It is not unusual for a growing non-profit to reach a point where the founding board of directors no longer has the combination of resources, experience and expertise required to meet new challenges and guide the organization into the future. This was the case for UnionDocs. Jesse Shapins, Johanna Linsley and I worked organically as a team for many years on both our creative collaborations at UD and as a working board of directors that voluntarily took on administrative tasks. We were and are very close friends, and the mutual endeavor was a pleasure.
As activities at UnionDocs increased and formalized, however, our lives and other pursuits were also becoming more demanding. We found ourselves regularly having board meetings on Skype with each of us calling in from a different country. While, perhaps, a bit impressive that we were able to keep things going at all in that fashion, it clearly was not a recipe for achieving the potential that we knew was possible. Plus, our governance and fundraising experience was limited and our perspectives potentially had an excess of overlap. So, with every intention to stay deeply involved in the organization, we prepared for passing the board baton to a better suited group. As the acting Executive Director, I lead the effort.
A technical assistance grant from The Experimental Television Center, allowed me to hire Sharan Sklar to consult on this process. This was a big step. Sharan’s experience helped me understand how this next generation board should function. She was an expert guide as I made the choices that seemed appropriate for our specific situation. But who were the right individuals to be involved? Finding people who are invested and passionate about the mission, who you can work with effectively and trust, is not an obvious or simple task. There’s no shortage of anxiety in ceding oversight of an organization you founded to a completely new team. Would a new board get it? While we were anxious to move forward, this was a job that could not be rushed.
After months and months (and months), of keeping on the look out, having meetings, pitching and keeping in touch, a small constellation of inspiring people was beginning to emerge. They were all very smart, energetic leaders with a sense of humor who I imagined could work very well together. They were both impressed by and supportive of UnionDocs as it exists currently and shared the vision of where it can go. The worries about the transition dissolved and were replaced by excitement and a new feeling of expanded potential.
Last month, Caitlin Boyle, Brian Frye, Logan Beirne, Noah Landow, Andreea Stefanescu, and I met at the Film Sprout offices on 21st Street for a board retreat to approve the year’s plan and kick off our activities together. It was a totally productive and positive experience. While one of our objectives is to continue to expand the board of directors, I could not be more confident in this fresh starting five.