Northern California Spelmanslag Board Guidelines for Discussions and Decisions, Especially Using Email

Purpose of these Guidelines:

These guidelines have one purpose:

  1. Help board members communicate effectively with each other and with members of the community who want NCS assistance with a project, such as to sponsor an event.

Basic principles.

All board members should have the opportunity to discuss any ideas presented to the board and vote on every proposal. Because face-to-face meetings are infrequent, email will provide "virtual" board meeting for discussion and voting in between face-to-face meetings. The same basic rules of conduct apply to both face-to-face and virtual meetings.

Accommodation will be made for board members who do not have access to email on an individual basis. In general, however, board members who do not have email can provide their ideas and votes in writing or verbally to any member of the board who will either transcribe or summarize onto email.

General points about email.

Use a descriptive subject line. Make it as specific to the particular topic you want discussed as you can, but precede it with "NCS" to help those who get tons of email distinguish board-related messages easily. So, e.g., the subject line on the message to discuss these guidelines would look like this: "NCS: email guidelines"

State up front what response you are asking for and when you need it by (be reasonable). For example, are you putting forth an idea for discussion or asking the board to make a decision about something.

Some standard vocabulary will help avoid confusion:

Idea For Discussion. Label your message this way for general topics, soliciting ideas, etc. Use this when you either aren't ready to ask for a decision or the topic is something that you won't need board approval for but you want board members' input. Anyone, board members and non-board members alike, can ask for discussion of an idea. Anyone with input on the topic can and should respond.

Proposal: a formal request that the board agree to something, such as to sponsor an event or establish a policy.

The Basic Process.

If you have an Idea for Discussion:

  1. Write it up as clearly and concisely as you can.
  2. Email it to the entire board. If you're not on email, give it to someone who is and have them distribute it on your behalf. Give a deadline for responses.
  3. Everyone who has anything to say responds. You don't have to quote all the previous discussion in its entirety, or at all, as long as it's clear what you're responding to. Remember that messages sometimes cross, so somebody else's comments may arrive in everybody's mailbox between when you write your response and when people get it.
  4. If appropriate, summarize the responses and email the summary to the board (Anyone who feels things have gotten too tangled can summarize or ask for a summary).

If you want to make a proposal, get it discussed as an idea first. Then make the proposal:

  1. Write it up as clearly and concisely as you can.
  2. Email it to the president, requesting that it be considered by the board. If you're not on email, get it to the president any way you can (phone, hand delivery, via another board member--whatever will work).
  3. The president will distribute the proposal to all board members, set a reasonable time limit and ask for additional discussion if any. The president will summarize the discussion for the board and the original submitter. If appropriate, the submitter will modify the proposal. Normally the time limit will be a week. If for some reason it needs to be less than two days, everyone will be called to notify them to check their email.
  4. The president will call for a vote from all board members, with a time limit set for responses as before. The final version of the proposal will be included in this message.
  5. All board members should respond explicitly: yes, no or abstain. If your email account is shared or you're passing on a vote for somebody who doesn't have email, state exactly whose votes are included. If a quorum of members respond, the vote will determine the disposition of the proposal. If a quorum does not respond, the proposal will be considered defeated, i.e., we maintain the status quo.
  6. The president will give a final report to the entire board, stating whether the proposal was accepted or defeated and giving the number of votes by category. The proposal itself will be included in this message to help keep the records straight.

More General Points.

Including non-board members in discussions. If someone not on the board wants to present an idea for discussion or a proposal, they can do so following the same rules as above. If they're on email, they should be copied on all messages pertaining to the topic except the call for vote and responses. They should be copied on the final message that gives the result.

We'll all assume that if a board member doesn't reply to something, it's because they don't have anything to say. We're all responsible for reading our email regularly and reasonably frequently. If you can't, e.g., if you're on vacation, it would be nice to let someone such as the president know.