Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Fix CFI Canada

 
In my opinion, there are two immediate things we need to do to fix CFI.

The first is more openness. To that end I think the December 11th meeting in Toronto should be open to any member of the Centre for Inquiry. The meeting is at 10 am (Sunday). I assume it's at the CFI offices in Toronto.

I expect that several people, including Justin Trottier and the Directors, will want to speak at that meeting. The objective is to explain exactly what's going on and how we got into this mess.

The second thing we need to do is add more Associate Members. Candidates for Associate Membership can send an application to the Board of Directors.1 The Board must approve these applications. Associate Members elect the Directors. There are only a dozen or so Associate Members and it's not clear how many of them are active in the Centre.

If you have any ideas about what should, or should not, happen next, please bring them up in the comments below.

Check out ...
Ian Bushfield (Vancouver): Beyond CFI Canada–Reasons for optimism


1. You can contact me for the application form.

5 comments :

  1. So the board of directors approve applications for associate members who then elect the board of directors.

    And you say there is a problem with with openness ?

    Is there any reason why all the members currently in good standing (i.e. paid their annual membership fee) shouldn't elect the board of directors ?

    That would certainly encourage openness.

    FWIW, I'm a member of CFI Ontario (but I think it's time for me to renew).

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  2. Steve Oberski asks,

    Is there any reason why all the members currently in good standing (i.e. paid their annual membership fee) shouldn't elect the board of directors ?

    Yes. There are quite a few good reasons why charitable organizations don't choose directors in that way.

    We could have an elected council and the council could choose the directors. Or the executive of council could function as a board of directors.

    It's not a good idea to have direct elections of directors by the total membership.

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  3. That's elitist garbage Larry. Until CFI is willing to actually trust its volunteers and members with an open, electable, and accountable board, these issues will keep arising.

    The board needs to focus on being a legislative body and leave the management to the directors it hires. Those powers need to be separated and spelled put in a way that's clear to everyone.

    If these were all new issues I would hold out some hope for CFI Canada, but I honestly expect very little to change and would rather put my limited time and effort somewhere more productive.

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  4. Ian,

    That's elitist garbage Larry. Until CFI is willing to actually trust its volunteers and members with an open, electable, and accountable board, these issues will keep arising.

    Unfortunately, one of the problems with CFI members is that they don't know how charitable organizations are run. There are certain kinds of people you need on a board of directors. People like major donors, a lawyer who will to do free work, and an accountant who might have connections to help with audits etc. It's like any major corporation, you need connections. You need people with money, or power, or influence. Preferably all three.

    In addition, CFI Canada needs representatives from CFI Transnational on it's Board of Directors. They're supplying the money. We don't get to choose those Directors.

    It is not in the best interests of CFI Canada to rely on directors that are directly elected by the members. At least not right now.

    The board needs to focus on being a legislative body and leave the management to the directors it hires.

    I'm not aware of any "legislative" issues that need to be dealt with. What are you talking about?

    The Board of Directors hires and fires Executive Directors. It manages the affairs of the corporation, including entering into contracts. It authorizes expenditures. It raises money.

    The Directors are also legally and financially responsible for the charity. They are indemnified against personal loss unless it's due to their negligence in which case they could go to jail or be forced to pay a lot of money out of their own pocket. It's for this reason that Directors have to meet certain legal and financial criteria (by law). There are many members who would not qualify.

    Someone who donates a million dollars wants a position on the Board of Directors to make sure her money is properly spent. They do not want to have to run for election. That may not sound democratic but nobody said this was a democracy.

    I do agree that we need to make it as open and democratic as possible but there are limits that we have to recognize. Let's work within those necessary restrictions.

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  5. I can understand the governance structure, even though it goes against my democratic instincts. The real problem is the one Larry points to in his post - there aren't enough Associate Members. The Associate Members are supposed to be a group broadly representative of the organisation, but there are only a handful of them that aren't (current or past) Directors.

    The problem is that hardly anyone knew that Associate Members even existed until now (I didn't), so few people ever applied to join. This is a failure of transparency (why aren't the bylaws and associate member application form on the CFI website?) I would suggest that there should be at least 30-40 Associate Members, drawn from the CFI advisors, donors, and most active volunteers - those most trusted to put the interests of the organisation first.

    I'm putting in an application, and I suggest others who want to keep building CFI do so too. These aren't hard problems to fix - let's get it done.

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