Bill Arlinghaus

District 12 Director,
American Contract Bridge League
Board of Directors

District Directors set policy for the entire organization at the North American level.  Individual districts have their own government for more local self-governance.  Some function in a "central" manner in which the District controls funding of tournaments and such; others function in a "distributed" manner in which units within the district control funding of tournaments and such. 

District 12 is organized as a "distributed" network with a "central" website.
Many thanks to Alan Bau for his outstanding D12 webwork!  Please see that site for local or regional bridge matters.  This site is devoted to displaying national-level activities of this Board member.

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Spreadsheets; many have multiple sheets.

Reports from ACBL National Meetings

Terminology:  The District 12 Director is the representative of District 12 on the National Board of Directors of the ACBL.  The business of the national Board is ACBL business.  As with any corporation, the Board of Directors sets policy for the entire organization.  One member of the Board of Directors is elected President of the organization on an annual basis.  The CEO is staff and is a paid position at Headquarters; that tenure may span many years.  The ACBL pays for the first week (roughly).  Because I am involved in numerous committees, and because I think it is important for the District Director to be present throughout the entire NABC to represent the District and become well-known, I choose to stay for the entire time (the last week at personal expense).

2012 Attendance at NABCs
2011 Attendance at NABCs
2010 Attendance at NABCs
2009 Attendance at NABCs
2008 Attendance at NABCs
2007 Attendance at NABCs
2006 Attendance at NABCs
2005 Attendance at NABCs
  • Memphis, Tennessee, Orientation at ACBL Headquarters.
  • Earlier attendance at NABCs, while 1st Alternate District Director, as the representative from District 12 to the National Board meetings
  • Other attendance at recent NABCs, while 1st Alternate District Director, but not as the representative from District 12 to the National Board meetings (I paid for 100% of these trips).
    • New York City, Summer 2004
    • Long Beach, Summer 2003

Thus, I have attended all NABCs in 2005, 2004, and all but one in 2003.  This pattern has given me a fine advantage because as a new National Board member in 2005, I already knew all the National Board members from having attended half of the National Board meetings of the previous two years and having been at other Nationals that enabled me to get to know Board members.
Broadly speaking, the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) is a non-profit 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization in the entertainment sector of the business world.  Its headquarters are housed in Horn Lake, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, TN.  A large staff, headed by a CEO, oversees the daily functioning of the business (and includes a full-time professional event planner who oversees the running of all NABC tournaments).  This staff makes most of the decisions about implementing policy that is set by a 25 member National Board of Directors.  Each of these 25 members represents one geographic "district" of the ACBL. To see how North America has been split into 25 districts, follow the "Atlas" link on this website.  Thus, the District 12 Director is the member of the National Board of Directors of the ACBL from Michigan/Northern Ohio.  It is the mission of District Directors to help to set policy for the entire ACBL and to do so in a manner that is consistent with the best interests of bridge players at large.  The President of the ACBL is one of the 25 members of the Board of Directors and is elected by that Board.  Unlike the CEO, the President is not involved in the daily functioning of the ACBL of Memphis.  That description, in a nutshell, gives a brief idea of what a District Director does:  he or she functions as a member of a National Board of Directors of a large corporation involved in the setting of policy for the entire corporation.

Beyond that nutshell, however, there is good reason also to look at how the corporate structure and associated policy translates to the local bridge-playing environment.  The geographical arrangement of the ACBL is hierarchical in nature.  There is the national organization at the top of the hierarchy.  Directly under that, there are 25 mutually exclusive Districts that cover the entire ACBL.  Within each District, there is some number of units that also are supposedly mutually exclusive and that cover the entire district.  While the ACBL and its Board of Directors set policy at the national level, that action certainly has impact upon individual districts and units although the national organization does not typically insert itself into local matters.

Generally, any single district will have a district board of directors, including a President and other officers to oversee the internal, local affairs of the district.  Also, each unit will have a unit board of directors, including a President and other officers to oversee the internal, local affairs of the unit.  Members of these boards elect some member of the district to serve on the National Board of the Directors holding the position called "District Director."   The functional organizational structure within districts varies by district and seems to follow, nationally, one of two models.

  • Model 1:  Strong District/Weak Units:  Top-down model or "central" model.
    • In this case, the District manages, collects, and keeps the funds from all tournaments althought units run the sectionals and the District runs the regionals.  This model offers a uniform approach to ensuring a minimum level of tournament quality.  It also offers opportunities for the district to create a permanent surcharge for development of funds for the continued award of NABC tournaments to that district.  This model also makes clear who runs an NABC:  the ACBL is in charge of NABC as was the District for Regionals and the Units for Sectionals.  The districts that have NABCs on a repeated basis seem to use this model.  In this model, the district has the power and money; the units have only limited authority, even over their own sectionals.
  • Model 2:  Weak District/Strong Units:  Grassroots model or "distributed" model.
    • In this case, the Units run the sectional tournaments and largely run the regional tournaments (as a giant, collaborative sectional).  The natural hierarchy superimposed by the ACBL is not apparent so it needs to be clear in the minds of local units that an NABC is not simply a larger regional; rather it is a tournament run largely by ACBL with some local input.  This model rewards individual effort from folks in local units and offers opportunity for lots of local participation in decision making.  In this model, the units control the power and money; the district has only limited authority.
Beyond the funding matters identified above, the important difference between these two models is one of directional emphasis within the ACBL organizational hierarchy.  The top-down model works well for garnering NABC tournaments:  there is a steady stream of funding that can be levied across a broad population base.  The focus is toward national issues.  The grass-roots model works well for providing opportunity for individual unit-level creativity with sectional tournaments.  The focus is toward local issues.  District 12 is now, and has been for many years, run according to the "grassroots model."  Each has its own merits and drawbacks.  What is important is to understand that there are two different models (there are variations, of course, and clearly there could be even more models) and what their orientation is in relation to both the national and local organizations.  Thus, we as a District can make informed decisions that suit the needs and interests of our population base.

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