[Foundation-l] board candidacies

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Aug 12 04:17:04 UTC 2006

Anthere wrote:

>>>In many non-profit organizations in the US--but not the WMF--Board
>>membership is actually contingent upon making a significant donation to the
>>One of the reasons I have my reservations about the US leading the world by
>>example is how they often seem to fail to separate money and politics.
>>Should I comment on how a US presidential candidate also has little change
>>to serve his country if not backed up by millions of dollars to get his
>>message across? The world can learn a lot from some of their core values,
>>but they could learn from those of others. The notion that people would have
>>to buy into non-profits is pretty detrimental and extreme to me. I would
>>expect rich people who give a generous donation to be honoured for it. I
>>would not expect in most cases they are the experts per se on how to spend
>>it well for the cause at hand.
>We may well meet a big cultural difference between usa and europe here :-)
>It seems to be indeed frequent that in the usa, someone giving a big lot 
>of money to an organisation, is offered to have an eye and hand on how 
>it is spent, through the seat in the organisation board. Jimbo several 
>times mentionned that.
>What would we do if B. Gates Foundation gave us 1 000 000 dollars ?
>(that's a serious question)
First, say, "Thank you."
Second, tell him that Wikipedia is not for sale.

One of our speakers mentioned several volunteer projects that ended up 
absorbed by a for-profit company.  IMDB by Amazon, etc.  My greatest 
anxiety about the project is that the many hours of dedication and 
effort put in by thousands of volunteers would in the end serve only to 
enrich a little corner of corporate America.  Of the present Board 
members I see you as the one most likely to have the courage to stand up 
against such temptation.  In my view the primary responsibility of the 
Board should be to insure not only that it won't happen, but that it 
can't happen.

The idea of an advisory board is good.  The members of that board will 
need to keep in mind that they only act in an advisory role without any 
direct decision making powers.  Their advice will not be binding, but if 
that advice is too frequently at odds with our principles then maybe we 
have the wrong people appointed to that board.

The Board needs to get its operational house in order.  Much of what we 
are doing, and many of our most profound goals bring us into a broad 
uncharted sea with many legal and other uncertainties.  We won't be able 
to cope with that if we don't have clearly established decision making 
processes.  If our representatives make deals they need to feel 
confident that their decisions are fully consistent with the principles 
and policies that the Board has adopted.  They should never be put in a 
position where when they report to the Board they must face the doubts 
and hesitancy of a Board that is afraid to think big, or is unable to 
evaluate the importance of an issue.


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