ERW could learn a lesson from the SF LGBT Community Center. Here's a report from Michael Petrelis on their latest meeting.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Every gay community organization could learn some valuable lessons from the San Francisco LGBT Community Center board, in how to deliver transparency and democratically engage gay people.
This past Monday, the board met at the center and it was open to the public, a fact the center is doing more to promote. I went to the meeting expecting to stay only ten or fifteen minutes, and speak during the first public comment time on the agenda. From the moment I walked in, there was a genuine friendly and welcoming vibe from lots of folks.
Part of the reason for that welcome was because some members thought I was a potential board member, come to check them out. I assured them I was present for sunshine purposes!
The cochairs had a thick packet of papers to give everyone, that included the evening's agenda, last board meeting's minutes, resolutions to consider regarding government grants, details about the center's economic, programmatic and facilities plans and budgets containing figures, and statements of financial activities and the over all budget.
After members introduced themselves, the floor was turned over to me, the lone member of the public, for three-minutes of comment. I thanked the board for being a shining example of healthy and beautiful gay sunshine, said their transparency was in stark contrast to the closed-door board approach at the NYC and Los Angeles centers, GLAAD, HRC and Equality California.
Spent a few moments on GLAAD's meltdown over the AT&T merger and how it was a group that desperately needed to disclose of its contracts with sponsors, and the man who is on the center and the GLAAD boards avoided eye contact with me. Rebecca Rolfe, the executive director, was singled out for always answering my questions and in a timely manner.
I wrapped up asking them to take extra steps with transparency and post their agendas and minutes on their site.
They spent the next forty-minutes hearing presentations from staffers, asking good questions about their goals and which segments of the community would be served, and I listened to the discussion. It was a good way to learn more about the center, the people who run it and their work.
Yesterday, Rebecca sent me a follow up note, part of which said:
Thanks for your comments last night – FYI, the board is going to take up the issue of posting agendas and minutes on our website, so I will let you know the outcome.
Let's laud the center's board for already having an open board meeting policy in place and looking at how to expand it.
I hope gay sunshine advocates everywhere ask their local groups and all national non-profits about public participation at the board level, and use the SF center's board's fabulous example as something to emulate.