Q&A with ALA Foundation Board President Dory Hammeke
Q: When did you join the American Legion Auxiliary and who are you eligible for membership through?
I joined about nine years ago and I am eligible through my husband who served during the Vietnam era in the Army. I am also eligible through my father who served in the Army during World War II. I also have brothers and a sister who served.
Q: What makes you most excited and passionate about being an ALA member?
Quite simply the ability to make a difference in the lives of veterans. To me, it is important that we honor those who have served our country, and membership in the ALA is a great way to do that.
Q: How did you hear about the ALA Foundation board and why did you decide to apply?
I was asked by National Secretary Linda Boone and that came as a result of serving on the ALA Strategic Planning Committee. We were introduced, and she called me and asked me about serving on the board. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the commitment but the more I looked at all they did, I was really able to see the impact they made — then I was excited to join the board.
Q: Now on your second term, your role continues to evolve. Tell us a little bit about where you started and where you are now.
There was definitely a learning curve for me, but Linda became a mentor whether she knows it or not, and I just really learned a lot from her. I also joined the Association for Fundraising Professionals, and the knowledge and research that is provided by that organization is pretty amazing. Not only did I learn what other organizations do from a fundraising and development standpoint, but I was also able to gain insight into how some of that might apply to us.
As far as position goes, first I started as an elected director. On the third year of my membership, I served as the vice president, and then took over the role of president in August 2018. During that time, the board has evolved and grown stronger. We have faced some questions regarding grant applications where we have had to clarify our grant requirements. That has been a learning that has evolved over the 12 years or so that the board has been in operation. So, there is constant learning and growth that occurs on the board as a result of needs that arise.
Q: What does your average week look like as the ALA Foundation board president?
There’s a lot of ebb and flow in the amount of work. There are times, certainly prior to ALA National Convention and our in-person board meeting, where there may be lots of hours spent getting ready for the meetings, reviewing grant applications, and coordinating with other board members on content for the meeting. So, there are periods of peak activity, and then there are other periods where there are a lot fewer hours required.
But one constant would be outreach to donors, especially in the way of thank-you letters to those who donate. We try to always stay in contact with our donors, to make them understand how we value and appreciate the donations that they have made and the work they have put in to facilitate that donation.
It doesn’t matter to us whether it’s $5, $500, or $5,000, we know that it took hard work from that individual to make and save that money and it’s definitely a demonstration of their passion to the organization that they are willing to donate that money. So, we are constantly working at being good stewards of how that money is invested and spent on grants.
Q: What is the best thing about being a board member?
There are a lot of things I love about being on the board but first and foremost it’s just given me the opportunity to meet some really skilled and talented fellow board members. There are some pretty sharp individuals serving in the capacity of board members and every time I’m around them, I learn from them. So that has been a gift in return to me.
Q: Tell me a little bit about how the board operates and how the members of the board work together.
First, we work together when it comes time to reviewing grants and preparing in advance of our quarterly meeting so we can take the necessary actions and make good use of everybody’s time. When the meetings are conducted, during review of the applications, we look for really forthright dialogue about them. It is important to be willing to query our peers as to whether the project is a good use of those grant monies or not.
We also share in the responsibility in communicating back with donors, both expressing gratitude but also informing members in general about the work of the Foundation and serving as ambassadors, which is ongoing throughout the year.
There is also a sharing of information regionally. We cannot all go to the places where these grants are awarded, but if someone is there locally, they will come back and share with the board a little bit about the recipients of that grant or what it was like to see the impact firsthand.
In addition to the roles we play as a collective, there are unique roles played by board members. For example, we have one who sits on the Audit Committee and another who will lead up the nominations and interview process for new board members. There are a lot of different roles board members can play according to their skillset.
Q: Why do you think someone should join the ALA Foundation board?
I think they should join if they have a desire to give back to the organization and if this is a capacity that is in concert with their skillsets and their passion. If you’re uncomfortable being able to fundraise, it may not be the best fit for you because there is a need to always be working on development. We do that in different capacities certainly, and there are people on the national staff in the development division who do an outstanding job of that, but we have to be able to support that and really work in concert with what they do.
Q: Can you share some fond memories or rewarding moments from your time as a board member so far?
This past year, I have not seen this particular facility in Kentucky, but I think one of my favorite projects includes two grants for a female veterans transitional living facility in Kentucky. They took an old elementary school and converted it into housing for homeless female veterans. This was just such a beautiful project and it was supported by two different units in terms of their fundraising and grant application efforts, and I would love to have the opportunity to see it someday. In principle, it’s so much about what our organization stands for and a way in which we can give back and help veterans.
In my own Department of Kansas, I was there when the grant was presented for the Ft. Dodge Soldiers Home and this was a grant in which they gave equipment to be used in art therapy for the veterans there. It has really just changed the lives of a lot of veterans in terms of their ability to be involved in creative endeavors and has really lifted their spirits. It was fun to be there in person and meet some of the folks who live in the facility and be able to experience their joy in having this additional equipment in their art therapy program.
Q: Is there anything else you would like people to know about the ALA Foundation board?
We encourage anyone to apply for a position on the board who is passionate about serving veterans, the military, and their families, and raising money for the American Legion Auxiliary. We would love to see the board grow more diverse and better reflect the diversity of our membership.
Q: Where can someone go to apply for a position on the ALA Foundation board?
To apply for a position on the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation Board of Directors, please visit www.ALAFoundation.org.
Thank you for your service, Dory! I’ve often wondered the whats, when, how, and why of the Foundation Board, and whether or not I’d make a good fit. Maybe one day I’ll get up the nerve to apply, but in the meantime you all keep up the good works and I’ll keep on supporting you!