[Foundation-l] Next board meeting

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Wed Feb 27 23:21:11 UTC 2008

Brian McNeil wrote:
> A charity's treasurer is always a member of the board. It is one of the
> positions that is more you *must* have than more than *should* have. Where
> you have a staff and noticeable amount of financial transactions to deal
> with, the treasurer does not deal with these aspects. They employ someone on
> staff to do the daily bookkeeping; either a Chief Accountant, or in more
> Americanised terms, a Chief Financial Officer.
Exactly,   He is preferably elected.  Financial ability, though, is not 
exactly prime sexy campaign material for an election campaign.  Most of 
the electorate tend to be very unsophisticated about such things.  In a 
board meeting a treasurer often needs to resist a board with great but 
expensive idea.  If the rest of the Board insists on disagreeing with 
him, and overwhelms his one vote he must be ready to make his opposition 
to fiscally irresponsible a matter of public record.  In other issues he 
is the equal of his fellow Board members.

Where no suitable is among those elected there is no choice but to 
appoint for a limited term.  If after a predetermined length of time he 
fails to be confirmed by the membership in an election or other approval 
process, a new person would need to be appointed.
> WMF is bigger than that, at least in terms of the amount of money involved.
> The record-keeping requirements are also more complex. To deal with this you
> need someone full-time. Being full-time it means on staff and paid to
> perform work that the smaller operation only periodically needs an
> accountant to do.
It's not only bigger, but more international than most large charities, 
and that brings a whole new range of problems to the table.  If a 
European becomes treasurer he should not be required to travel to San 
Francisco any more often than other Board members.
> The position of treasurer on the board then becomes more important, but -
> hopefully - less onerous. Someone else is doing the daily bookkeeping and
> you're in an executive position as treasurer. However, you need to know
> enough to double-check the work of the CFO from time to time and give
> intelligent advice on what priorities are. You also need to take the CFO's
> work to the rest of the board. This is the hard work part of being
> treasurer.
Yep.  It's a matter of being able to ask the right questions of the 
CFO.  It's being sensitive to the questions being asked by the members.  
Thus, in the wake of the most recent financial statements, it could mean 
working with the CFO to find a way to divide travel expense according to 
the  underlying reason for those  expenses,  Board travel to meetings, 
Wikimania,  etc.
> For these reasons you ideally need someone who has the experience to fill
> the CFO position, but actually just act as the executive above them. This
> makes it very difficult to elect a suitable candidate and far more
> appropriate to appoint one. Someone taken from the community would obviously
> be preferred, but the pool of qualified candidates is small.
Not that small if you don't make your requirements too high.  Experience 
need not mean an accountancy or business degree.


More information about the foundation-l mailing list