A culture of secrecy has developed in TFN's leadership. Perhaps it was always there. Servers go down (it happens). Members then wonder what happened, but they receive no announcement explaining the cause. Sometimes we even know, in advance, yet we still don't warn members, hoping instead that it will go unnoticed by the majority.
I want us to start treating our members as participants in a common venture, rather than as people from whom we must hide our mistakes or our lack of confidence. TFN's website could be used to provide a record of past problems and regular updates for upcoming work. This could foster a stronger sense of ownership of TFN amongst members as well as improve members' perception of TFN's technical prowess. These in turn would increase member retention, and would help volunteer morale.
Currently, there is almost no communication between the TFN board and TFN's members. I want to have all board meetings announced in advance, so that members who seek insight will be empowered to show up and to listen in on board meetings. That much is permitted by TFN's constitution, but it has not been TFN's practice.
Going beyond that gets tricky. Many organizations, TFN included, tend to restrict the flow of information to their members. For example, you cannot just walk into TFN's office and ask how much money is in our bank account. At most, you will get a copy of a statement summarizing expenses and revenue, if you actually show up at an AGM. I know that this chafes some people. TFN's leadership argues that some information, if widely shared, can hurt the organization. I concede that point on some issues. I do not, generally, espouse this principle. But I do think that, if this were to change, the decision must come from the membership, not be made by myself and a few board members.
What do you think? Suppose we created a protected area on the TFN website, which would be accessible only to members, by entering their password. How much information should TFN's leadership make available to TFN's members? Board minutes? Marketing plans? Industry trends? System security breaches? Monthly financial reports? Profit margins on each of our services? Contact information for competitors who offer cheaper or better deals? Bank statements?
If there appears to be support for a change, we could ask those interested to come up with a specific proposal (or a few alternate proposals) which we would put to a vote, a year from now, at the next AGM. I am open to that.
next: Annual GM!
Copyright (C) 2009 Iain Calder. All rights reserved.