September 6, 2022

IDA Board Newsletter | Fall 2022

IDA Board Executive Committee: Grace Lee, Chris Perez, Amir Shahkhalili, and Marcia Smith.

By GRACE LEE, Chris Pérez, Amir Shahkhalili AND Marcia Smith

Dear IDA Community,

We hope this note finds you well and enjoying the waning days of summer. It has been a busy few months but we wanted to give an update on some of the activities of the IDA board since our executive committee’s last newsletter

Like the organization itself, the IDA Board of Directors is in a transition period. The composition of the board has changed and board members are deepening their understanding of best practices in nonprofit governance. Co-chairs Grace Lee and Chris Perez, as well as ED Rick Pérez, have been attending a six-month workshop specifically geared for nonprofit board of directors, executive directors and volunteer leaders to implement cause-based governance to serve the community. We’ve met others from across the country dealing with wide-ranging issues such as aiding the unhoused to sustainable fishing and agriculture. While the focus of our organizations are varied, the issues facing nonprofits are strikingly similar. We’ve learned a lot from peers in other fields.

This spring, we welcomed three new members from the documentary community to the board: independent producers Ina Fichman and Maria Agui Carter, as well as executive Michael Turner. We’re excited for the new energy and ideas each is bringing to IDA. You can read more about them as well as the other board members here. Their addition follows the departure of five board members whose terms ended after many years of service to IDA during a period of critical growth. We are grateful to Caroline Libresco, Fonda Berosini, James Costa, Lauren Lexton and Jannat Gargi for all of their contributions and dedication to IDA. 

LISTENING SESSIONS

In March, the IDA executive committee held two listening sessions with several people who had written letters to the IDA board asking how the organization was moving forward in the wake of multiple staff resignations. Also present were representatives from the staff and facilitators Angela Oh, Akil Bell and Sienna McLean-LoGreco. The purpose of the sessions was to clear pathways for better communication with regards to IDA’s future. As board members, we heard a wide variety of perspectives: People who were excited about the new direction of IDA leadership, others who felt that the organization was struggling under the board and executive leadership, and others still who expressed concern with how IDA was handling these matters. We understand and appreciate that many members of our field care about the wellbeing of IDA’s staff, as do we. These conversations were very informative and we are grateful for everyone who shared their thoughts with us. As a freshly established executive committee (many of us new), we understand that this is an ongoing conversation and look forward to continuing it with a wider swath of this incredibly diverse community.   

We’ve had a busy few months since then. Our plan was to hold more listening sessions with IDA members, staff, ED and the IDA Board. The departure  of more staff, the search for, hiring and onboarding of new staff and the challenges of keeping the organization’s programming up and running (including the planning of Getting Real, the Fiscal Sponsorship Program, the Awards and Grants department) all contributed to the postponement of  further listening sessions. It was also during this period that we began vetting legal counsel and educating ourselves on the collective bargaining process with IDA staffers organizing to start a union.

The board moved quickly to recognize the Documentary Workers United on a voluntary basis, and we look forward to working with the DWU to support a healthy, safe and thriving work environment at the IDA. We are working with attorney Kathy Krieger, who has practiced labor and employment law for over forty years, representing labor unions, individuals and nonprofits. Over the years she has served as an Associate General Counsel to the AFL-CIO, was General Counsel of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, among others. We care deeply about the IDA staff’s wellbeing and appreciate the work and dedication of former staff who helped lay the foundation for some of these ongoing changes.

Moving forward, we recognize that open and regular communication between the IDA Board and staff is part of the rebuilding of IDA. These occasional newsletters are part of that process.  

BOARD DEVELOPMENT

This rebuild also involves strengthening how the board functions. Most non-profit boards (including IDA’s) are responsible for fiduciary oversight, supervision of the ED, and the overall health of the organization. Part of our commitment to IDA is to strengthen our own capacity to do our jobs as a Board well. This spring, IDA board’s executive committee began working with Tim Kittleson, a seasoned nonprofit board consultant who has guided organizations such as  Film Independent, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Outfest. With Tim’s help, we have rebooted our board committees, reassessing the committee roles when it comes to IDA’s Governance, Finance, Audit, Development, and Advocacy. Committee activity had stalled during the pandemic and numerous staff and board transitions, so we are eager to get it back up and running. We are always open to considering members of the IDA community for advisory work on the committees, so please reach out to us if you have the interest, time and energy. (idaboard@documentary.org

Aside from strengthening how the board operates, we are establishing regular communication between board and staff as well as between board and IDA members so that a culture of mutual respect and understanding can flourish. With the return to hybrid virtual/in-person office work, a Getting Real conference Sept 27-29 that will be attended by hundreds in person and many more virtually, and our first in-person board meeting in three years, we hope that convening face to face will help everyone re-discover our common mission as IDA community members and continue building together. Please be sure to check out the upcoming Screening Series and DocuClub events, as well as our recent Tax Incentives 101 webinar

We sincerely hope to cultivate a culture of open communication for everyone committed to IDA. We are very excited about the upcoming Getting Real conference and hope to see many of you there. Please keep an eye out for a session with board members and ED Rick Perez where we will continue this dialogue and as always, reach out to us with any ideas and suggestions. 

Until then, 

IDA Board Executive Committee

Grace Lee
Chris Pérez
Amir Shahkhalili
Marcia Smith

idaboard@documentary.org 

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