Published August 10, 2020
The Trustees of the Farm & Wilderness and Ninevah Foundations will meet on Friday, August 14, virtually. We will have spent a couple of hours together on Thursday night checking in with each other; this is one way we support each other, celebrating successes, and sharing grief at losses. We take time to do this at every meeting, and it seems especially important during this period of social distancing.
Friday morning, following Silent Meeting, we will frame the day’s work. We are living in the age of COVID and financial recession/depression. What does that mean for the camps now and in the future? Further, the White Supremacy Culture that we live in is coming under scrutiny. We pride ourselves on our current and past social justice actions and intent. However, we also know that despite our good and righteous intentions of the past and present, we have made real mistakes. As a Board, we will need to clearly and courageously talk about our past so that we can support the Leadership Team in making the changes necessary for us to confidently, equitably, compassionately, and inclusively march into the future.
We always receive a written report from the Leadership Team that we read in advance. The meeting gives us the chance to ask questions and discuss fundraising, marketing, admissions, sustainable resources, and conservation (with no camp this summer, we will miss reading about the program).
Following that, we’ll take a deeper look at finances, specifically, what is our current cash availability, and what are our cash flow needs? I think it’s safe to say we’re all a bit anxious about this topic.
Trustees of Farm & Wilderness are also Trustees of the Ninevah Foundation. How can we dissolve the boundaries (other than legal) between the two organizations? How can we elevate the conservation profile of F&W so that it’s not only NF that carries that? How can we promote socially just conservation, at the Board level (not operations)?
Frances McLaughlin, our incoming Executive Director, has met with every Board member and year-round staff member. We are very excited that she will have a session to tell us what she has learned this summer, and what she’s thinking going forward. She brings a wealth of energy, knowledge about educational organizations, and vision to us, and we’re eager to hear from her.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Kristi Webb, Clerk of the Board
The Farm & Wilderness and Ninevah Foundation Board of Trustees met virtually on August 14th. Since March, we have met every month except July, and we expect this to continue through at least October. In an ordinary year, we meet four times, and our August meeting (only a day long) includes a visit from representatives of the Camper Council, introductions of new Trustees, hearing how the summer is going, and an early end so that we can prepare for the pre-Fair dinner and welcoming parents and alumni. This is not an ordinary year.
Ann-Marie White, Assistant Clerk of the Board and Clerk of the Inclusion & Equity Committee, framed the day’s work. 1) We are a unique Board (most Boards don’t have boots-on-the-ground experience with the actual program). This makes it challenging for Trustees to stay at 30K feet, but we should be directing many questions to Leadership Team (we don’t do programming or cabin assignments). Additionally, we are a tight-knit community, and becoming a Trustee means we can no longer talk about some things with our F&W friends. 2) COVID impacts summer camps and environmental stewardship. This affects our fiduciary role: how can we last? 3) We have a history of being on the “right” side of the social justice ledger, but we also need to have the courage to recognize White Supremacy Culture in our own organization so that we can address our past and current mistakes as we build an equitable future. We will talk more about these frames in a specially-called September meeting.
Admissions has been focused on getting the new registration system ready for an October 1 start to enrollment. Meanwhile, swim passes have been a great way to introduce folks to our waterfront (at the Barn Day Camp) and has felt very positive. Frances is convening a task force to look at all the COVID options for 2021.
We are so sad to say goodbye to Carter Clark, our Communications Manager since January. The Board recorded a Minute of Appreciation for her.
We talked a lot about Finances. We currently have no cash and have taken a draw on our $1.2M line of credit. We have an endowment, but what’s called “permanent endowment” cannot be used for any purpose other than endowment. “Restricted endowment” is restricted per the donor’s wishes (e.g., for campership, for trail maintenance) and needs their permission to use it for another purpose or to cash it out. We were able to obtain some donors’ permission to borrow their endowment for the F&W Recovery Fund; these funds will have to be replaced. Finance Committee has identified 5 options for additional credit, will examine the best options and choose one.
The Ninevah Foundation has been receiving state funds to run a Greeter program at the Lake Ninevah fishing access for nearly 20 years. This is the first year that our Conservation Director, Kelly Beerman, obtained funds to do the same on Woodward Reservoir. Although this is a state program, we must match the grant monies received. Three greeters between the two lakes examine boats entering and exiting the water for evidence of aquatic invasives (for example, Asian Milfoil) and to educate boaters on the danger of invasives. This is a terrific program, has been very successful at Ninevah, and we’re excited that it’s off to a strong start in Plymouth, too. This is part of our conservation mission.
Speaking of conservation, we had a lively session on how we can best use the affiliation of F&W and NF to our mutual benefit. How do we integrate our conservation mission with our other missions? There are many reasons to do so, including the effects of climate change on our summer programming; the relationship between conservation and Inclusion & Equity; creating potential fundraising and grant opportunities; and exciting year-round programming. Who is this for and how can we make it for as many people as possible? There was a great deal of eagerness to take on the historical/cultural/social justice aspect of the conservation part of our mission.
Frances McLaughlin, our incoming Executive Director, shared what she has learned about us this summer, and what she is thinking, going forward. We will soon be revisiting our statements of mission and values, to make sure they give us the rationale for our decisions and actions. What is the vision of the difference we want to make in the world?
Finally, this was Jay Kullman’s final Board meeting as Interim Executive Director; Frances begins September 1. The Board minuted its appreciation of Jay:
The Farm and Wilderness and Ninevah Foundation Board of Trustees wish to acknowledge and thank Jay Kullman for his extraordinary work since March 1, 2020, when he assumed the role of Interim Executive Director.
Jay has long been among our most valued employees, leading the Sustainable Resources Department and serving as a quiet but important presence among the staff.
Jay volunteered to step forward to help Farm & Wilderness and the Ninevah Foundation by expanding his role during a time of transition as we hired a new Executive Director. Jay served as a steady and thoughtful leader, exemplifying leadership and service for the organization during incredible environmental turmoil. He respectfully sought input and engagement from staff to foster progress on true systemic change and provided a renewed sense of stability and progress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jay used his emotional intelligence and analytic skills to lead decision-making about the 2020 Summer camp season, establishing a framework for Board decisions, guiding management implementation in a manner consistent with F&W values, and communicating clearly and effectively with the F&W community.
Jay rebuilt and sustained trust among the year-round staff even when needing to make difficult staffing decisions. His humility, trustworthiness, promotion of F&W interests ahead of his own, willingness to acknowledge the contributions of others and his always present sense of humor are attributes admired by all of his colleagues.
Jay’s support for the incoming Executive Director has helped her become acclimated to F&W values, mission, and culture while highlighting the critical issues we face in the future. The Board welcomes Jay’s continuing involvement in the leadership of Farm & Wilderness and the Ninevah Foundation as Director of Sustainable Resources and looks forward to opportunities for him to take on new responsibilities.
With sincere admiration and appreciation, thank you, Jay.
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