As seen in our recent and first-ever open call for new board members, IFTF wishes to expand the size of its board of directors beyond the five seats that it’s held since the organization’s founding in 2016. A larger board can be a far more diverse one, allowing a wider range of voices to define IFTF’s strategy in the years ahead, and a broader spectrum of perspective to help make sure that all IFTF’s activities stay true to its mission.
As part of this effort, IFTF’s board needs to redefine and better focus its own role and responsibilities within the organization. Over the last year, consultants we’ve worked with have advised us that current expectations for board membership make recruiting new directors more difficult, limiting our available talent pool.
Specifically, IFTF has from its founding had a “working board” that meets several times a month, with most members putting in volunteer hours each week to manage the organization at every level. Starting in 2021, this changes. The board will continue to serve as IFTF’s executive body, providing oversight and strategic leadership. The day-to-day labor of running the organization, however, will fall to a new steering council comprising IFTF’s officers (including its president) and the chairs of all its program committees.
We expect this new separation of responsibilities to have two positive effects. First, it reduces the minimum workload required from any board member. Instead of essentially taking on IFTF management as a volunteer job demanding continuous time and attention, board members can now choose to budget as few as a couple of hours per month—just enough to attend meetings and follow relevant news—and still participate meaningfully in keeping IFTF on-mission. We hope that this change makes the role more accessible and palatable to a wider spectrum of candidates, with many different backgrounds.
Secondly, shifting the responsibility of day-to-day management to the nonprofit’s officers and program leaders acknowledges that those programs run the public services and resources that transform IFTF’s mission from a short paragraph on a website into actual, world-improving work. In a real sense, these programs already run the show, and have for years.
With this official recognition of the fact, the leadership of IFTF’s programs continue to do their jobs just as they have so far, only now with greater voice in conducting IFTF’s day-to-day affairs. The addition of IFTF’s officers—the president, the treasurer, and so on—gives this group the power to actually implement tactical decisions and take care of ongoing overhead: paying the bills, and such.
Starting in February 2021, the board will ask IFTF program leaders—all members of this new council—to begin sending brief, monthly reports to the board. These can be as short as “No news to report”, when there isn’t any; otherwise, programs can go into as much detail in these internal reports as they please.
This changes the current state of affairs, where the board itself tried to pay attention to every program’s monthly activity, and then discussed it internally at every board meeting. While this made sense in IFTF’s earliest days, even just a little bit of organizational growth has resulted in a lopsided amount of additional work for board members, while keeping programs unnecessarily cut off from communicating their own news to the board. This change addresses both of these problems.
We plan to start effecting these changes within the first three months of 2021. As always, please follow our blog or our Twitter account for news, and do consider signing up for our quarterly newsletter as well.