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Merger of PDAA and Public Diplomacy Council Approved by Boards of Directors

Report of the Public Diplomacy Coalition Working Group

Merger Targeted for 2022

In 2019, the PDC and PDAA boards each approved the creation of a joint working group (WG) to examine all aspects of the two organizations and to make recommendations for the future relationship of the two organizations.  The six members of the WG are all members of both organizations and include the two respective presidents.  The WG looked at all possibilities, from the status quo to full integration.

Throughout the process, we were guided by the principle that this be a win-win situation for all.  We see this as a merger of two equal organizations with similar governance and strong programs that are complementary or collaborative, all of which would thrive in a stronger, combined entity.


  1. Mission and Vision Statement.
  2. All current programs of both organizations should continue to be fully supported.
  3. The PDAA Program Committee is a model for the new organization and should merge with the current joint program committee.
  4. PDC’s E-Book process could be a template for record-keeping in a combined organization.
  5. A new combined organization could probe the possibility of partnering with U.S. Embassies and Consulates on programs.
  6. The new organization should adopt a campaign to make it more attractive to would-be members, including active duty FS and GS. This should include a hard look at member benefits.
  7. All current and former State Department and USAGM personnel should be welcome as new members. Anyone else is welcome to apply for membership and will require a current member to recommend him or her.
  8. A web-based platform should be chosen for membership issues, to include an easily accessible member directory.
  9. PDAA Life (currently suspended) and PDC Life and Emeritus (currently suspended) membership categories should be discontinued, grandparenting in current members.
  10. The new organization should have 501(c)3 tax status. It is possible the current PDC 501(c)3 status could apply.
  11. Calendar Year 2021 should be a period of transition. Recommendations for the transition/implementation phase are below and include working groups on finances, governance, legal Issues, and media presence/branding.  Recommendations for those working groups are also in the discussion that follows. We are willing to continue in an oversight function to coordinate the work of those groups.


As we met, we kept asking ourselves:

  • Is there anything that one of the two organizations does that the other cannot do? The answer is no.
  • If we were forming an entirely new PD organization in the absence of any existing organization, what would we want it to do?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?

The discussion that follows focuses on mission, programs, media presence/branding, finances, membership and dues, legal issues/tax status, and transition.

Mission and Vision

We suggest the following:

Mission Statement:  To encourage excellence and honor achievement in the professional practice, academic study, and advocacy for public diplomacy

Vision: Public diplomacy is widely understood and supported by the American public, totally integrated into the U.S. foreign policymaking process, and implemented by well-trained and well-resourced professionals using the best practices and most advanced technologies available.

We accomplish this through:

  • Programs offering new insights and understanding on the concept and practice of public diplomacy
  • Mentoring and training programs for practitioners and rising professionals
  • Highlighting and encouraging best practices with awards and other modes of recognition
  • Networking events that foster connections and closer collaboration among public diplomacy professionals and those with an interest in public diplomacy
  • Fellowship among members, an esprit de corps encouraging pride in the profession.

This mission statement closely tracks with the PDC mission statement recently adopted.  PDAA does not have a mission statement per se, but this is consistent with PDAA’s purpose and practice.


Interestingly, we found no redundancy in programs of the two organizations.  All programs, listed below, have significant following, and should continue to be fully supported.

  • PDC:
    • PDC Fellowship
    • Mentoring program for Davis Fellows
    • PD Dialogue Lunch and Learn for mid-career colleagues
    • Training program for Afghan Diplomats
    • Affinity groups to share specific interests in public diplomacy
    • Special events geared to Rising Professionals
    • Weekly update (via email)
    • Occasional symposia
  • PDAA:
    • PDAA awards and annual lunches
    • Speaker lunches at DACOR
    • Quarterly newsletter
    • Occasional special programs
    • An annual membership directory with contact information
  • JOINT:
    • First Monday Forums: Both organizations contribute equally to First Monday Forums (along with USC) and collaborate in program planning.
    • Mid-Month Programs: PDC, PDAA, and USC are now co-sponsoring a range of mid-month programs to supplement and enrich the First Monday Forums.

PDAA has a structured program committee.  PDC does not.  In September 2019, we recommended the creation of a Joint Program Committee, which is now functioning.  The PDAA program committee is a model for a new organization and can easily merge with the joint committee.

First Monday Forums are mostly on-the-record, occasionally covered by C-Span, and available via video to our members outside the DMV.  The similar quarterly PDAA luncheon programs at DACOR House observe Chatham House Rules to encourage candor.  This is not hard and fast.  There are exceptions, but the two programs tend to be complementary.  We also note that members look forward to the DACOR House luncheons as opportunities to reconnect.  Both PDAA and PDC value the importance of networking and camaraderie to their members.

PDAA has an informal relationship with the State Department (R/PPR) to implement the awards program. PDC has ongoing partnerships with the Council of American Ambassadors and Meridian International Center.

Internet Presence/Branding

Both organizations have active websites with a shared landing page,  From there the user chooses to go to PDAA or PDC.  The PDC site is dynamic with blogs, publications, advocacy information, and ways for members and potential members to connect and learn.  The PDAA site is an extensive collection of submissions from members, program videos and reports, obituaries, and more.  Recent postings placed on both sites reflect the increased collaboration.  Both organizations have Facebook sites.  PDC is more active on social media and has established an identity that should be addressed, including an organization page on LinkedIn.

We recommend a working group to examine all online presence of the two organizations and make recommendations on realigning the sites and preserving PDC’s online media presence while adapting to the new identity of a combined organization.


Both organizations:

  • Have substantial cushions in their accounts.
  • Have sizeable numbers of members in arrears, some going back several years.
  • Have parallel membership categories (for the most part) although dues levels are quite different.

There is little redundancy in the two budgets, possibly web hosting and modest administrative expenses.

PDC is centralizing knowledge via an E-Book process.  This could be a template for record keeping in a combined organization.

Going forward, we could probe the possibility of partnering with U.S. Embassies and Consulates on programs. We should inventory our various partnerships and decide which partnerships to strengthen or abandon.


The following figures give a ballpark idea of the two organizations’ membership patterns.  The number of names listed in Member Planet as belonging to one or both organizations totals 575.  Of these:

  • 122 are Life Members of one or both organizations.
  • About 20 are PDAA temporary honorary members (e.g., former award winners), who do not pay dues.
  • Of the remaining 430 or so individuals:
    • 248 are only PDAA full members — they do not belong to PDC; 131 live in the greater DC area and 117 live elsewhere.
    • 141 are only members of PDC — they do not belong to PDAA; 74 are full members living in the greater DC area; 16 are full members living elsewhere; 51 are associate members; 47 are rising professional members.
    • 40 are dues-paying members of both PDAA and PDC; 29 live in the greater DC area; 11 live outside the DC area.

A problem for both organizations is the number of members delinquent in dues.  Both organizations have launched campaigns for personal outreach to these members.  It is unknown how many of these have not paid attention to the need to renew and how many have chosen not to.

One goal for a merged organization would be making the organization more attractive to would-be members and launching a campaign to recruit them, including active duty FS and GS.  We need a hard look at member benefits.

We recommend that all current and former State Department and USAGM personnel be welcome as new members.  All others should be welcome to apply for membership with the endorsement of an active member.

Optimal membership record-keeping platforms are under consideration jointly by the two organizations.  This should include an easily accessible member directory.

PDAA and PDC have somewhat parallel membership categories.  Both have “full” members with different dues levels for inside and outside the DMV.  Both have honorary members.  PDC also has associate members; a new category, Rising Professionals; and a gratis Emeritus Member category for members over 80 years old and former USIA directors.  PDAA offers one-year gratis Honorary Membership to its award winners.  PDC recently eliminated and PDAA suspended their respective Life member categories, grandparenting in existing members.  We recommend discontinuing PDAA Life and PDC Life and Emeritus categories, grandparenting in current members.  With a merged organization, we would succeed in reducing the categories to:

  • Full
  • Full > 50 miles
  • Associate (could combine with honorary)
  • Rising Professionals

…and the following would be sunset:

  • Life
  • Emeritus

There are two issues on dues, the schedule of payments and the amounts.  We recommend a formula where everyone is paying the same amount, on the same schedule.  PDC dues are due the first of each year.  PDAA dues are rolling, due a year from the date of joining.  We recommend a fixed calendar date rather than the rolling model.

There is considerable discrepancy in the current PDAA and PDC dues structure.


Full $100 $50
Rising Professional $25
> 50 Miles $50 $35
Life (suspended) $1,000 $400

We recommend a working group to analyze finances of both organizations, develop a plan for aligning the two, and propose a workable dues structure.

We recommend a working group to recommend a structure for management of membership records and other administration data.

In formulating a recommendation for a dues level, the working group should take into consideration:

  • Program costs vs. how much members would be willing to pay in the future before beginning to drop off, with a focus on what we want to accomplish
  • Overlapping membership (about 40)
  • Consideration for what members outside the DMV get for their money.

Legal Issues/Tax Status 

We recommend the new organization have 501(c)3 tax status. It is possible the current PDC 501(c)3 status would apply.

During last year’s town halls, several questioners raised points related to the implications of PDC’s 501(c)3 vs. PDAA’s 501(c)6 status.  Specific concerns were PDC’s advocacy role and PDAA’s ability to work closely with STATE officers on the awards program.  The 501(c)3 and 501(c)6 are two common IRS tax-exempt statuses for nonprofits, but the 501(c)3 is fully tax-exempt requiring that not less than 50% of resources be devoted to the core mission, which cannot be advocacy.  Organizations with 501(c)6 status must report to members the percentage of resources devoted to lobbying which is not tax exempt.

Organizations with 501(c)3 status operate exclusively for charitable, educational, religious, literary, or scientific purposes whereas organizations with 501(c)6 status operate to promote a common business interest, and to improve business conditions in the industry.  501(c)3 organizations enjoy enhanced fundraising advantages, such as eligibility to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions and gifts of property and eligibility to receive grants.

We recommend a working group to review all legal issues involved in a merger of the two organizations and propose a draft of by-laws for the combined organization.


With approval from both organizations, we recommend PDAA and PDC enter into an implementation phase covering Calendar Year 2021. During that phase, working groups consisting of PDC and PDAA board members can debate, discuss, and make recommendations on issues specified in this document.  In addition to those raised above, we recommend a working group to address all issues of governance, including the makeup of a new Board and officers and a committee structure.

With the approval of the PDAA and PDC Boards, this Public Diplomacy Coalition Working Group is willing to continue as a coordinating body to these working groups:

  • Media Presence/Branding
  • Finances
  • Membership and Administrative Data Management
  • Legal Issues
  • Governance:
    • The makeup of a new board and officers
    • Committee structure
    • By-Laws

Respectfully submitted,

Joel Fischman, Chair
Amb. Brian Carlson
Tania Chomiak-Salvi
Joe Johnson
Amb. Greta Morris
Sherry Mueller

FINAL: January 31, 2021


Before drafting this report, we conducted informal conversations with PDC and PDAA members with diverse connection to one or both organizations, just to get a sense of what their perceptions are.  This is far from scientific, but it did give us a sense of what our members would want in a single organization.  We include here comments of what new activity, event, or action interested our interlocutors.

  • More action on the Hill, more visibility
  • Hard hitting advocacy
  • Advocacy, outreach re real PD, USAGM
  • In person speakers beyond the Beltway
  • The awards program
  • Keep a focus on the ability to get together, keep in touch. Many who were frequent luncheon goers were engaged with the substance of the lunches but relished the opportunity to stay in touch.
  • Remember those who keep their membership just to be able to read the newsletters
  • More attention to East Asia (especially China), Expos, other programs that touch on a specific interest. Less interested in theoretical issues
  • Smart power; how a Biden Administration would rebuild PD and represent American values
  • Worries about still active colleagues becoming dispirited. What can we do to support them? Mentor?
  • Early evening programs or get togethers; focus on future of PD but also opportunity to network
  • Breakout Rooms feature of Zoom (ability to divide participants into several groups that allow spontaneous discussion) would be very popular among associate members.
  • Opportunity to persuade rank-and-file members to find new ways to participate in programs
  • The Rising Professionals initiative and more mentoring
  • A “natural division” between social links and professional advocacy; The Association of the U.S. Army, which keeps retirees abreast of current Army issues, may have some analogy to what we’re looking for in a coalition.
  • More contact with others who are teaching public diplomacy
  • More outreach to younger people such as Rising Professionals
  • Weekly updates
  • Vital to engage in advocacy, encouraging letters to the editor, speaking, writing articles, and building relationships with people on the Hill; also being on social media and providing members with the tools to do these things
  • More efforts to promote the restructuring of public diplomacy within State (For example, the PAO needs to be able to go directly to the Undersecretary of State.)
  • Continue doing the things being done now but also hosting occasional symposia/conferences that would tackle in a deeper way topics such as the meaning of the digital revolution, the difficulties of conducting exchanges after the virus, and comparative public diplomacy
  • More mentoring opportunities
  • Outreach and recruitment of mid-career foreign service and civil service officers
  • More linkages with universities


Advantages of a Merged Organization

  1. A single choice for potential new members. Could end the confusion and competition resulting from having two organizations (with overlapping membership) and promote greater collaboration and cooperation among all those with an interest in PD.
  2. Could contribute to the development of a larger, stronger, and hopefully more effective organization to help strengthen and promote PD. All the items here need continued examination.
    • Higher visibility is possible, but far from assured. We need to make certain we do not end up losing contacts and visibility without a well-resourced and intense communication campaign.
    • Greater value for members, in terms of contacts and programs. One larger organization can create more opportunities than two smaller ones.  Greater PDAA/PDC collaboration might help a lot, too.
    • Larger membership – More heft, potentially greater impact (clout). This is quite possible if we can build an organization with 500+ paying members.
    • More efficient use of resources. There is some current duplication, but not a lot.
    • More opportunities for personal member connections, if it is managed well.
    • Greater capabilities for mentoring and teaching programs.
    • Could give the organization greater strength as an advocacy organization (on the Hill, with the American public, and within the Department and Administration).
    • Could eliminate duplicative efforts and program administration inefficiencies through having one website, membership list, governing board, etc.)

Challenges with a Merged Organization

  1. Lower revenue from member dues. The shortfall would need to be replaced by restructuring dues and by finding new sources of revenue.
  2. Rebranding and reorganization would cause the new organization to founder. This is a challenge that needs focus.

VERY IMPORTANT:  How do we build loyalty to a new organization, particularly among those who have been fiercely loyal to one or the other organization?  Much can be affected by how we go about this process.  There can be no losers.  Everyone gains.  We must keep this in mind in choosing a name and considering branding issues.


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