Bulgarian-American Cultural Educational Society of California

2024-01-09 – New BACES Director Addresses Members Concerns

(PDF version)

January 9, 2024

RE: New BACES Director Addresses Members Concerns And Shares Vision

Dear BACES members,

My name is Vessie Kazachka, and I’m the newly elected member of the Board of Directors. I’m reaching out to you as a Director to share my observations as a newcomer and outsider to recent organization events. Apologies for the length of this letter, but I believe it’s crucial to provide clarity.

As a new leader in BACES, I’d like to express my thoughts on the decisions to be made at the special meeting on Jan 27th.

When nominated for the Board, I was unaware of prior disagreements. I rarely use Facebook and didn’t follow related discussions. Once I was elected and was able to review the current BACES documents, I find the organization in a very normal position for an organization of this type going through such big status and leadership change.

My background involves leadership in a similar member nonprofit facing a comparable transformation. Based on my experience, BACES may need approximately 5 years to recover from the changes since December 2020 and prior. At the 3 year mark, BACES has regained its fully legal status, it has become stable financially, has healthy reserves, and has made progress in sponsoring cultural events.

Regardless of which 5 persons were elected to the board in 2020, similar outcomes were very likely. These are simply the dynamics of a membership organization of this sort, especially with large membership, yet without paid staff and a large volunteer base. Disagreements on mission execution and fund allocation by the previous Board are normal and typical in such organizations and don’t imply mismanagement.

In this type of organization, I have seen two trends – one is what I call “visionary leadership” and the other is “management leadership.” Generally, one of these two trends will develop.

In “visionary leadership” a small group of people with similar ideas and a single viewpoint will be entrusted with the organizational management and finances. They will create activities that are dear to their hearts. The membership will have small or no responsibilities other than participating in those events, and the hope is that the events will be meaningful and enjoyable to the membership and the general public, and the leadership will have enough financial and business understanding to continue to run a profitable organization.

The “management leadership” is focused on creating a robust organizational structure. The work needed for the organization to function is divided into small amounts of time that many members can volunteer to do. The leadership looks to the members to suggest and organize activities and events and uses the structure of the organization to help their execution financially and otherwise. Engaging more people ensures that the organization continues even when change in leadership occurs. This way of governing takes longer to build, but participation by members creates a greater sense of ownership.

Both leadership styles have their positives and negatives. I personally lean towards the second type, because it is easier to add a visionary leader into a well-managed structure and given proper boundaries that can be beneficial. On the opposite spectrum under visionary leadership, I find that when that leadership moves on, the organization has to rebuild itself from scratch.

In my less than one month work with John and Vladi, we agree that continuing to build structure and better communication with members are top priorities. We have already established 3 member committees – one for Grants giving and approval, one for Member Outreach, and one for Building Care and Maintenance. You will hear more about them during our zoom meeting on Jan 14th, and we hope some of you will volunteer to join us.

I find no evidence supporting accusations against John and Vladi for consolidating power. Of the former and current board of directors, I consider Kalin Kroumov, Petro Dushkov and Vladi Strinski as personal friends. Despite acknowledging the need for improved communication, I disagree that the organization is mismanaged.

On the contrary, I find that BACES is on a solid foundation to continue refining its vision and mission. Creating an organization in a democratic way, where many people’s opinions, viewpoints and past experiences need to be brought into a united vision takes a lot of time, energy, humility, and respect for the other participants.

As members, you are free to choose the leadership and style that you think best suits the Bulgarian cultural organization you would like to participate in. I hope you will join us on Jan 14th and Jan 27th and participate according to your heart’s convictions.

Vessie Kazachka
Board of Directors,