Answers to Questions to Candidates for USCF Executive Board

As a candidate for the USCF Executive Board could you please address the following questions?

1. What is your experience and qualifications to be a member of an Executive Board for a multimillion-dollar not-for-profit corporation?

A: I have 20 years experience in the financial field. I worked for Hayden, Stone, a major securities firm. I passed the NASD, NYSE and SEC principals examinations. I became the principal of Samuel H. Sloan & Co., a SEC registered Broker-Dealer. I was President of a Small Business Investment Company ("SBIC") Canaveral Capital Corporation. I helped set up and establish Shareholder Communications Corporation, a major proxy solicitation firm.
Sam Sloan
Sam Sloan

2. Many think the USCF has an entrenched problem with conflict of interest, cronyism, and patronage. Are you be willing to disclose a) any sources of chess related income; b) how much is spent on this election on your behalf; c) personal friends and business associates who are USCF delegates or employees; and d) have any of these friends or associates assisted in getting you any bids, jobs, or appointments?

A: I have no chess related income. I have spent only the $250 required to be paid to the USCF to become a candidate. I have many friends who are USCF delegates or employees but I do not have a business relationship with any of them. I have not had any friends or associates who assisted in getting me any bids, jobs or appointments.

3. Are you willing to sign the following or similar board member agreement if you are elected? [ ]

A: Yes, except that I cannot promise to fulfill number 13, which says,"I will actively participate in one or more fundraising activities". USCF fundraising activities have in the past not raised much in the way of funds.

4. Millions of Americans play chess, but the USCF can't seem to reach or appeal to these individuals. What would be your primary marketing strategy for the corporation?

A: It is believed that more than 20 million Americans know how to play chess. The USCF has more than 400,000 names in its ratings database. However, I do not feel that it is realistic to believe that a sizable percentage of the 20 million will ever join the USCF.

We need to do more to develop scholastic play, which is now our strongest point. At the same time, we cannot continue to give the kiddies a free ride. Scholastic dues should at least cover the costs.

Chess-in-the-Schools in New York, which started in its present form only a few years ago, is now a much bigger organization than the USCF in terms of money. We need to emulate them. Since they are only active in New York City, we have the rest of the USA to work with.

5. It has been quite a few years since the USCF has arranged any meaningful sponsorship. How would you go about attracting and developing a pool of sponsors for the corporation?

A: I do not believe that we can go after sponsors until we first clean up our own act. Sponsorship money is available for scholastic chess but not for adult chess. We need to go after that, something which has not been done until now.

6. The USCF has been unable to answer the basic question of how membership money is being used. How would you suggest the Executive Board determine where membership dollars should be allocated and provide a better understanding of the financial condition and true costs of the Federation?

A: The USCF accounting system has long been a hodge-podge of mish-mash, based on the "Doyle Formula", the 4% vs. 6% Rule, the LMA and the LML. We need to start using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles instead.

7. There is currently no plan on how to advance chess in America. How would you suggest a plan be developed? If it were up to you to set the organization's overarching goals for the future, what would they be? How will these goals advance the mission?

A: Since more than 20 million Americans already play chess, we do not need to get more of them to play. Our biggest area of growth has been in scholastic chess. We need to expand in that area. However, expansion should not be attained by selling services at below cost.

8. Some say the growth and popularity of chess will be tied to chess as a sport and the growth and popularity of the Internet. What would be your strategy to maximize the use of the Internet to advance chess?

A: Already, chess is all over the Internet. We have missed the boat. This question should have been addressed back in 1996, when we could have had a head start. I believe that it is now too late for the USCF to get further involved with Internet chess.

9. Accountability in the not-for-profit world is defined as being answerable for the effective discharge of the mission of the organization. How would you make the USCF more accountable for the discharge of its mission? How should the corporation measure success at advancing its mission? What metrics are most indicative of the health of this corporation and why do you think so?

A: The organization is unhealthy because of groups within the organization who are intent at advancing their own self interest at the expense of the organization. There is no better example of this than the recent deal to allow a 1500 player rated tournament to take place in Northern California which will be USCF rated but USCF membership is not required. This deal will put at least $13,000 into the control of corrupt chess politicians which would otherwise go to the USCF.

10. Some say the United States must take a proactive role in world chess. They feel we need to provide leadership and set a positive example in the international arena and should practice the best American values of democracy and sportsmanship, and to promote those values in all our dealings with other nations. There is much controversy about our interaction with FIDE and the need for FIDE reform. How would you suggest the USCF provide appropriate leadership in its dealings with FIDE?

A: The problem has consistently been that we send representatives to FIDE who are in fact FIDE sycophants. The latest group that went to Bled did much better than previous delegations. We need to explain in the strongest terms possible to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyuimzhinov that we do not accept his dictatorship.

11. Some feel one must be willing to empower the membership and affiliates to build the type of participation and teamwork necessary to help successfully meet the challenges ahead. It is viewed we need to help our 2000+ affiliates become more effective at membership recruiting and customer satisfaction. How would you go about empowering the volunteer resources of the organization?

A: A few things we must do is enable our affiliates to upload tournament results onto the Internet. We have been talking about doing this for at least the last five years, but still it has not been done.

I would like to see a scannable membership card which can also be used as a photo ID and possibly converted into a credit card.

12. Many feel we need to communicate better with the members. We need to understand their likes and dislikes better. We need to do a better job helping them understand the value of being a member and help them better justify their payment of dues each year. What needs to be learned from current and potential members in order to better align the organization with their needs and wishes? How can we help the membership better understand the value of their contributions?

A: I do not have a good answer to this question except to say that we should do more to promote scholastic chess, which is our biggest growth area. Right now, the smallest scholastic tournament often has more players than the largest adult tournament. We need to adjust to this development.

13. Most feel we need to do a better job at recruiting top talent for the Executive Board and Board of Delegates, and strive for a more open and accountable governance system. How would you suggest this situation be addressed?

A: No. Unfortunately, not many people are interested in chess politics. We have almost no choice but to work with the people we already have.

14. Since the Book & Equipment (B&E) sales program does not pay business income tax on its earnings, at one time it was thought the sales program could be highly profitable and extensively underwrite other programs. Some have argued the B&E business must be a true source of profit or it should be completely outsourced. Due to past accounting methods it is difficult to determine if the B&E is making money once all associated expenses are included. How would you go about making sure the B&E is making a significant profit and to which programs would you invest these profits towards advancing the USCF mission?

A: Books and Equipment has always been the primary source of income and profits for the USCF. There is no going back. It is swim or sink. We must develop our books and equipment business in order to survive. The idea of outsourcing or closing down the books and equipment business cannot even be considered.

15. The USCF needs to understand what differentiates it, what it can do well, and focus on doing those things well. The USCF has yet to understand what the potential for the organization is. Market intelligence needs improvement. We don't know how many prospects there are in the general public for membership. We don't seem to know how to reach these prospective members. We don't seem to reach out well to organizations that could help us identify new possible members. Regular membership continues to decline. What would be your approach to help grow the regular USCF membership?

A: We have been openly hostile to adult memberships by raising the dues from $30 to $40 and then from $40 to $49, while keeping scholastic memberships at the unreasonably low price of $13. We need to abolish the no-magazine option and raise scholastic dues to at least $19, while bring adult dues back down to $40.

16. Some feel that if chess is to grow in this country women's participation in chess must be increased by significant numbers. Currently only a small percentage of USCF members are women. If you were elected to the Executive Board, what steps would you take to increase that percentage?

A: There is nobody in the USCF who is a bigger promoter of woman's chess than I am. However, it is not realistic to expect a big increase in the percentage of USCF members who are women.

17. In the past, most governance activities have occurred in secret and behind the scenes with a small group of insiders. The membership often feels like mushrooms kept in the dark. The more you can share about your business, the more members can contribute to helping advance the mission. How would you organize a consistent system of passing on information to the membership about the mission, programs, and results?

A: I am very upset about the secrecy in the USCF. The current board is the most secretive board ever. No information goes out. If I am elected, almost everything will be made public.

18. The USCF probably provides more financial data than most nonprofits but little useful information. Many feel the USCF financial reporting system is unacceptable and must be improved. Audit results and federal reporting are often late. Board members spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about interpretations of financial results. One of the objectives of nonprofit financial reporting should be report in a way people other than accountants/auditors could understand. How would you suggest USCF financial reporting be improved?

A: Simple: Adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, something which previous boards have been unwilling to do.

19. There is a growing perspective that the USCF must begin to adopt best management and business practices. Systems must be upgraded to take advantage of new and potential technologies. In your view, are there internal systems that should be assessed for potential improvement?

A: Frank Niro is in the process of reorganizing the entire office, combined with a move to Florida. I have great confidence in his ability to complete this task.

20. One of the purposes of the exclusive MENSA organization is to facilitate its members to enjoy each other's company and encouraging members to interact in a wide range of social and cultural activities. Thus for MENSA local groups have great relevance to accomplish that purpose. Some feel the USCF should focus more money and energy on local groups using this MENSA model. Do you think this approach is consistent with the USCF purpose and if so how would you implement such a model for the USCF?

A: The Mensa model is completely inappropriate for the USCF. Mensa is an exclusive organization. One must get a high score on an IQ test to join. The activities of Mensa are primarily social and non-competitive.

The USCF is an open organization. Anybody can join, upon payment of membership dues. The USCF regulates local, state, national and international sporting competitions, issues ratings and awards titles. Mensa does none of these things.

Mensa is an adult organization. The USCF has become primarily a scholastic organization.

Many USCF members are not even a member of a local chess club and have no interest in joining one. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the USCF to focus more on local groups or to in any way adopt the Mensa model.

Sam Sloan

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