From the President's Corner

C O M M U N I T Y  •  C O M M I T M E N T  •  C O U R A G E

MEMO:  In the interest of transparency, an URGENT update from the President regarding the administrative decision on hiring a Managing Director

Dear WILPF sisters and family,

I am writing to tell you of a move I took, as administrative-executive officer, at our last Board Meeting when we failed to reach consensus on moving ahead to hire a Managing Director.

We have been struggling together as a Board to envision WILPF for the next 100 years, while consensus on the short term decisions has proved to be very challenging.  I want to keep you informed and be sure you understand fully the action I took (May 19 Board Meeting).

As most of you know, for the last 8 months WILPF has benefitted from the support of an excellent professional consulting company and an Interim Director who have seen us through a difficult transition with no full time office staff and, for much of the time, no functioning Treasurer.  TSNE has been with us during these challenging times and helped us assess our organization with a survey that included members (past and present), former staff members, partner organizations, and others.  Their assessment based on these observations has guided us going forward and continues to inform our decisions on prioritizing WILPF's visibility, our outreach to members, our strengthening of program, focus on building branch capacity, and our fundraising goals.  The survey also showed an 85 percent support for our administration.  Our Interim Director, Paula Herrington, has provided:

  • invaluable administrative and financial analysis
  • help in negotiating the close of hostilities between WILPF and JAPA  
  • clarity in deciphering the bottom line realities and creating a practical and accurate accounting of where we are today, and where we need to go financially.  

And has also provided ongoing administrative support at the Boston Office by overseeing our part time staffer, Ariane Blondin.  

Since I became President, the work of TSNE and the Paula have supported my efforts in nearly every way, including allowing me to focus on the substantial travel and outreach obligations in this, our Centennial Year.  

Now that we have again a functioning Treasurer (Millee Livingston) who has the experience and knowledge of WILPF to provide excellent day-to-day financial review, we are looking to terminate the contract with the Interim Director and transition to a full-time staff.  The Board is unanimous about the need for this transition, and the need for staff to be found for our ongoing administrative work.  Where we have differed, almost since I took office, is on the question of what this full-time staff position should look like and what our expectations for this position should be.  

Some of our Board is narrowly focused on the need for a strong and experienced professional at the helm who will be able to help guide the Board and Branches, Program, Communications (internal and external), Fundraising and Member Development — to which we have already dedicated ourselves.  The title for this position has been in question, along with the actual responsibilities for the new hire.  But those of us who believe this leadership position is necessary originally envisioned someone who would be able to represent WILPF to the wider world as the central contact for the organization, while using the synergies in our work to streamline and better organize our efforts. We would then maximize, enhance and amplify the work our branches and volunteers do at the local level.  

Others have put forward an idea for a staff person who would function largely as a kind of office manager, taking direction from Board and branches and issue committee (Program) leaders, but who would not have more than a super-clerical function.  They advocated for a temp agency staffer who would simply follow instructions from the Board and Issue Committees, without providing any leadership functions themselves.   They are concerned that all leadership decisions and Program direction come not from a staff member but from our volunteer leaders.  

AGREEMENT IN HOUSTON - At our Board Retreat in Houston in February we took time to get to know one another better and worked to resolve our differences on this matter and to make decisions as a Board that would keep us moving forward and preparing for the next steps of Growing WILPF, on many levels.  One of the decisions we came to at that Retreat was to move forward to hire an experienced professional staffer who could provide meaningful support and use her expertise to help guide WILPF's Board and volunteers to the best way of organizing and framing our efforts and goals.  But the agreements we reached in Houston have not held together in the last few months.  Our disagreements about this staff role and definition have grown, fed by leftover distrust and suspicion of a strong staff model that may not be responsive to the needs of our volunteers and branches, as well as our Board and Program leaders, and financial concerns.   

At our Board Meeting in May we were not been able to come to consensus, even after lengthy discussions and dialogue these past months.  Meanwhile we continue to pay our Interim Director for her valuable services at a time when we were all hoping to be winding down this not insubstantial expense.  

We have been criticized for spending the money for consultants, and yet it is impossible to imagine surviving the rocky transition and the realities we faced when we took over as a Board with no treasurer and no full time staff.  The Interim Director's contributions have allowed us to continue to function.  The delay in coming to a decision has made it necessary to continue her contract, and still consensus has been impossible.  

AT THIS WEEK'S BOARD MEETING, after months of dialogue and despite the input from Houston, we considered a Compromise that made neither side entirely happy (that's how compromise works) but would offer us a way to move forward, with an end date in sight for Paula and a start date in site for a new staff.   We were presented with the compromise proposal of a "Managing Director" position that would provide the support we need through fundraising, day to day office supervision and financial acumen, all of which supports our larger goals; with limits in place to keep decision-making firmly in the Board's purview.  While the majority did not oppose the compromise, two original blocks stayed in place and a third came later.  After more difficult discussion it became clear that we still could not reach consensus.  I finally saw no other alternative but to invoke my administrative-chief executive duty to move us forward.  

WE WILL MOVE FORWARD TO HIRE STAFF.  It will take another 3 months more or less to recruit candidates, interview and hire the right person.  My hope is that TSNE will afford us their expertise in finding exactly the right person.  They have an impressive track record for successful hires and transitions.  We plan in that time for the TSNE contract to scale down and end as the new staff person becomes oriented and gains confidence.   I ask for your support in this process, which is the natural next step, and I intend to keep you informed and continue reaching out regularly to branches, members, long-time WILPF leaders, donors and friends.  I want this process to be as transparent as possible; the job description will soon be finalized and posted on the webpage and there will be updates on eNews.

We have come through a storm and the future looks bright.  We need to move forward raising money so that we can truly Grow WILPF moving forward.  

Yours in Solidarity,