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Summary: Spring 2018 Board Meeting

Notes from the EEFC Spring Board Meeting: May 12-13, 2018, in Oakland, CA

Abridged from meeting minutes.

Present: Barbara Uhlemann, Craig Kurumada, Melinda Russial, Noel Kropf, Rachel MacFarlane

By Phone: Alex Markovic, Demetri Tashie

Absent: Corinna Snyder


The board is in Phase 1 of a two-step process to develop and publish a strategic plan. Last year, we did the prerequisite work of gathering general information about our community’s values and aspirations. This year, our first phase will focus on deepening our understanding around points of contention within our community.

Melinda began the meeting by reexamining our organization’s vision. We considered the ways in which our vision is inherently complex and how our vision connects to our organization’s use of the terms “East European” vs. “Balkan.” We noted that our workshops are labeled “Balkan” and discussed how that reflects our camp’s programming and function. We then collaborated on a whiteboard ideation exercise that explored our community’s “Controversies of Purpose” and “Controversies of Practice.” Throughout this process, we were encouraged to ground our thoughts in past camp evaluations, in addition to our vision and mission statements. From this brainstorm, we identified top strategic issues which the EEFC may face over the next three, five, and ten years.

Summary Controversies of Purpose

  • Who is our target audience?
    • How do we serve youth?
    • How do we serve someone across their lifetime?
    • How do we serve someone joining our community at a particular point in their lifetime?
    • How do we serve campers ranging from beginners to longtime professional musicians at all ages?
    • How do we serve longtime campers vs. new campers?
    • How do we serve our aging population?
  • What is the scope of programming at our workshops?
    • Do we primarily focus on traditional arts?
    • How do we hold space for contemporary practice?
    • How are class levels working?
  • How do we balance the “party in the woods” with a meaningful educational experience? How do we keep the fun and deliver deep resources for learning?
  • Is EEFC primarily a nonprofit business or a community?
  • How do we embed our community’s culture within the broader cultural context of the Balkans?
  • What does “authenticity” mean to our organization and community?

Summary Controversies of Practice

  • How do we balance strategies of budgeting within our means and raise funds as needed to achieve our current vision?
  • What is our Development model? Are we missing out on grant opportunities?
  • Should we focus all our resources on just our workshops or should we extend our focus (e.g. college credit, satellite programs)?
  • How can we remain a viable nonprofit and continue investing in our sustainability?
  • How are our finances perceived? Where do we need to adjust misconceptions?
  • How should we divvy up the labor? What can and should be done by staff, board members, committees, and volunteers?
  • How can we become more transparent for the community? Where can we improve or expand communications?

After lunch, we took a deeper dive into the programming issues raised by our previous discussion of “Controversies of Practice.” We focused on articulating the needs of different interest groups within our community (Amateur/Professional, Returnee/New Camper, Musician/Dancer/Singer, Student/Teacher).

The day closed in Executive Session (agenda topics only, details redacted):

  • Executive Session: Staffing
  • Executive Session: Board and Committee Term Limits
  • Executive Session: Staff Performance Review

SUNDAY 9am-2pm PDT

We began the day with reports and proposals from our various committees, starting with the Program Committee. Because she was unable to attend, Corinna submitted a written report for the Board’s review. The Board reflected on the following issues:

  • Continuing to incorporate more teachers from the Balkans
    • Can we secure longer-term commitments?
    • How are we handling the inherent difficulty and uncertainty with visas while building well-rounded programming?
  • Improving our relationships with faculty
    • How are we honoring our faculty’s service and maintaining morale through uncertain times?
    • Demetri requested that the EEFC continue with its plan to increase teachers’ salaries.
  • Program expansion
    • Should we serve Balkan communities in our programming? If so, what does that look like?  
    • What kinds of collaborations are available to us?
    • Should we revisit satellite programs?
    • Do our workshops meet the rigors necessary to be taken in exchange for college credit?
    • If we chose to expand, what’s a feasible timeline?

We then examined how programming can support the retention of first-time campers. Topics included:

  • Identifying where first-time campers fit within our community upon their return
  • Articulating their unique needs as second-year campers
  • Discussing what innovations can be made to secure their return (teaching apprenticeships, advanced offerings, etc.)
    • Are we serving some levels better than others?
  • How can we make their second camp as impactful as their first? How can we manage their expectations as they merge into the broader community?

The Scholarship Committee reported on the this year’s number of applicants, our ability to meet their financial needs, and the effectiveness of the new application forms. We also discussed a new leadership strategy for 2019.

The Administrative Committee reported that it had identified several potential board candidates. Moving forward, the committee is committed to compiling new training documents for board members, committee chairs, and committee members, as well as developing a new document outlining committee policies. We then addressed the issue of term limits for board members and achieved consensus on the following:

  • The EEFC board of directors recommits to five-year terms for board members. We believe that rotation of committee members is beneficial. We reaffirm that Article VII Section 2 of the EEFC bylaws grant the President – with Board approval – authority to appoint or dissolve committees and modify the membership of committees.
  • Upon special request of the Administrative Committee, a board member may be asked to continue serving for one additional year.

The Development and Finance Committees reported that income is similar to previous years, thus far. However, there is still room for growth. For the immediate future, the committee is dedicated to the following action items:

  • Auction
    • Reopening the idea of Silent Auctions at Mendocino
    • Finding creative ways to improve attendance
    • Better articulating what the General Fund is and how it serves our members and campers
  • Running a fall pledge drive to solicit membership from regular campers who were unable to attend camp this year, and therefore, missed renewing their membership
  • Seeking program-specific sponsors with the caveat that it doesn’t introduce bias into our programming
  • Reminding supporters about opportunities to support camp via Amazon Smile and car/boat/securities donations
  • Supporting community fundraisers (parties, workshops, performances) that provide scholarships to local would-be campers
  • Creating a short annual report/pamphlet for potential donors that is also included with our annual appeal letter
  • Developing projects that support young people and young families

Melinda requested that the committee and board attend to both short- and long-term development in our strategic plan. She feels that potential donors may be discouraged by concerns about the future and reiterated that publishing our strategic plan will enable us to pursue larger donations and planned giving. The Committee reaffirmed this sentiment and recommitted to the ultimate goal of lowering the cost of camp by sourcing external funds, and thereby, shrinking tuition.  

We then addressed Sarah Ferholt’s proposal to organize a trip to Serbia and Macedonia for the kids’ band in 2019. Melinda, Barbara, and Noel have been working on this as a self-appointed “committee.” After assessing our options, the Boarded decided that the EEFC should serve as fiscal sponsor/(401(c)(3) pass-through for grants and qualified charitable donations with the following standard conditions:

  • The EEFC takes a small percentage of donations for administrative overhead
  • A formal contract between Sarah and EEFC is established
  • The trip’s organizers obtain appropriate liability insurance

From there, our focus shifted to the impending workshop season. We decided that we would forgo our usual “Lunch with the Board” and “NextGen” meetings in lieu of a series of topic-specific community forums. These targeted discussion forums will help us cut through more superficial topics and get down to root issues. Our hope is that this will provide more meaningful engagement with areas directly relevant to our strategic planning process.  

Melinda led us in a final reflection before we adjourned. We committed to the following:

  • Guiding our community toward a solution-oriented mindset that will help us examine components of the strategic plan thoughtfully and efficiently
  • Determining the components we’d like to include in our annual report
  • Maintaining an open mind as we explore new funding models and staffing strategies
  • Continuing to support and grow youth engagement

We closed with the acknowledgement that all strategic decisions are contingent on our financial standing at the end of this fiscal year. We will define our path forward by mid-October.