Michelle Schroeder 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?

One issue that I know the Board has struggled with in the past is disconnect from the Org itself, but since that’s the next question, I’ll save the full answer for that. Another issue is that people aren’t entirely sure what being on Board entails. This can make it difficult for people to know if they would make good candidates, and can also affect Board handoff when things are less than ideal, like it did a few years ago.

This year, there was a very informative session internally, where the Board was available to talk about their duties and answer questions, so I’d like to see something like that continue to happen in future years. In addition, I’d like to continue increasing internal documentation about Board training and duties to help with both easier handoffs and with providing information for volunteers to understand how being on Board works.

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 think it’s important for OTW board members to stay connected by continuing to volunteer with their individual committees as much as possible and interact with their fellow volunteers.
Personally, I’ve met people from other committees both from working with them on committee work, and by interacting with them in more casual areas of our communication platform, which has led to understanding more about how their committees work, making it easier to reach out across committee borders to get work done.

By continuing to be a part of committees and listening to fellow committee members or other volunteers, I think the Board will remain connected and transparent internally.

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

Though it’s not exactly a skill, I think one of my major weaknesses as a potential board member is that all of my volunteering experience is with the Archive, so I know my gut reaction to things is from an AO3 perspective and not an OTW perspective. I hope that if I were to be elected, I’d be able to spend some time learning about the other projects that the OTW supports, and talk with the committees that I don’t interact with as frequently, so that I’ll be able to stay mindful of the OTW as a whole.

As for an actual skill, I’m a quiet person by nature, so I know I’ve had issues in the past with communication. This is definitely an essential skill for a Board member, particularly as we don’t really have the option in our online-based organization to stop by someone’s desk and check on them if they aren’t responding. It’s something I’ve been working on in the past few months, but it’s definitely something I’d have to continue to strive for if I were to be elected to Board.

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

I think we should have paid staff when we have the budget and infrastructure in place to be able to support having paid staff. Once we do have the money available and the legal issues sorted out, I think we should prioritize essential positions like a full-time system administrator or two and a full-time accountant. Even if we have these people already in our volunteer pool (which we do), they have to balance their full-time, paid jobs with their volunteer work, so it would be nice to be able to pay employees to focus their attention on the OTW full-time instead.

However, this can cause issues as far as what positions should be made available for paid staff, and may lead to resentment among people who volunteer their time for free instead of getting paid. Another concern I’ve seen brought up is that if we hire paid staff from outside the OTW, we run the risk of the culture changing from a labor of love by fans into a business that needs to maintain a certain level of donations to continue to pay their non-fan staff.

Honestly, I don’t think we’ll be at the point where we’re completely ready to bring on paid staff within the next three years, so it’s difficult to speculate that far into the future. Still, I’d love to be part of the discussion how to make it happen!