Bringing in the Harvest

I had a rewarding experience Saturday: Attending the first official board of directors meeting of the reorganized Quaker lobbying group in California, Friends Committee on Legislation, or FCL. It took several years of laboring in the vineyards to get there.

I first got involved in 1999 or so. Peter Crysdale was then the development coordinator; a student at the General Theological Union in Berkeley; and a fiery vocal minister and sometime attender at SF Meeting. (Today he is the pastor at Allen's Neck Friends Meeting in Dartmouth, Mass. Oh, my goodness, I've just been reading his messages in the meeting newsletter, and they are worth checking out.)

Peter was an experienced fundraiser with AFSC, but he had a really hard time at FCL. He had the nerve to ask for an updated computer database to track donors' giving history. He had a hard time even getting the information he needed from the desktop computer of someone else, which worked on DOS, not Windows. While successful in the individual donor work he did, he was frustrated at each step. On leaving for Allen's Neck, he called for FCL to invest more in the work of raising the resources needed.

I heard the call, and clerked the first development and outreach committee. We developed a mission statement: Guided by Quaker values, FCL advocates for California state laws that are just, compassionate, and respectful of the inherent worth of every person.

We set fundraising goals, and got the coordinator after Peter out in the field. A Friend produced a video for FCL's 50th anniversary, which she took on the road to numerous meetings.

Sidebar My favorite part of the video was an interview with State Sen. John Burton, a legendary and curmudgeonly politician from San Francisco, who praised FCL between licks of his ice cream cone! Forced out by term limits in 2004, Burton in his final term introduced the resolution creating the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, to study the extent to which "wrongful executions or the wrongful conviction of innocent persons" has happened. Go, John!! endSidebar

The fundraising plans never quite jelled, though. The number of meetings at which slightly different constellations of pretty much the same people said the same old things was inordinate.

The big problem was simply an unwieldy structure that was not serving the organization given the current, lower number of people now active. I drifted away from the endless meetings, but continued to have conversations with Friends about how we might improve things. The result was an outstanding session at the annual statewide meeting in 12/2004 at which we agreed things weren't working well, we resolved to try to change them, and we scheduled a called meeting for 3/2005.

In 3/2005, we further agreed to restructure the committees, to emulate pretty closely the model of FCNL: keep the statewide meeting, now renamed the General Committee, but create a new board of directors tasked with administrative oversight and power to make decisions on an interim basis between annual meetings. Several working committees would work statewide, rather than split into northern and southern groups. In addition, Friends in Northern and Southern California were encouraged to continue to organize in regional groups to spur grassroots advocacy, raise awareness, and raise funds.

In 12/2005, the General Committee united to approve the changes, and adopted bylaws. It took hours to go over it all, but the result was satisfying.

So on Saturday, when we gathered as the new Board of Directors, it felt like harvesting the fruit of long labor. Blessed be!

No comments: