Selection Process for the SDCAP Board of Directors

We’re about to begin selecting new members for the Board of Directors (BOD) to begin terms in March 2019. There’s been a lot of chatter about the BOD selection process, so we wanted to share some information about who we are, what we do, how we got here, and what to consider if you want to join us.

What is SDCAP?

The San Diego Collaborative Arts Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization founded in 2012. SDCAP’s Mission is to support collaborative arts in San Diego, particularly those aligned with the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Current SDCAP projects include YOUtopia, CoLab, and year-round grantmaking.

SDCAP is the legal entity. In the eyes of the law and the IRS, YOUtopia and CoLab don’t exist. They aren’t even DBAs. At the end of the day, SDCAP is the responsible party.

What is the BOD?

The BOD’s function is fiduciary, legal, and operational oversight. The BOD doesn’t initiate much (more on that below), and rather serves an administrative function in terms of protecting the organization and its assets. That’s what’s required by CA and federal law.

Legal requirements for non-profit governance fall into 3 categories: Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience. If you’re thinking about applying for the BOD, we recommend spending some time reading up on these terms and thinking about whether that’s truly the role you want to play in the organization. In practice, we spend a ton of time talking about budgets, accounting, liability, safety, and insurance. It’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD, per its bylaws and in accordance with the laws of CA, is comprised of anywhere from 7-15 Directors and is required to have a President/Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profit Boards are responsible for recruiting their own Directors.

All Directors:

  • Serve a 3-year term, working year-round.
  • Attend 2 BOD meetings per month, from 7-9pm on the 2nd and 4th Weds at CoLab.
  • Attend 2-3 weekend retreats per year.
  • Serve sober, on-call shifts at YOUtopia.
  • Spend anywhere from 10 to 40+ hours per week working via email/phone/ad hoc meetings to conduct SDCAP business.
  • Are volunteers.
  • Are still eligible to apply for and receive grant funding from SDCAP, but must recuse themselves from voting on these matters and disclose any potential conflicts of interest on an annual and ongoing basis.

The SDCAP BOD generally operates using a consensus model, as is considered a best-practice by many a non-profit governance guru. If you’re not familiar with consensus models, this is another thing we recommend reading up on before you throw your hat in the ring.

What does the BOD make happen for the San Diego Burning Man community?

Not much. Due to the nature of non-profit governance, we’re primarily about protecting the assets of the 501(c)(3), so we can keep having YOUtopia, keep the lights on at CoLab (and hopefully expand it in the coming years), and keep giving out art grants year-round, as those are the ways we advance our mission. It can often feel (to us and others) like we’re the fun police. We’re part of a system of checks and balances, and we’re the risk-averse side of the system. We’re more likely to prevent than to instigate or initiate. Again, not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

The BOD does select the YOUtopia Producers each year. And then we work with the Producers in developing, approving, and managing the YOUtopia budget – including oversight of the interdisciplinary Art Grants Committee. We also work with the Producers on anything within event operations that could have financial or safety or legal consequences, pose an existential threat to the event, or fall under one of the 3 Duties of non-profit governance.

If you’re primarily interested in joining the BOD in order to have a big impact on the look and feel of YOUtopia “on the ground,” you may be disappointed. The BOD doesn’t have anything to do with the soundscape, theme camp placement, volunteer SWAG, whether there’s enough grilled cheese in Commissary, or how many Kubotas are allocated to each department. The BOD does have oversight of things like Volunteer Ticket pricing, Commissary budget, total budget for Kubotas, and capital investments to Safety equipment; those are all areas the BOD and Producers collaborate on in the early stages of YOUtopia planning, as we hammer out a budget. Execution of the budget and overall operations for the event are entrusted to the Producers and their Leads Team… until/unless something gets escalated to the BOD because of – you guessed it – financial or legal reasons.

That’s not to say the BOD doesn’t ever get involved in Production matters. One example is that in 2018 we got a lot of feedback from our volunteers that the balance is off when it comes to hours worked vs ticket pricing and perks. Volunteers are working too much and feel under-appreciated and under-supported. This is the sort of issue the BOD can and will be involved in addressing, in collaboration with the 2019 Production Team. It’s a delicate balance, though: while the BOD will be a part of setting the big picture for 2019, the “on the ground,” volunteer experience is still going to be largely dictated by the Leads Team. It’s sort of like how your day-to-day life at your job is primarily determined by your immediate manager, not the CEO.

BOD Selection Process History (aka “real fake elections”)

Per SDCAP’s bylaws and the State of CA, non-profit boards are responsible for selecting their Directors. From 2012 to 2017, in addition to BOD members recruiting community members for service, there were also “Advisory Elections,” in order to take the pulse of the community. These Advisory Elections were never definitive (SDCAP is not a democracy or a co-op – that’s not how non-profit governance works), and the BOD always retained the right to make its own selections. The results of the Advisory Elections did historically align with the BOD’s selections. However, by 2017 participation in the Advisory Elections had dwindled to approx. 85 people total (out of a local community of many thousands of people), which is in no way representative. At the same time, the BOD realized we needed people with very specific non-profit management skills in order to continue to grow up as an organization. So we scrapped the Advisory Elections, while keeping a Community Feedback Form (which had 22 respondents), so community members could still weigh in on the folks running for BOD seats. In 2017, the sitting BOD attempted to fill 3 open seats for 2018, reached consensus about 2 candidates, and left 1 seat vacant.

BOD 2018 Mid-Cycle Appointments

As mentioned previously, SDCAP is required to have between 7-15 members on the BOD. Due to the 1 open seat from the 2017 selection and then 3 mid-cycle resignations, we suddenly found ourselves down to only 5 members. As it is the BOD’s right and responsibility to get back up to 7+ members as quickly as possible, we decided to do some mid-cycle appointments. And as is required and typical every selection cycle, current BOD members recruited from the community, specifically targeting people we know have the skills we want. That’s how we got our 2 Interim Directors. And we are damn lucky to have them. The Interim Directors’ terms end in March 2019, and they are both eligible to run in this upcoming cycle to begin full terms immediately.

Because we’ve gotten some feedback that the process wasn’t transparent enough: In addition to the 2 people we recruited, we also posted the open BOD member position to multiple Facebook pages and sent an email including information about mid-cycle selections to over 8,000 people – everyone who purchased a YOUtopia ticket in 2015, 2016, and 2017. EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE. We received one additional application.

2019 Selection Process

We’re still working on the details, so please don’t hold us to this 100% just yet. The process is likely to include:

  • Applications Open (December)
  • Applications will be ranked to determine the Best Qualified candidates per the Job Description
  • Best Qualified candidates will be invited to interview at an Open Candidate Forum held at CoLab (January)
  • Community Advisory Election, with option to cast votes either at the Open Candidate Forum or online (January)
  • Community narrative feedback via confidential/anonymous online form (January)
  • Optional Facebook Q&A in the existing Candidate Forum Group (for those who use Facebook – not a requirement for BOD service)
  • BOD finalizes selections (February)
  • New Directors begin their terms 2nd Wednesday in March

Open BOD Seats in 2019

BOD Members serve 3 year terms, with 3 positions turning over at once each March. Because of an unfilled seat and 3 resignations in 2018, things got pretty funky. We’re staggering the terms for the new Directors coming on in 2019 in order to get things back on track.

Our goal is to get back up to 9 members. There are 6 seats available, as follows:

  • 1 seat for term ending in 2020
  • 2 seats for term ending in 2021
  • 3 seats for term ending in 2022

BOD Member Job Description

Applications are not yet live, but the Job Description is. When applications go live in December, we’ll send out an email and there will be posts on Facebook. 

Got Questions?

If you’re considering joining the BOD, the first thing to do is start attending BOD meetings. Attendance at at least 2 meetings is required prior to being considered for an interview. Attending all BOD meetings between now and March is strongly encouraged.

Beyond that, feel free to reach out to current BOD members if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat. We’re all willing (individual schedules permitting) to talk with you about our personal experience serving on the BOD, if you want a 1:1 conversation in-person or by phone. You can reach out to any of us individually and all of us via BOD@SDCAP.org.