C. Ryan Smith 2018 Q&A: Group 2

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

5. What are a couple of major issues that you know the OTW board struggles or has struggled with, and how would you personally act to avoid them if elected?

Personally, I have always felt the biggest issue the Board has struggled with is the disconnect that could arise between them and the organization as a whole. Take a look at the next question (#6) for more about that! Another thing that I feel the Board has struggled within the past is managing their workload. While each position within the OTW generally has a commitment of only a few hours per week, it can quickly add up once you begin to work within multiple committees. The previous structure of the Board did not help matters either, as each individual Board member would serve as a dedicated liaison to a handful of committees (thereby increasing the workload more). In order to compensate for this high workload, some directors would retire from their various positions within the OTW in order to devote themselves to their Board work, which increased in the disconnect between them and the rest of the OTW.

As humans, we each have a breaking point from which we simply cannot continue without driving ourselves into the ground, but we are each able to reflect upon the time and energy that we put into something to find a balance of work and fun. As far as avoiding this breaking point, I’ve talked about how I manage my own work and commitments in my platform (carefully monitoring my workload and tracking my ongoing tasks with special tools).

6. There’s a common issue in non-profits, including OTW in the past, where board members can become disconnected from the wider org and individual committees. What strategies do you have to help avoid this kind of situation?

I believe the best way to mitigate this issue would be to continue to serve on the regular committees; by doing so the Board is less likely to lose sight of the day to day work that we do within the organization. Additionally, I feel that interacting and communicating with other volunteers in very important for this as well. In the past few years, we have moved onto a new chat platform which has made interpersonal communication so much easier! Now, we have the ability to create an unlimited amount of rooms to house discussion, including “time off” topics like video games, TV shows, books, and more! This has directly led to a much stronger organization with each volunteer being able to branch out and interact with so many others!

7. Can you name a skill that you consider relevant for a board member, but that you consider a personal weakness?

For me, I am very much a hands on type of person! I love helping others in whatever way I can, but I’m definitely aware that sometimes I can overstep my bounds with that. In fact, that’s been one of the problems of the Board in the past, when Board members who don’t necessarily understand how our committees and projects operate have interfered in a well-meaning but misguided attempt to help. As a Board member, my job wouldn’t be to jump in and take over any projects that committees are working on but to listen to their needs and trust the volunteers that we have to do their job well, without interfering with their work unless specifically asked for help.

8. Do you think the OTW should have paid staff? If not, why not? If so, which positions should be prioritized?

I definitely do think that the OTW should have paid staff, which is something that I’ve covered quite a bit already in the previous Q&A set. To summarize my argument, I think it is a natural evolution of how we have already contracted out to companies who work with us currently. Further, I think it will allow the OTW to offset the pressure from our current critical personnel who might then have time to work on documentation and offer more training opportunities to interested volunteers. Finally, it also will also enable the Board to mitigate a certain amount of risk tied to our current critical volunteers.

As far as which positions should be prioritized, I think that isn’t something that I’m currently able to determine by myself. The Board as a whole would need to speak with the committee who are interested in moving towards such a model. At that point, the Board would then be able to create a prioritized list for hiring employees.