Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Weekend of work

This weekend is my organization's board meeting. I'm actually really looking forward to it. Last year, the board of directors started a new strategic plan process and this week we will pick up where we left off.

I have high hopes that it will give the org a good, strong direction, especially regarding advocacy. We're often asked to participate in coalitions to create social change, but until the organization, that is the board, lays out an advocacy agenda, I can't confidently step up and say Yes, my org will do this, or sign that petition. I have my own opinions about all these issues, but I know that they don't always coincide with the opinions of the board of directors.

The thing is, the people who made up the board last year, that set the general parameters of the strategic plan, are all gone. Either their terms ended, or they resigned. So we kind of have to back track and make sure that the current agree with what the previous board did. Certainly, the new board members were recruited because their past activities showed that their values aligned with the strategic plan.

As part of the orientation for this weekend, I'm going to give a longitudinal review of our programs. I've asked the staff to review their programs from whenever it started and summarize in one place all the activities and successes. Then I'm going to put it on flip charts and we can see if all our activities align. This may be the first time that we've done this in 12 years.

The poor advocacy staffer has been on the job about a month, and already she's reading through old reports and trying to make sense of past activities that she has never participated in. Complaining Employee of course is complaining about how hard it is to dig through old reports that admittedly were not recorded very well. That's pretty typical of grass roots organizations -- record keeping is not a priority, doing the damn program is. And frankly, don't we all avoid doing paperwork when we can?

All the staff are digging through old, incomplete, and disorganized records, not just Complaining Employee. So suck it up! There's a drama queen in very group, I swear.

At lunch one day, we were talking about friends who aren't really friends, and everyone had stories about friends who are self-centered and drama queens who stress you out, to the point that you have to sever the relationship. I said There's a drama queen in every group, very studiously not looking at Complaining Employee. And Complaining Employee agreed, talking about one of her clients as an example. I wonder if she got the point.

Anyway, the other big thing I'm hoping for this weekend: a renewed and committed board that will grow to include more members. Our goal was to grow the board to 9 people: 5 in Atlanta, 4 nationally. What we have now: 4 members, where the board chair is the only one not in Atlanta.

One big obstacle for some potential board members is the requirement that they raise funds for the org. And yet they have all these ideas about what the org should be doing. Where do they think the money will be coming from? It doesn't fall from the sky! I have to go out and find it! I'm the only one who does any fundraising for the org!

When I was the fellowship for the European exchange trip, I was like "Really? Little old me? Are you sure? I didn't do a national youth get out the vote campaign and speak at the Democratic National Convention like the other fellow. I certainly wasn't smarty-pants valedictorian and now professor and director of university think tank. Wow, I'm out classed here."

But now, especially as I'm developing next year's budget, I think "Hey! I raised over half a million dollars! Every damn year! I stepped in when the org was floundering and kept the doors open. My plan was to straighten out this org, institutionalize a lot of the things that were done ad hoc, get a record keeping system in place, and make it strong enough to continue for the next 10, 20 years and beyond, and then hand it off to the next person. Damn straight I deserved that fellowship!"

The fellowship is on my mind because at the end of the month, the org that sponsored the fellowship will be having their annual stateside conference and I've been finding speakers for it. Half the people I did my trip with will be coming and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.

But first, I have to get through this weekend.

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