Women In Film And Television International
How to start a WIFTI Chapter
5- You must have a Board of Directors or governing body that is elected by the membership. Should you decide to proceed, WIFTI can provide you with copies of the by-laws from other Chapters to help you formulate the by-laws for your new group.
How To Attract Members?
Most Chapters have established voluntary work committees to develop and co-ordinate events. Some of these committees may include:
The WIFTI Board of Directors invites you to consider joining our exciting global network!
Summary of WIFTI Chapters' Board Organization
As a service to WIFTI Chapters worldwide, WIFTI has summarized information about how WIFTI Chapters have chosen to organize themselves. The hope is that this information will help WIFTI Chapters as they start the process of structuring themselves for the first time or as they re-structure how they are organized. The information contained in this summary does not take into account any legal considerations which impact on Board structure in particular countries (which must be researched locally by each WIFTI Chapter).
A questionnaire asking about Board structure and practice was sent out to all WIFT Chapters worldwide in February, 2004. Responses were collected between February and May 2004.
Seventeen WIFTI chapters completed questionnaires - 8 from the United States, 3 from Canada, 2 from New Zealand, and 1 each from Australia, the UK, Ireland and Denmark. A summary of the raw data from the questionnaires is attached as Appendix B.
Number of Directors
Each Chapter was asked for the maximum number of Directors that were permitted under the Chapter's by-laws and what the average number of Directors was.
The maximum number of Directors established by each Chapter's by-laws varied somewhat with Chapter size. On a purely numeric basis the smallest maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws was 5 (Dublin, Ireland) and the largest maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws was 25 (Washington, DC). Most often the maximum number of Directors required by a Chapter's by-laws varied between 11 and 16 Directors (12 Chapters).
The average number of Directors on a Chapter's board of Directors was usually less than the maximum number of Directors permitted under the by-laws (in 10 of 17 Chapters). Four Chapters had an average number of Directors which were the maximum number permitted. Three Chapters either didn't answer the question or answered it incorrectly.
Director's Election and Term
Most of the Chapters (14 of 17) specified a length of time or term for the Directors to serve. The large majority of Chapters specified a term of either 1 or 2 years.
Four of the Chapters prescribed a maximum number of terms which a Director could serve on a WIFT Board and two additional Chapters set a maximum number of terms (2) for the Board Chair or President.
Directors at all but three Chapters were elected either by full members or the whole WIFTI membership. At two Chapters, a combination of whole membership vote and appointment by the Board of Directors was used. Appointment by the Board was used if there were Board openings and members available that stated an interest in being on the Board and/or who had necessary or appropriate skills. At one Chapter, Board members were appointed by the current Board by vote.
How do the WIFTI Boards ensure that Women with Appropriate Skills are Elected?
Boards tended to use a variety of techniques to ensure that they attracted suitable candidates for the board. Often some combination of targeted recruiting was done by the current Board (combined, sometimes with WIFTI staff) with the Board's executive taking the lead. As one Chapter stated:
Keeping the Board's needs in mind, the past President is responsible for recruiting strong candidates and takes suggestions from the Board. The Executive Director and past President speak with interested parties to convey bylaw requirements, Board expectations and the emphasis on accountability.
Candidates biographies and comments about their intentions (either verbally or in writing) were provided to the membership to inform their voting selections. Some Chapters required and distributed a letter of support from another member that also described the candidate's qualifications.
Some Chapters had nominating committees (comprised usually of current Board members) which nominate qualified women for each open position.
The Board of one Chapter selects and recommends new Board members for election by the whole membership (the questionnaire did not state whether or not additional Board candidates could be nominated from the floor by the membership to compete with the Board selected candidates).
At least three Chapters felt that they weren't in a position to ensure that appropriately skilled women joined their boards due to the scarcity of women applying and/or the high Board member minimum set out in the chapter's by-laws:
It would be a great idea to do this [ensure women with appropriate skills are elected] but in practice it doesn't work for us. Because of our high Board minimum we often need to take anyone willing to stand.
The Management Committee can appoint members and generally does not have the luxury of looking for people with appropriate or complimentary skills. We therefore fashion the output of the organization to suit the mix of people who join the Management Committee.
Specific Portfolios and Committee Work
Five Chapters required Board members to run under a specific portfolio such as Programming Vice-president, Treasurer etc. One Chapter stated that the requirement for each Board member was very important with us as some jobs are more time consuming than others?.
Ten of the seventeen Chapters that responded require their Board members to sit on committees. One Chapter also required each Board member to raise $3000 US for the organization through monetary or equipment donations, in-kind services, ad sales, event ticket sales etc.
Of the Chapters in which sitting on a committee was not a requirement, most Chapters indicated that it was strongly encouraged for their Board members to sit on committees. One Chapter which did not require Board members to sit on committees stated:
It's a good idea if you can allow for flexibility of time commitment due to fluctuating Board member availability ie many of our Board members are mid career and become unavailable when in the throws of production.
Twelve of the seventeen Chapters that responded have standing committees which range quite widely in type. The most common standing committees were: finance, fundraising or funding, programming, membership and special events. At one Chapter where Board involvement in committees wasn't mandatory, committee chairs who do not sit on the Board send in a short report to be read at each month's Board meeting. At chapters which didn't have standing committees, Board members would take on responsibilities or set up ad hoc committees as required.
Board and WIFTI Staff
Just over half of the WIFTI Chapters employed some sort of staff either on a full or a part time basis. A couple of the Chapters also used interns in addition to the regularly employed staff.
The large majority of the WIFTI Chapters are relatively active in WIFTI operations but tend to stay away, if possible, from the day to day details. One Chapter commented:
The Board does a fair amount of work that would be done by staff if we had enough staff people to do everything. They plan programs and produce events. But they do not get involved in day to day management of staff or prioritizing staff tasks. The ED does that. They also do not negotiate financial deals. This is working quite well it is the best of both worlds.
A common conundrum is that there isn't enough money to fund the appropriate number of staff. The only challenge that exists is that there is more work than one person can handle but not enough funding to support the hiring of more staff.
One Chapter commented on the difficulties when board members are involved heavily in day to day operations:
Our Chapter has 2 staff members and uses interns. In earlier times, the Board did much of the work which affected Board duties and caused major burn out for the VPs. We hired an Executive Director, then a Membership co-ordinator, then brought interns in. The Executive VP present position was later created to support the President, act as her back-up and help oversee operations by communications regularly with the Executive Director in all areas. Although the Board is very active, they chip in where needed.
Where there are no staff, the Board fulfills all of the day to day functions that are required.
Seven of the Chapters submitted additional comments which are quoted, verbatim, in the attached Appendix C.
How is your Board of Directors Organized?
Anything else about how your Board is organized that you would like to tell us?
It's a very organic process. The Management Committee is very personality driven. We have management plans, aims and goals and mission statements. These are generally refined at annual planning days but how the organisation is run is entirely dependent on who comes forward to help, what their own agenda is, their experience and their motivations. Leadership is an extremely important issue and if the organisation does not have a strong executive or president then it will flounder. This has happened from time to time and it takes time to recover from this kind of situation.
We would like to do and be so much more than our resources allow and I guess for WIFTI NSW part of being successful is working within the limits of those resources whilst still maintain the quality of the services.
As we only have one full time staff member, our board is an extremely hardworking board (we organize all events, finances, sponsorship, publicity,and when possible, policy). If you have the luxury of more staff members, I would recommend keeping the # of directors lower. While it is necessary to ensure all events are properly handled, it can make it unwieldy for making general organizational decisions / policy directions. 15 differing opinions rarely come to consensus (sometimes our executive of 4 can't even come to consensus!)
It is extremely difficult to predict how hard a board member will work, regardless of their antecedents. I believe that having a paid staff person, whether full or part time, is instrumental in achieving an organization?s goals and keeping that organization on track. Getting people who are committed to the goals of the organization is also imperative - people will do a lot for love of a cause.
I think having the President and the VP's for 2 years is very important. The first year seems to be a warm up year and the second year rolls from the plans of the first year.
We have a VP of Communications over the Newsletter, Web and PR Board Members, Membership has worker bees that do the database and oversees the job Opportunities Board Member. By having Pres and VP 2 years one has an opportunity to train up the other Board members to take over.
TREAT THE ORGANIZATION LIKE A BUSINESS, NOT A CLUB
Bring a healthy balance of diverse professionals from various leadership roles of the media industry: accountants, lawyers, local and international producers, distribution executives, directors, etc. Beware too many dynamic producers who think big and want to achieve much. The board must always consider financial, staffing and volunteer limitations.
Always keep a recruiting eye on active volunteers: We often find strong Board members by observing who the worker bees are in the Programming committee.
Plan out the year and all associated tasks: The first two months of each new Board is dedicated to outlining the events and initiatives for the year , which are discussed and approved at a retreat. The results reflect ideas from membership polls, addressing 4membership needs, repeating past events by popular demand, collaborations with other organizations or businesses, etc. Things come up during the year which offer an opportunity for the organization to make money or indirectly provide a service to our members. If there are enough resources and time available, the board will take it on.
Put structures and systems in place: Often, Boards have an imbalance between the movers & shakers and the slackers. After we set up a system of committees and accountability, our entire board became very active. We increased our productivity, effectiveness, organizational visibility, credibility and the quality of our services.
*Examples: Delegation of committees and tasks, Board reports prior to meetings, limits on unexcused missed meetings (3 in a row), etc.
Take the time to network with and learn from the other Chapters.
Use your biggest fundraiser of the year to attract press and celebrities. It will help bring in sponsors. Include industry awards as well as recognition awards for individuals or companies who have contributed greatly to the organization.
Our Board is very active, meeting once a month for two hours, usually two days before our regular monthly meeting. Board members are also active online in between meetings, communicating ideas and supporting each other in our duties. Our Board is also very accessible to individual members throughout the month.
We have been struggling in recent years with the type of Board member we want to attract. We did engage in targeted recruiting for skills or diversity but it was felt in the last few years that we needed more senior women in the industry on our board to open fundraising doors and raise the Chapter's profile. We originally thought that such women wouldn't have the time but after some prolonged arm twisting, to our surprise, they said yes. The addition of more senior women has really made a difference not only to the wealth of experience on the Board but also to how we are perceived. Senior women or no senior women? we are still struggling with the appropriate division of labour between board and staff.
We recommend having a Board job description and an organizational manual with all relevant info before someone starts. It is also important to have check-ins so people can have a chance to express how things are going. We tend to take on a lot of work and great people burn out too fast.