Dear EEFC Community,
The Board of Directors has just ended its spring face-to-face meeting in Berkeley. Rachel and Traci were invited to participate in all our sessions, and were able to be a part of the conversation for much of both days. We all spoke frankly and respectfully to each other about where we have been, where we are going, and what we want to do together to achieve our goals. We all felt very positive about how much progress we have made as a team to rebuild trust that had eroded over time, and feel this is a good time to share with you our thoughts about what we have gone through, and what we are looking to do going forward.
Starting in the late 2000s, the Board identified serious long-term financial concerns about rising costs, already-high tuition, and demographic trends in campers, and struggled to find a way to respond to them. Beginning in 2008, the EEFC was also reacting to a much broader phenomenon, the U.S. financial crisis. At the time, all nonprofit organizations shared similar struggles, and, like us, they continue to wrestle with the effects of the downturn. After much discussion, in late 2010 the board initiated a restructuring of the organization, which created a part-time executive director (ED) role with primary responsibility for fundraising, strategic planning, and administrative leadership. The Board felt this role would also give our community an enduring and confident leader. Two new part-time positions were also created: workshop manager and administrator.
The changes did not lead to the intended results. All three positions were part-time and paid part-time wages; as a result, the limited hours and pay had everyone feeling overworked and underpaid. We made much-needed strides toward improving and upgrading the organization’s financial reporting and data tracking, but we did not make necessary progress on fundraising, strategic planning, or leadership. Communication across the organization became strained. The process was difficult and painful for individuals and for the organization, and the EEFC community overall was clearly confused and frustrated by decisions we, the Board, had made. Some long-time members became disillusioned and angry, and voiced their frustrations. Changes we had made led to stress, confusion, and frustration for our staff.
In December of 2014 our executive director resigned. An interim ED was named with the intention of maintaining continuity. It was clear that we — the board and staff together — needed to look at our past decisions and outcomes, and understand what had happened, before moving forward.
What we have learned:
Staff responsibilities have been increased, and accordingly, salaries and benefits have increased as well. The Board and staff are communicating much more frequently, openly, and with growing trust. All agree that we are on a good track, and we are all looking toward the future from the same page.
The Board has solicited and continues to solicit feedback from the community, and we are committed to creating ongoing face-to-face and virtual forums as opportunities for conversation and connection.
Together with Rachel, the Board is trying to figure out the best way for the organization to get the fundraising, strategic planning, and leadership support it needs. We are considering different scenarios, including hiring fixed-term consultants or staff to help us with (a) a strategic planning process, (b) an effective fundraising strategy and plan, and (c) the right staffing model, all of which will make us a healthier, and more sustainable, EEFC.
Thank you all for sharing your concerns, your support, and your ideas.
Yours in Music and Dance,
The EEFC Board of Directors
Dear EEFC Community Friends,
I’d like to follow up on the Board’s letter with a few words. I couldn’t be more happy with the outcome of this last weekend’s meeting in Berkeley. After a rough couple of years, it was a real pleasure to be “back in the room,” literally and figuratively, around the table with board members and my fellow administrative staff member, Traci Speed. We took what was a prime opportunity to air some difficult matters. From my perspective, I was met with nothing but a respectful and loving attitude from my fellows. Among us, I felt a wonderful sensation of lightening, followed by a strong resolve to move forward together in good faith, while keeping in mind the hard lessons we have all learned.
Even during the most challenging times in the past few years, I have been buoyed by and intensely grateful for the good will and support of many of you in the community. I am proud to be a part of this passionate group of people and honored by the trust the Board—and you—have in me. I am eager to continue our journey together.