To the Editor: The article following the headline stating that Friends were "axing" youth programs does not provide details of the proposal presented, nor any the statistics regarding participation in or costs of operation over recent years.
While there are no doubt reasons to seek and discuss other ways to address the issues, I am disappointed that much of the debate has focused on personal attacks on Marta Howell, who has added immeasurably to the life of our community. The nearly full-house this season at the Film Forum panels on fracking, educational reform, the financial meltdown, and, this week, on Islam indicate her responsiveness to community interests.
The equally large audiences for the Metropolitan Opera performances would not be possible had she not found creative ways to raise funds to replace the sound and projection equipment in the Community Center. That equipment is also used by many island organizations serving both children and adults. She has fostered a friendly customer service attitude in the Center offices and has worked with the other island organizations’ leaders in seeking ways to make the work of all more effective and efficient.
Their joint effort in developing and implementing the on-line community calendar, bocagrandehappenings.org, was funded by Friends and managed by their executive director. Friends has expanded its programs and services and now offers a variety of free and fee-based programs, all of which entail administrative management, marketing, and oversight.
Among these are Life Long Learning, Boca Grande Sleuths, Literature Forum, Film Forum, lectures by specialists such as Harm deBlij and Andrew Fone, first-run movies three times a week during season, concerts and community picnics, to name just a few. None of these programs and activities would exist were it not for the dedication of a volunteer, unpaid board of directors governed by the legal and ethical standards for non-profit organizations. Those unfamiliar with nonprofit structure may not know that they are held to strict standards.
Nonprofits with annual income over a specified amount, which Friends meets, must file a tax return that is available on-line, as well as produce an annual report containing an audited financial statement, available to all who wish to review it. There are no fees for obtaining this information. In nonprofit organizations the board makes all policy decisions and the executive director is charged with implementing them. Boards usually require their executive directors regularly to review all programs and services and provide the board with detailed information about them.
This is one way in which boards carry out their responsibility to their donors, insuring them that their dollars are being used in the ways that best serve the mission of the organization. With over thirty years of experience in the nonprofit world, as an executive director, board member, and a board governance consultant, as well as extensive service as a teacher and school administrator, I understand how difficult it is to make hard, and often unpopular choices.
I also know that when people with opposing views sit down together and focus on fact-finding and problem-solving rather than on fanning the flames of anger, there can be win-win solutions. In the interest of full disclosure, I was the interim executive director of Friends and their search consultant in the spring of 2010, during which time over forty highly qualified professionals applied for the executive director position.
Following intensive interviews and discussions with prior employers, employees, and colleagues, Marta Howell was the unanimous first choice of the members of the search committee and the board of directors. The board developed a clear set of objectives for this position, including the requirement that whoever was selected for the position would regularly review and report to the Board on the status, cost, and effectiveness of all its programs and services.
Rosemary Bowler, Nonprofit Governance Consultant
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