Nov 03 2008

Pre-2003 Victories of the Heart: Was it an informal group and team of volunteer leaders or for-profit for leaders?

Was Victories for men, formerly Victories of the Heart and the Men’s Room an informal group or a for-profit-private practice of the leaders prior to 2003?

Since I was involved in this organization both before and after 2003, I thought this would be a good question to explore.

Here is what the history section of the website (third paragraph)states:

“Before 2003, Victories was an informal group managed by Bob, Buddy, and a team of committed volunteer leaders.”

This is one of those sentences which those of us around then would find a little confusing. What does “informal group” mean and who does it refer to? What about “a team of committed volunteer leaders?”

Well, if you take it literally, it means pre-2003 Victories managers were Bob Mark and Buddy Portugal and they managed an informal group and a team of committed volunteer leaders.

I’m sorry for being redundant here, but the meaning of these words and sentences seems inaccurate to me and has for a long time.

Pre-2003 Victories was Victories of the Heart and the Men’s Room. I was part of a Men’s Room leader team briefly around 1994 and then again in 2003-2008.

During the pre-2003 time period, Victories had several two person leader teams and each of them owned and shared the profits of each weekend. The fees were still about $600 per participant and the expenses about $100-200 per participant. So do the math, if there were 20 participants, the profits could max out at about $7-8,000 and the two leaders would split the profits in half.

It’s realistic the profits were less than that, but the two original leader teams were very popular and usually had busy weekends and I would think they did not lose money doing weekends and I’m sure they found it fun, rewarding, and helpful marketing for their practices.

In addition, there were two reunion day-long workshops after each weekend which also charged fees and the two leaders also shared those profits as well.

This paragraph goes on to say:

“In that year (2003), however, it was incorporated in Illinois as a 501 (c)3 tax-exempt organization led by a board of directors and governed through formal bylaws. Under the board, it has continued to develop both its programs and its infrastructure.”

I rejoined the organization in about 2003-2004 and the same shared profits compensation package was in place. I’m not sure when, but within the next year or so, leaders began to be paid a $500 stipend, instead of the profit sharing package during the time period approximately 1985-2003.

Why would the history section of the website lack clarity on this issue? The issue of money and leader profits back then were a part of the underbelly of the organization and several people, like myself, called attention to this, sort of, capitalistic version of men’s work at the time.

The leaders at the time always talked about really earning about $1.25 an hour, but this usually fell on deaf ears among us others who watched them drive away in expensive, luxury vehicles.

Buddy Portugal used to say things to me like, therapists in private practice should charge $100 per decade of their career. This was his way of saying he thought he deserved $300 per hour. There was a duplicity about money within the organization, in that there was a fundraiser every year where the proceeds would go to some non-profit in the community.

The fundraisers gave the illusion Victories was also a non -profit prior to 2003, but it was definitely not a non-profit as far as leader compensation until after 2004. I remember Kurt meeting with me to inform me of the new policy of $500 leader stipends.

I was fine with the change, but we never had any formal, public board meeting about this. Perhaps if we had, there would be more comfort and clarity around the history of Victories related to money.

I don’t think the leaders or organization should have had any problem with the previous compensation package. I worked under this shared profit system for at least one weekend and know I worked long and hard and did not feel overpaid at all earning about $2,000. I can imagine other leaders who had been doing this for many years may have felt upset about the change. I do not have any information about anyone else.

I just know for Kurt and perhaps others on the Board, changing the compensation helped bring clarity to the process and removed the profit making part of recruiting and leading weekends. This was progress.

This is why I raise this question about the telling of the history. It’s not as accurate as it could be and I wonder if there is still some hesitation to acknowledge the role of participant’s fees and leader profit from the pre-2003 time period.

Perhaps the writer of the website narrative didn’t know about the history and someone gave them a cursory summary and the writing left a little bit of confusion.

I follow the fundraising progress and am very impressed with the current Victories Board and their efforts to strengthen both organizational policies and the quality of programs. I note they have raised about $170,000 of a $400,000 goal. This is terrific and I hope they are able to reach their goal quickly.

Does it really matter there is some confusion in this one sentence? Well, it does matter to me and that is why I write.

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