Friday, September 17, 2010

Why the Hiring of an Executive Director for Pride Raises Concerns

Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Why the Hiring of an Executive Director for Pride Raises Concerns

Reading the recent Xxtrawest article regarding Pride hiring an Executive Director/General Manager, this article I find unfortunate as former Pride board members John Boychuk and Laura McDiarmid in the article did not provide any useful context other than to say that the membership wasn't consulted or that Pride couldn't afford this expense.

Regarding the possible hiring of an Executive director/General manager (ED/GM) and why the membership has concerns over this, as a former board member this is what I heard from the membership in prior discussions related to the hiring of an ED/GM.

The membership raised concerns over the hiring of an ED/GM because we desired to keep the organization as a grassroots and membership-driven organization. It was felt that hiring an ED/GM would compromise this principle and bring other problems including the strong possibility of an Executive Director building an empire which would put control of the organization solely in their hands.

The Executive Director/General Manager would become the dominant force in the organization and like other non-profit organizations, has the opportunity to hand-select board members in back-room deal making in order to solidify control of the organization in their hands.

The ED/GM would surely benefit with their $60,000-$100,000 yearly salary along with terrific perks. Their goal becomes about maintaining control which enables them to keep their dream job.

The vision of the organization which is driven by the membership and vested in trust with the Board plays a reduced role in all aspects including policy making. This in turn was deemed by the membership to be compromising the integrity of a community and volunteer driven organization.

What Alan Herbert a past President of Pride states in the Xtrawest article is correct. That the scope of Pride requires a staff person but as a former Director I can attest that the job really only requires a Coordinator during Pride season which amounts at best to four months of full-time work.

Pride already has two part-time paid staff members so a full-time Coordinator position could easily fulfill the workload requirement during the Pride season.

I hope the above puts into context why hiring an ED/GM raises concerns from the community.

Jamie Lee Hamilton

"I believe you change the world One man at a time"


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Kevin Dale McKeown said...

I have to disagree with you on this JLH. Having served many Vancouver festivals in a senior management position (Dragon Boat, Writers, Children's & Folk Music) I can attest to the challenges of maintaining a balance of power between an executive director and the board of directors. All of the hazards you list are very real possibilities, and it all comes down to how the ED is selected, how clear the reporting structure is, and how involved the membership is in refreshing and supporting the board.

The flip side of an empire-building ED is a micro-managing board, with individual board members sticking their fingers into areas that interest them, neglecting areas that don't interest them, and fading from scene and leaving a leadership vacuum when their real lives get complicated.

I think an executive director, or at least a general manager, would be a positive step for the Pride Society, but only if the entire board took some professional board training (Vantage Point, formerly Volunteer Vancouver, offers some excellent programs of this sort) and really got a handle on their appropriate roles, stopped fussing around with endless (mis)management, and got on with the business of governance. And good governance includes good oversight of senior staff, to ensure that the empire building you are rightly concerned about doesn't occur.


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