Looking for successful governance structures for community organizations
March 5, 2018 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I volunteer at a community radio station where we are in the process of trying to reform or replace the current board and governance structure with something that is more effective and offers representation for the diversity of viewpoints and stakeholders involved. Please share your experiences of what did and didn't work in orgs you have been a part of or offer examples of governance structures that you have found to be effective.

snowflake details: we are a community radio station with an eclectic variety format, established as a non-profit with over 100 volunteer DJs and 1 paid employee, the station manager. We need a structure that balances the interests of all parties involved—the founders / financial benefactors, the station manager, the DJs and volunteers, and the community at large. I'm also interested in structures that are built to be fault tolerant of problems like burn-out, people leaving and joining, and volunteers having varied levels of skill/interest. Thanks!
posted by metaphorever to Law & Government (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I assume you have read this but if not, I can not recommend enough: Putting the public into public media membership by MeFi's own melodykramer.
posted by jessamyn at 9:20 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not sure if this is the kind of input you are looking for, but an organization I volunteer with recently went through a crisis because of lack of volunteers and well-meaning paid office staff, including an Executive Director, who had taken on responsibilities way outside their mandate and refused direction from the board. It was a very difficult chicken-and-egg situation, since the lack of volunteers meant that the paid staff provided all the continuity and most of the capacity, but the fact that they represented their own interests, and not those of our members, meant that nobody wanted to volunteer.

In our case, we tried to tackle our governance structure directly and hired a professional HR consulting firm to help us out. They came to the conclusion that we were missing a strategic plan, and that without that, our current HR problems would continue no matter who is in our paid positions, or how we organize ourselves. So, we’re now in the processs of a full on strategic review, including a governance and resource audit, which will help us determine where we are, what we want to do, and what is within our means. One key component of that plan has been changing our policy on the hiring of staff to two-year initial contracts, requiring an annual performance review of the Executive Director by the President (on the books but not done for years in our case), and requiring Board approval of all full-time contracts offered to any staff (so the ED can’t hire another one of their friend’s kids without consulting anyone).

It has been a difficult but worthwhile process and we are already seeing a resurgence of interest in our work. It’s not the kind of stuff I thought I’d end up doing in my role on the board, but it might be worth considering for your group as well.
posted by rpfields at 10:55 AM on March 5, 2018

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