[Foundation-l] Update of Foundation organization

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 5 22:45:39 UTC 2007

George Herbert wrote:
> On 3/5/07, Oldak Quill <oldakquill at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I wanted to bring this up because, as a charity with limited
>> resources, it is something that should be explored and discussed. I am
>> aware that some employees are necessary: some tasks are too critical,
>> time sensitive or large to be left to volunteers. Where do we draw
>> this line? When does it become too much work to use volunteers for a
>> particular task?
> As a first answer, when the Board figures that it needs something done
> badly enough to start suggesting that they need to hire someone.  8-)
> The Board can explain in more detail their thinking on this, and it's
> probably a good idea for them to do so.  My impression from the
> outside is that they're probably right and that it's probably about
> time to do so, if not past it.  But I'm not involved in a lot of the
> community activities intimately, so I don't know how accurate my
> impression is.
> I agree that this is a good conversation to have.  Both more employees
> and more effeciently focused volunteer efforts on problem areas will
> both help.  Information flow on the percieved trouble spots helps
> everyone see what needs to be done.

Gerard already listed some of those reasons to hire someone rather than 
to rely on volunteers. All these reasons are correct. To these reasons, 
I will add two more reasons.

One is simply that we may need a person full time, with certain 
professional skills. These skills may not exist within the community, or 
may exist only part time.
Greg raised the issue of the implications of employment of people 
outside from the USA. To answer such question and to work on setting up 
a system with international employees, we need certain skills, that it 
seems are not available in the volunteer pool.
Similarly, it does not seem that we have a professional in fundraising 
in the USA.
Or we do not seem to have a professional working on brand strategy.

What are we to do when such needs become critical ? Several things. 
Search even harder in our volunteer pool (something which may be done by 
a board member or staff simply raising the issue on the mailing list) or 
having a volunteer coordinator whose job is to hunt such skills in the 
Or hire someone.
Or seek probono help.
Or pay a contractor.

The second reason is related to responsability. Such as financial 
responsability. Imagine someone is taking care of your accounting, and 
make a mess (a real big mess). If he is an employee, you can make him 
accountable. There may be insurance. You can sue him. Not so cool, but 
you have ways to act. If he is a volunteer, far less so.
This may be applicable as well in the legal area typically. I do not 
know if it is true in the USA, I know it is in France, but if you have a 
lawyer going to court for you, he must be hired or contractor.

What decides that we are ready to hire someone ? Either because in an 
area we want to develop/improve, or because we are dying under the 
weight of what needs to be done.

Hiring Sandy to in particular take in charge press issues was a much 
needed addition. Journalists kept calling the office to request 
information, and were impairing the quality of the work of the other 
people in the office. Could have we relied on a volunteer ? Probably 
yes, to the condition that he be in the USA, rather on the east coast 
(to fit with most requests). Available any time. Ready to contact any 
one who could help, to coordinate answers, to ensure his answers fit 
with the internal messaging... in short, a full time job.
Sandy is not the only one answering the press, very far from it. At 
least a dozen people answer the press on a daily basis. But by answering 
in the office, setting up press contact database, drafting press 
releases, trying to coordinate press interviews, working on PR crisis, 
she is of unvaluable help. And we are happier because we are *sure* 
someone is taking care of this. That's a weight lifted. We still need a 
lot of volunteer help, but she is really reducing concerns for many of us.

A guideline for knowing when to hire is when the board is doing the job 
because nobody else want to do it, when volunteers quit because of 
burnout, when critical tasks are just left alone rotting.

Developing/improving an area. I think business development around brands 
is probably one of the clear examples. If we do little right now, it 
will perhaps not be a big issue. No harm done. No one will scream. 
However, with a bit of thinking, one can realise this is one of the ways 
the Foundation can become sustainable and support the projects and more 
without needing a fundraising every couple of weeks. Working on the 
brand strategy is an investment in the future. It is not terribly urgent 
and it does not require a full time employee, so it makes more sense to 
think of (paying) counselling, and preferably pro-bono help.

Note that this is because we realise volunteers are a huge pool of help 
that we are currently seeking a volunteer coordinator :-)

More information about the foundation-l mailing list