and procedures in line with generally accepted principles, such as those practiced by the organizations we work with and the funders with whom we seek to work.
Over the last ten years, I have held the senior leadership position of Director of Development at two independent schools. Since 2011, I have been the Director of Development, Social Media and Advocacy at Iris House, a community health organization founded to help HIV+ women of color. I have served as Director of Marketing and Public Relations at a performing arts center in New Jersey, and I have served as a board member of both the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and the Gay Activists Alliance of Morris County, NJ. I am a co-founder of the LGBT Alumni Group at The Lawrenceville School, where I am believed to be the first openly gay student on campus.
Acquiring the ability and skills to lead an organization like the Imperial Court of New York can be accomplished in a variety of ways, venues and non-profit environments, and I am proud to say, in the words of legendary leadership icon Frank N. Furter, "I have that knowledge":
- I have been on the steering committee of four strategic planning processes and have chaired various planning workgroups;
- I have developed and implemented annual giving campaigns, some raising more than $600,000 that were 95% volunteer driven;
- I have planned and executed a feasibility study and launched a capital campaign that ultimately netted more than $7 million dollars;
- I have coordinated branding and marketing messaging between paper, digital and social media programs;
- I have built and grown the membership of a volunteer organization and kept members engaged over a five year period;
- I have represented my organization in meetings with local, state and federal elected officials; and
- I have managed teams of more than 60 volunteers in year-long fundraising campaigns
I welcome any questions about my experience, my ideas on how we can develop a shared vision, or any other issues on which you'd like to know my stance.
I am here, in service to the spirit of Community, Camp and Collaboration
Michael Barret Jones
Empress XXVI Witti Repartee