[Foundation-l] Foundation Discretion on Personnel Matters

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Dec 15 09:50:17 UTC 2007

Florence Devouard wrote:
> Mona has several 
> years of experience in the financial/accounting field. We rely heavily 
> on these people to help us.
> I think that in a situation where the board at large must be familiar 
> with the community, we'll never find a better option than 
> community-board supported by expert-staff.
> As you know, we are looking for a highly experienced treasurer. We got 
> no proposition coming from the community. As from the expertise field, 
> we also got no proposition which would seriously fit the profile we 
> asked for. To put it bluntly, no seasonned professional is willing to 
> pour hundred of hours *for free* to be on the board of Wikimedia 
> Foundation. Either the time availability is very low, or we need to pay 
> these people. This might be a lesson for the future. It seems that the 
> only way forward for us is to hire expert staff, and get less 
> professionals on the board to provide the free overview and community eye.
I think that the requirements for a new treasurer may be too exigent.  
What the Board is experiencing was perfectly predictable. The 
relationship between a treasurer and the financial officer easily 
parallel your relationship with the CEO.  A Board Chair who personally 
undertakes the CEOs duties is soon overwhelmed, as you found out when 
you had to take on these duties on an emergency basis.  It's no 
different for a treasurer. (I once fell into that trap at a time when 
the organization was just switching from manual to computer bookkeeping, 
and the experience was not pleasant.)

A good treasurer needs to understand financial statements, and 
underlying documentation.  He needs to be curious enough to ask the 
right questions of the financial officer.  He needs to monitor 
compliance with fiscal laws and regulations, but he does not need to 
fill out all the paperwork himself.  He needs to approach Board 
discussions with an eye on what proposals will cost, but he also 
functions just like any other Board member when decisions must be made 
across the wide range topics.  I don't know how much the present staff 
is able to handle, and it can get very expensive when the auditors must 
do the work that should be done by the Foundation's own staff.  Perhaps 
it just takes being clear about the relative roles.


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