[Foundation-l] Seat and Donations (SPLIT from: EFF & Bitcoins)

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Fri Jun 24 18:36:13 UTC 2011

On 24 June 2011 10:22,  <Birgitte_sb at yahoo.com> wrote:
> There is only one thing I think wrong with the consensus narrative above. The description "Matt added so much value it was worth the risk". More accurately it would read "Matt added so much value it was worth the *cost*".

Thank you, Brigitte -- I think you've nailed it. To recap:

The board had open seats it wanted to fill, and Matt had great
qualifications and was willing to serve. The board then talked through
all the various issues. Was inviting Matt to join the right decision?
Board members researched and met him and weighed the pros and cons and
decided yes. Would inviting Matt to join create perception problems?
Probably not among external stakeholders because donors serving on
boards is fairly normal in non-profit land, but yes among community
members, because the community is (appropriately) a fierce defender of
the independence of the projects. Should the board do what it thinks
is best for the organization and the movement, even if its
decisions/actions are unpopular? The board decided yes. Should the
board try to separate the grant announcement from the Matt
announcement to mitigate community anger? No, because that would be
disingenuous. And, it might actually increase anger rather than
mitigating it.

Those kinds of deliberations are exactly the job of the board, and I
believe board members handled them well, and came to the right set of

But as Brigitte says, there was a cost: some community members'
confidence in the board of trustees was eroded. The fact that all
three elected board members were re-elected to their seats after this
suggests that either the erosion was not very serious, or that
community members' approval of the board in general over the past two
years offset their concern about this specific issue. But having said
that, even just the fact that we are talking about it here means the
cost was not zero. So yes, Brigitte, you're right.

Without beating a dead horse, I'd like to say a few additional quick things:

1) I do realize that some people's trust in the board was eroded here.
But in direct contradiction to that, I find myself hoping that upon
reflection, people's trust in the board might actually be strengthened
by it. If I were a community member, I would tend to want to be
vigilant about the board, always assessing their competence and
commitment and values. The fact that the board did a thoughtful
evaluation here and came to a responsible conclusion would reassure
me, rather than the opposite.

2) I want to say that I have been really enjoying this conversation.
Discussions on this list have a tendency to sometimes devolve into
snark and accusations, and this one has been the opposite. Personally,
I really appreciate people's serious, non-flamey engagement on this
issue -- I feel like I've ended up with a much better, more nuanced
understanding of where you're coming from. Thank you :-)


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