Member / Associate / Election Information
NELA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with charitable giving as a primary element of its mission statement. NELA has a Board of Directors; its Board, as with most charities, is "self-perpetuating" — it elects its own members and replacements (see this article for a brief explanation of self-perpetuating board groups and their pros and cons); here’s another article that discusses the topic).
NELA was incorporated that way (as, again, most charities are) for a variety of reasons:
- It helps avoid "popularity contests" — i.e., a highly-popular "player"/member of the community from being elected to a board position on the basis of popularity/volume of noise/mud-slinging, despite lacking any or all of the needed skills to actually serve in that position.
- Similarly, it makes it easier to recruit for specific skill sets to help advance the mission of the organization.
- Along similar lines, it allows the current Board to vet potential new Board members. Have the candidates attended several board meetings, so that the current Board has an idea of who they are? Have they volunteered extensively for NELA for a significant portion of time? Have they tirelessly worked to advance the mission, and shown a strong work ethic, a willingness to get the work done, even when the job isn't glamorous or exciting or easy, to help the organization? Do they show good judgment, decision-making, and ethics? Or are they just in it for the perks and the power, someone who talks a good game, but in the end does very little actual work for the cause? Being a NELA Board member can be a heck of a lot of work, and truth be told, very little of it is exciting or fun. The Board needs members willing to do that work for the organization, and do it consistently for their two-year term, and those aren’t the easiest people to find.
- It allows for a continuity of vision. NELA has a short-term (month-to-month), mid-range (the upcoming year) and long-range (the next five to ten years) vision, and maintaining some carry-over on the Board facilitates that.
- It may provide certain legal protections to our Associates. NELA deliberately chose to form itself with Associates, rather than Members, not just for the reasons listed above, but also because certain types of 501c membership organizations with membership lists can have those membership lists more easily subpoenaed during court proceedings. 501c groups with Associates, however, are (to the best of our legal knowledge -- there hasn’t been a precedent case in Massachusetts that we’re aware of to date, so please, consult a lawyer for all legal matters) far more legally protected from having those Associate lists subpoenaed. NELA opts for the Associates model (over both voting-member and nonvoting-member models) in order to provide benefits to its Associates (free or discounted admission to the Summer and Winter Flea and NELA classes, discounted admission to certain other organizations’ events, discounts with certain scene vendors, etc.) without potentially incurring as much invasion of privacy into its Associates’ lives. NELA protects its Associates’ personal information as closely as it can, and the deliberate choice to have Associates instead of Members is one layer of that protection.
There are disadvantages to being the self-perpetuating board model, of course; stagnation, conflict-of-interest, etc. But NELA is aware of those, and takes precautions to avoid them. NELA has a self-perpetuating Board, for a number of the reasons listed above -- just as do a host of other New England-based nonprofit organizations, large and small. NELA lets the community know about open Board positions, as the Board is always interested in sincere and willing help. Any member of the community is welcome to apply. Any member of the community interested in a mission of constructive activities intended to benefit others is welcome to apply.