May 2024 President’s Column: NSS Restructuring


NSS President Kristine Ebrey

The Restructuring of the NSS for an Executive Director

Well folks, as we have promised, the time has come for the NSS to get an Executive Director. At the last BOG meeting, we approved the final draft of the NSS BOG manual and the restructuring plan. I will step through what this means for you as a member. I am going to keep this high level but have included links to the documents for further research. The vote was unanimous so any of the BOG members can chat about this transition if further clarification is needed. Members can also reach us at  The restructuring proposal that was approved is below.

We have chatted with our membership for over 2 years on this transition. We had a couple of town halls; BOG members spoke at several grotto meetings, and we conducted a session at last year’s convention. I have personally mentioned it 983 times (ish) at every opportunity including the president columns. We created a document that has been published on our website for almost a year now. This document reviews the decision process and proposal for hiring an Executive Director.

I have personally been very supportive of this effort. It was not a goal when I first ran for NSS Director nor was the NSS in a place either financially or mentally for such a transition. We had much bigger issues than; our rapidly declining membership along with general discord and low morale for the NSS leadership. We put our energy and efforts exactly where it needed to be at that moment, our membership. What I saw in that period though, as our BOG worked very hard to turn things around, was that it was a major drain on our volunteers. It truly is a thankless job and, in that period, of very tough conversations and cruel criticism, it took its toll, and we lost a lot of great folks from burnout. When I became Secretary-Treasurer, and became engrossed in our finances, one thing became clear to me. The NSS will not sink because of bankruptcy, the NSS will sink because of the loss of volunteers to run the operations and organization.


Based on that realization, it became imperative to start looking closely at the organization and to seriously consider what the future would look like. It was a very clear path, the NSS needed an Executive Director as it would not flourish under voluntary labor. When I became President, I promised I would be the last President of the NSS. This will be one of the last president’s columns, because the President position along with the other officer positions except for the Secretary-Treasurer, will be retired on July 1, 2024.


The amount of research and preparation that our BOG members, bylaws committee and members of our Ad Hoc Executive Director Committee performed is exhaustive. In this extensive research, we learned that having an executive committee and Executive Director would be problematic in operational structure and command. I would agree as I couldn’t envision a structure that could afford 2 figure heads. That would be confusing when interacting with members and navigating responsibilities. We also realized that we would have to modify our entire BOG manual to handle the new operational structure that was being proposed. Some may remember that we dedicated the entire BOG meeting last convention to review every single act and bylaw for this major overhaul. Now, all the extricate pieces are in place and we have set the date. We will hire a professional headhunter firm to search, vet and recommend candidates for the Executive Director position. We will be working with this firm to finalize the job description and requirements (including salary and location) in the next couple of weeks so the search can begin. An interim Executive Director will be installed if we are still in the hiring process on July 1, 2024, so our restructuring plan will not be affected if the process takes longer.

While the search for the Executive Director is commencing, the BOG will begin our internal transition.  We created an ad hoc transition committee. This committee will work to fill the new Department Head position with the assistance of the Officers. We will also assist the Officers on communicating with the committees and divisions on the structural changes. We anticipate the committees are untouched except for who they report to, where previously it would have been an officer, now it is a Department Head.

The nominating committee responsibilities have been expanded this year. They will finalize the current Director election and will be tasked with finding candidates for the appointed Director positions. The new structure allows the BOG to appoint one Director every year, 3 Directors will continue to be elected by the membership. This was a critical change as our Board is moving into a strategic role, we need to be able to appoint professionals with the skill sets required for our future endeavors. The BOG will vote on the appointed Director(s) each year from the candidates provided by the nominating committee. I do urge members to review the restructuring proposal for details on this process if you are interested in a deep dive to this new structure.

This year’s convention will be similar in structure as the past. The exception is that the officers will no longer be officers, but we will assume the historical roles, one last time. I will still be around for the opening ceremony; I will take kiddo's caving and I will be presenting the last of the President Appreciation awards at the banquet. We will not be in the BOG meetings as we are no longer part of the governing body of the NSS.

That torch will be officially handed to the Directors and the soon to be Executive Director on the first day of the convention. I am humbled to be part of this transition and so very proud to have served the membership for the last several years. It truly has been an honor and an experience that I will always cherish. Many, many years ago, I was talked into not giving up on the NSS. It was the best decision I ever made. Thank you, Julie and a heartfelt thank you to every volunteer I served with. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to my canoe partner throughout all of this. The NSS won’t be in this position without you. Thank you, Pete Johnson. And last but not least, Thank you to the members for bearing with us during this transition and supporting the largest cave organization in the world and YOUR community, The NSS!