WES Blog — What’s the Board been up to?

What’s the Board been up to?  (a.k.a. the “BOTs Blog”)  

Hello from your WES Board of Trustees (aka the WES BOTs).  We are excited to be back in rotation with regular written communications to the WES community.  Over the course of the 2017-18 Board year, you will hear at least once from each of your Trustees.  We look forward to this as an opportunity to tell you what your Board is working on and as an opportunity for you to get to know us better as a body and as individuals.  

The WES Board is a policy-based board, which means that our primary responsibilities are (i) to ensure that WES stays on track toward its stated vision (see the WES Ends and Focus Goals here); (ii) provide fiduciary oversight for the organization (see, e.g.,  D.C. Code §29-406.30); and (iii) supervise the Senior Leader.  The Senior Leader, Amanda, serves as the executive of our organization and, as such, is responsible for all of WES’s day-to-day functions and operations.  One of the challenges for a policy based Board is to stay in our lane, overseeing the big picture, the health of the organization and our mission alignment without dipping into operational decisions or areas of responsibility.    

With this in mind, the 2017-18 WES BOTs, in conversation with the Senior Leader, developed three goals for this Board year.  In addition to our general oversight and Board responsibilities, we will be focusing our efforts and energies in these areas in the nine months remaining in Board year 2017-18.  

Policy Inventory.  In case you missed it, WES has been growing!  In 2014 our average Sunday attendance (ASA) was 167 people in the building on Sunday mornings.  We closed out the 2017 congregational year with a pretty steady 250 ASA.  An increase of about 50% over a period of three short years.  A growth spurt of this magnitude requires us to take stock of the systems and structures we have in place to make sure they can support the new, larger WES.  Just like last year’s snow pants may no longer fit my growing son, so too may some of WES’s policies and practices no longer match the needs of our larger community.  And the best time to learn that your snow pants are too small (and to order new ones) is in September — long before the blizzard arrives.  Accordingly, the Board felt it important to do an inventory of our existing policies and compare those to policies of organizations similar in size and structure to WES.  With the help of UUA governance experts, we will conduct such an inventory and identify gaps that we hope to start filling long before “winter” comes.  

Enhanced Fiscal Literacy.  This is a fancy way of saying that the 2017-18 Board is committed to keeping WES’s financial health front and center for the WES BOTs, for WES staff, and for YOU!  It takes about $700,000 for WES to maintain the services and practices to which you are accustomed.  At least 60% of that revenue comes from membership pledges.  And, there is so much more we would like to do in terms services to members, services to our community, enhanced technological outreach, etc.  Maintaining and growing our services requires each of us to take fiscal responsibility — in our small or large way — for WES’s financial health and growth.  The Board has begun its enhanced fiscal literacy by adopting an aggressive but achievable reserves policy including allocating $42,000 to reserves this past June.  We have also moved to monthly financial reporting, meaning the BOTs and WES staff review WES’s financial health on a monthly basis.  And most importantly, we are exploring ways to realign and re-imagine WES’s budgeting cycle and communications to engage you, WES members, in the financial caretaking and visioning of our community.  Stay tuned on that front!

Determining Trustee Expectations & Responsibilities.  Finally, we know that organizations of our size are most successful when they treat lay leadership in a manner similar to paid leadership.  Clear responsibilities and expectations are key to ensuring we meet the needs of the WES community.  And, they are also critical to attracting and transitioning new leaders.  Your 2017-18 Trustees wish to use our time together this year to clearly define and publish what it is a WES Trustee can, and should, be expected to do.  

To a human, your Trustees are honored and excited to be serving a community and vision that we hold so dear.  We thank you for the trust you have placed in us.  And, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and hopes for WES’s present and future.  


In solidarity,

Rachel Alexander, Board President