Re: Questions for candidates - board processes & significance

Hi German,

Germán Póo-Caamaño wrote:
> On Mon, 2011-05-30 at 16:11 +0200, Dave Neary wrote:
> Jeff Schroeder already did this question, my answer is here:

Not *quite* the same thing - you talk about open meetings and recording
what happens in meetings. I'm specifically asking for accountability on
email discussions, which you don't really address.

>> 3. I think financial transparency is important. If you plan on applying 
>> for the treasurer position, what changes (if any) would you propose for 
>> the budgeting process? How often would you publish financial reports for 
>> the foundation? Are you happy with the level of transparency in the 
>> board's finances now?
> I think the budgeting process is not a one-person task.  Teams need to
> think ahead.  For instance, the accessibility team has done a great job
> planning their activities 1.5 years ahead.  The same I could say from
> the Women Outreach Program, where Marina is already thinking in the next
> editions of WOP.

Do you have any ideas on how the budgeting process can be improved over
previous years? I offered to help draft the initial budget in previous
years, but in the end discovered the budget when it was announced on
foundation-list. Do you think it would be a good idea to have a small
group of people like the ED hiring committee or GUADEC organising
committee working on a shared file to come to the initial draft?

> Regarding to transparency, my perception is we have four kind of
> foundation members:
>      1. Those who read the budget and formulate questions
>      2. Those who read the budget and does not know what to ask (or how
>         to read the budget)
>      3. Those who look the big number, and trust in the board (and/or
>         the treasure)
>      4. Those who do not care, because this is just a flipping
>         administrative thing.

There are two aspects to financial transparency: the budget, and the
actual expenditures. Publishing a draft budget and revising it based on
feedback is one thing, but it's also important to publish regular
updates on what has actually been spent, so as to foresee any budget
over-runs or to show when allocated funds have not been used. KDE eV,
for example, includes a small section in every report with the
expenditures and income since the last report.

I notice that you have also done this for the quarterly reports - and
this is good and useful. However, the last report was in Q2 2010, as far
as I can see, a year ago. I know this is kind of a pain to do, so
perhaps there's a way to improve the process to make it easier?

Also, one thing I'm missing is the actual relationship between income &
expenditures  and the budget. We don't see the "balance forward" for the
foundation, and we don't see whether expenditures came in under or over

> Nevertheless, the fact you ask for more reports means to me that the
> annual reports are fine, because you have higher expectations now.

I am not necessarily asking for more reports, but I think the budget
drafting process could be (as you suggest) spread out a bit. Also, I
think that the financial reports that we get could be a little better.
And I was just wondering if candidates thought the same, and had ideas
for improving them.

> Managing external accounts that gets bigger and bigger are also an issue
> to our non-profit status, because they increases artificially the funds
> we carry from one fiscal year to the next one. We can not earmark those
> funds.

I don't believe that this is a big problem - especially not for LGM,
which has only had a surplus of a few thousand dollars (which is not a
lot for an organisation with an annual budget over $300,000).

> In the future, it should not happen with external accounts according to
> the minutes :
>         "The board decided to no longer manage funds for external
>         organizations. It is too much work, especially now that there is
>         more of an interest for GNOME projects to get more involved with
>         fund raising."

I'm actually really disappointed at this decision, and it's one of the
decisions where I would have liked to know who proposed this, and who
was in favour. My personal position would be to work out on a case by
case basis whether projects align with our mission, and figure out how
to make the process work and set the management fee to an appropriate level.

> For instance, a process could be stalled because is required that board
> members vote, a legal review, a verification with the accountant, any
> other external variable.  When there is a delay, keeping saying "still
> waiting for votes", "still waiting for review", and so on do not help to
> deal with people's frustration; specially when they have put a lot of
> effort to get their part of the work done as fast as possible.

Does this perhaps point to a problem with board processes? If a board
decision can't be made because someone (or a group of someones) is not
sending an email on the issue, surely that is a problem that needs
solving - and the communication issues are merely a by-product of this?

Having been on the board, of course I've seen my fair share of this type
of issue, and I remember proposing time limits for mailing list votes,
and at one point we ensured that there were 2 people dealing with every
external relationship to stop anything from falling through the cracks.

In general, though, I think that someone waiting for the board would
appreciate knowing what the hold-up is.

>> 6. Board members are ambassadors for the foundation. I think it's 
>> important that board members be social, and be nice. Are you nice?
> This is a subjective question.

Of course it is :) I'm hoping that other voters will consider this as a
criterium, if they hadn't before.


Dave Neary
GNOME Foundation member
dneary gnome org

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