Success Story: American Foreign Service Association

Client Profile:

Established in 1924, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With 16,000 members, AFSA is the exclusive bargaining agent for Foreign Service employees of the Department of State and Agency for International Development, as well as smaller groups in the Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the International Broadcasting Bureau.

In this labor/management relations capacity, AFSA negotiates with the managements of the principal foreign-affairs agencies on personnel policies and practices affecting members’ working conditions. AFSA’s primary missions are to enhance the effectiveness of the Foreign Service and protect the professional interests of its members.

Client Challenge:

In my role as the Director of Member Services, I am responsible for the overall recruitment and retention of members. Within this role, I am also responsible for administering the logistics of AFSA’s annual election and voting efforts.

AFSA’s election challenge was to move to a hybrid election system that included both paper and online voting options. I needed to find the right vendor that would gradually transition AFSA to a hybrid system and who could work with the Department of Labor (DOL) overseeing tabulation of results. Since AFSA is subject to the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act that governs union elections, a DOL representative was on-site to review the counting of the votes.

SBS Solution:

Survey & Ballot Systems (SBS) was selected as the election vendor based on a competitive quote, the relationship built with the account manager, and the level of service during the bid process.

Over the past few years, SBS has helped successfully move AFSA from a paper ballot election process to a hybrid system where members have an online option. Web voting increases convenience for members who are overseas – it can take four weeks or longer for them to receive international mail. Here is a summary of how AFSA made the transition to hybrid voting:

  • Back in 2011, SBS managed AFSA’s paper ballot election. Results were tabulated on-site and overseen by the DOL. Everything worked smoothly and SBS was very accommodating to the DOL oversight.
  • In 2012, SBS customized a hybrid voting system for a bylaw vote. While AFSA policy allowed for members to participate via the web for a bylaw amendment, this wasn’t the case for candidate elections. The bylaw amendment called for members to be able to vote either by paper or web in candidate elections. The motion passed.
  • Next year, AFSA will be able to run a full hybrid candidate election because of the bylaw change. This is something the organization has been looking forward to for some time.

AFSA leadership was pleased with SBS election solutions. The 2012 bylaw vote achieved 26% voter participation – AFSA’s highest election response rate ever.

I am always impressed by SBS’ level of service and the staff’s in-depth knowledge of operating member-organization elections. I look forward to completing the transition to the hybrid voting system next election cycle.

“AFSA leadership was pleased with SBS election solutions. The 2012 bylaw vote achieved 26% voter participation – AFSA’s highest election response rate ever.” ~ Janet Hedrick, Director of Member Services, American Foreign Service Association