September Newsletter

President's Message


I find it hard to believe that summer is almost over, students are returning to school and the leaves from the trees in my yard are beginning to turn color and fall. All in all, it’s been a good summer with the exception of the many disastrous fires throughout the state. I hope that none of our CCHS-family members have been affected by the fires.

You might have noticed that there’s been a lot of talk about strategic planning at CCHS meetings and in the CCHS newsletter articles lately. I thought I’d address the general subject of strategic planning in this article, and then the specifics of the CCHS Strategic Plan in future articles.

First of all, what is a strategic plan, and why is it important for organizations to develop a plan? Basically, a strategic plan is a disciplined effort that assesses the following: What and Where are we? What are our current strengths and weaknesses? What and Where do we want to be? How are we going to get there? After several months of data-based analysis and a great deal of review and discussion, the process culminates in producing fundamental decisions that shape and guide what the organization is, what it does and why, who it serves and how --- all with a focus on planning for a viable and sustainable future for the organization.

The plan that is produced is generally a reality-based document which has a defined lifetime, usually between three and five years. However, as any of the factors change that have been used to determine and define the organization’s culture, mission, vision and/or objectives, the plan can adapt or becomes subject to change . In other words, the plan can develop into a living document that continues to identify the audience that the organization plans to target, set goals and prioritize those goals, guide the organization’s activities, and focuses energy and resources on the success of those goals. An important aspect of the plan is a built-in timeline with elements that frequently measure the success of each of the goals and objectives.

A strategic plan should also communicate the reasoning behind the changes that might have been made to the organization’s goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other crucial elements developed during the planning process to the membership. Understanding and support from the leadership and the general membership is crucial to the success of the plan.

You might say this is sounding very “business-like”, and “CCHS is not a business, it is a non-profit organization.” Actually, non-profits today are finding that, in order to be successful, they must adopt many features of a well-run business. Included would be the development of a budget which is used to monitor revenue and expenses, the creation of a mission statement and a vision that guide and focus all of the organization’s decisions and actions, and finally, a strategic plan that provides long-term viability with tangible expectations and measurable outcomes. Although the byproduct for a for-profit business is revenue or profit, the byproduct for a non-profit is usually measured by better program and service outcome. For both, you need structure, order and strategic planning to succeed.

You will be hearing about CCHS’s Strategic Planning process from other members of the executive committee and also from the members of the strategic planning committee. If at any time you have questions about this important process, communication can be addressed to either Andrea Blachman, CCHS president or Ralph Thomas, CCHS 2nd Vice President and Chair of the Strategic Planning committee.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, and I’ll look forward to seeing all of you at the CCHS sponsored Symposium “Highway 21: In Two Counties,” October 20-23, 2016, to be held in Danville, San Ramon, Dublin and Pleasanton. Registration information can be found on the CCHS website at


Andrea Blachman, CCHS President

[email protected]



First Vice President's Message


Make Sure Your Region is represented

A critical goal of our hard working Strategic Planning Team is to change how CCHS does business to better serve the diverse statewide community of historical oriented organizations and individuals.

In short, from my perspective as chair of the Regional Vice Presidents Council, it is to make sure, in one way or another, the entire state is represented.

I agree with the team’s assessment that the primary and most urgent need is to find a group leader and regional vice presidents for a coastal area that has well over 5 million population (one-eighth of the state’s). This eight-county area makes up an eighth of our regions.

Call it Area D to be headed by a Group D leader.

The area stretches southward from San Mateo to Ventura (the counties between San Francisco and Los Angeles):

  • San Mateo is Region 10 with a population of 765,000.
  • Adjacent is Santa Clara County, Region 12, with a population of 1.9 million.
  • Next comes Region 21 with Santa Cruz, 274,000; Monterey, 434,000 and San Benito, 59,000.
  • Below is Region 23 with San Luis Obispo, 281,000 and Santa Barbara, 445,000.
  • The eighth county is Ventura with a population of 851,000 in Region 24.

In my mind, to have such a cutting-edge vibrant region with so much history and great historical organizations to go unrepresented is unthinkable.

If you can handle the job or know someone who can fill these positions, please contact me ASAP.

As you probably know by now, CCHS is currently divided into 40 regions covering our 58 counties with a quarter of the regions in Los Angeles County.

Those 40 regions are represented on our Board of Directors by eight group leaders. The only empty post is Group D.

To better visualize and understand please visit (and print out) the information from our website at:

The Strategic Planning team in its research discovered that what really distinguishes the CCHS from other state historical-oriented groups is its regional concept of representation, a truly democratic idea and pursuit envisioned by the 1950s founders.

I know from being the Region 8 RVP that being a RVP is being a leader with responsibilities to your region and to the CCHS to make things run smoothly.

Being a RVP requires a commitment of time and money, especially as we implement the Strategic Plan in the months ahead.

The journey to a better and brighter future for your Conference of California Historical Societies is well under way. We may stumble now and then. But if we persevere we shall succeed.

Please attend our Spring Symposium Oct. 20-23 in Dublin. Get the early bird rate by registering by Sept. 23. Details

You will have a chance to meet, congratulate and learn more about our three newest RVPs:

  1. Therese Melbar of Bakersfield, Region 22 (Black Gold, Kern, Kings, Tulare Counties in the E Group. (661) 343-9373
  2. Elizabeth Pomeroy of Pasadena, Region 28 (West San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County in the H Group. (626) 791-7660
  3. Maryellen Burns of Sacramento, Region 7 (Sierra Goldfields, Sacramento, Yolo Counties in the B group. (916) 456-4930


Volunteers are special folks. We love you. You make things happen with your time and money.

The baby boomers, the post-World War II surge in babies from 1946 to 1964 and turning 52-70 in 2016, seem to have time and money and a desire to travel and explore. Fortunately, nearly 9 million of this so-deemed wealthiest generation live in California.

The way we figure it the baby boomers and the CCHS are a good match and will be a primary target for recruitment.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Line Survey men and women over 65 are more likely than any other age group to volunteer.

Americans 15 and over put in 2.1 hours on the average day they volunteer with women having the edge in volunteering in every age category.

The National Philanthropic Trust tells us 95.4 percent of households donate to charities each contributing an average of nearly $3,000.

Working on the front lines with museums and history-oriented organizations and other organizations as a full-time volunteer I know we depend on our dues, volunteers and donations to keep us going. It is rewarding to help locally, regionally and statewide.

The CCHS is a good nonprofit organization that relies primarily on its volunteers to keep it going and pay our organization, Arrowhead Management in Claremont, to handle most administrative details. This includes the annual meetings, spring and fall symposiums and workshops we sponsor about this so diverse state of 40 million.

If you think our reading and math skills in our seriously wanting in our schools and society, take a look at history. Our knowledge scores are a mere fraction of the so-called “3Rs.”

A recent study discovered that many of the nation’s top-rated universities no longer require completion of courses in American history to receive a degree in history. (More on this in another message.)

Being involved is your chance to give back while raising the value of knowing about our past. You can make a difference.

If you are over 70 ½ with one or more individual retirement accounts (IRAs), you know you are required to take minimum distributions (RMDs) each year.

I have discovered that a good way to help the CCHS and reduce your tax burden this year is by direct gifts to the CCHS. Your financial adviser or institution holding your IRA or tax adviser should be able to help you with this. You should do this before the end of the year. Questions? Please contact me.

So please join, volunteer, donate and share the conversation.



Michael Otten, CCHS 1st Vice President

Region 8 Vice President (Sierra Gateway)

[email protected]



Second Vice President's Message

Have you ever been faced with a volunteer in your organization who is very knowledgeable and important to the organization, but they are just more trouble than they are worth?  They are obstructive, disruptive, upset other volunteers and may even make it difficult for you to recruit new volunteers.  I am sure that one time or another you have faced this dilemma. 

As a leader of the organizations it is up to you to address the situation.  Easier said than done, right?  We know that any attempt to talk to them is going to result in a confrontation.  As humans, one of the 2 things we dislike the most is confrontation.  Since we don’t like confrontation, we rationalize the situation instead of addressing it and hope it will go away.  Unfortunately that’s a BAD plan.  Why, because they never go away and just keep making the situation worse.

It’s time to have a crucial conversation!  A crucial conversation is “a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary and (3) emotions run strong and the outcome impacts the organization.  There are of course three ways of handling crucial conversations: avoid them, face them and handle them poorly, or face them and handle them well.  There can also be positive and negative responses to these discussions: threats and name-calling, silent fuming, which we most often experience, or speaking openly, honestly and effectively.

So, how do you master crucial conversations?  “At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information.”  This information is composed of thoughts and feelings: ours’ and theirs’ which informs us and propels us into action, sometimes good action and sometimes bad action.  Having a successful dialogue results when both parties feel safe enough to add their meaning to the shared discussion and not feel threatened. 

By focusing on the best interest of the volunteer and organization and “Starting with Heart” you can avoid for both you and them the feeling of being threatened.  These feelings include saving face, avoiding embarrassment, winning, being right and punishing others.  This is destructive dialogue.  Instead, ask questions that will return you to constructive dialogue:  What do I really want for myself?  What do I really want for the organization?  What do I really want for the relationship with this volunteer?  How would I behave if I really wanted these results?

The next step is determining Mutual Purpose.  “Mutual Purpose means that we are working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that we care about each other’s goals, interests and values.  We believe they care about ours”.  If Mutual Purpose is at risk or confusing, conversations evolve into debates.  Questions to ask for determining when Mutual Purpose is at risk are: Does the volunteer believe I care about their goals in this conversation?  Do they trust my motives?

In addition to Mutual Purpose, “Mutual Respect is the continuance condition of dialogue”.  When respect is lost, the conversation becomes about defending dignity.  To rebuild Mutual Purpose or Mutual Respect: (1) Apologize when you have made a mistake, which means giving up saving face, being right or winning.  (2) Confirm your respect for the volunteer and clarify your purpose.  (3) Commit to seek mutual purpose, recognize and focus on the real purpose of the discussion.

The last and most important step is to turn the discussion into actions and results.  There are two reasons for failing to put ideas into action.  One is unclear expectations about how decisions will be made and the other is no follow up on an action plan.  It is important to clarify all conclusions and decisions on how you and your volunteer will proceed.  The 4 elements for putting decisions into action are determining:

  • Who by name is assigned to the responsibility for each decision
  • Define the exact deliverable
  • Set deadlines on when it will be done
  • Set up an accountability process and how each decision will be followed-up on

When dealing with a challenging volunteer remember it’s about how to make your organization more effective and efficient, not proving a point.


-Crucial Conversations-Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian & Switzler

-Crucial Conversations Notes Compiled by Jim Force Enterprises, Inc.


Best regards,

Ralph H. Thomas, CCHS 2nd Vice President


 2016 Fall Symposium: In Two Counties

October 20th-23rd in the East Bay's Tri-Valley


Early Bird Pricing Available Until September 23rd! 

Don’t miss this opportunity to see great historic sites, network with fellow knowledgeable historians, and take back effective strategies for your historical society! (Learn More...)









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Conference of California Historical Societies
Bringing together California's historical community to share California's heritage, learn from one another and strengthen our communities.