Council 2009 09

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When: September 16, 7:15 p.m.
Place: Free Geek
Facilitator: Ezra
Scribe: Anne
Minutes Checker: None
Attendance: Elizabeth, Sophia, Dave, Michael, Debra, Laurel 2.0, Shannon, Roy, Richard, Laurel 1.0, Tony, Jon, Cliff, Ann
Last meeting: Aug 19, 2009


For items not completed, see

  • Sergio - email Council when commissioned sales start - carryover
  • Seamus - email with possible evaluation criteria for how online sales is working - carryover
  • Sophia, Ezra and Laurel - survey volunteers about the discount - done
  • Richard - Present to Council about Optimization and Priorities Committee Process - In Progress. Presentation is ready.


Reports from other working groups.
  • Store discount survey was posted to the Council list



  • Candidate Shannon Beutel introduction

  • There are three open seats on the board. Terms for board members are for two years, staggered.
  • Curt Pederson's term is up, and he is interested in continuing.
  • Sayer's term is up. He is new to the Board, having joined mid-term, and is interested in standing for the same position.
  • Seamus' term is up and he does not plan to continue on the Board
  • Question re Curt's plans -- He can't often make Council meetings because of distance. He has missed a couple of meetings for health reasons, but his health is improving now.
  • Question re Board's function -- The Board is in charge of making sure that Free Geek is legally and fiscally responsible. Reviews the budget. Required by law.
  • The Council selects the Board.
  • Shannon Beutel is applying for a board position. She has been volunteering about 3 years, in testing and in legal. Familiar with Free Geek, has worked in cooperatives for about 10 years including consensus-based organizations. Lots of respect for what FG does. Finished law school, but will not take the bar until February. Will be a lawyer by March-April.

Shannon left the room for discussion of the candidacies of Shannon, Curt and Sayer.

  • Question about open positions, timing and Council's role: Board selection is once per year. The Board can expand its size, but all new board members are selected by the Council.
  • Question: are there other candidates? No there are not.
  • No Concerns were raised.
    • Decision adopted: Shannon Beutel added to the Board. Curt Pedersen and Sayer Jones re-upped as Board members.


  • Please see extensive discussion on Council list.
  • As requested by council, the Sales Committee reviewed the results of

the volunteer survey and did much checking in with folks in general in order to create the following proposal:

PROPOSAL: The Thrift Store Discount Policy will be changed to read as follows: "Free Geek offers a 20% discount on all purchases made in the Free Geek Thrift Store to current, paid workers and to volunteers who have logged at least three hours in the past 30 days.

"Volunteer hours must be logged in the database at the time of the purchase. Discounts cannot be combined or applied retroactively."

  • Clarifing Questions
    • Why the cut? - The discount has been gamed and abused, and attempts to address that problem have led to creating exceptions that are difficult to enforce and maintain. Store workers are having to do a lot of policing including questioning people's motives. It has been a lot of additional work. The discount is very high right now - you can volunteer four shifts per year and get the full discount, and some people have been doing just that. Commercial resellers have been buying up lots of stuff which then is not available for volunteers.
    • Did the Sales Committee consider retaining the language in the current policy about "no commercial resale" and "we can revoke at any time."? This was considered, but store staff would like to set the policy and then not have to worry about these issues or spend so much time on this any more.
  • Concern:
    • Debra finds the proposal insulting and degrading to volunteers. It says that time as a volunteer is not valued as much. Would like to see the minimum time commitment increased to six hours instead of three. Other places put more effort into volunteer appreciation than Free Geek does
    • Questions Which Clarify the Concern:
      • Do other volunteers feel this way? -- This is the second significant change in volunteer appreciation policies recently. Formerly when someone reached 1,000 hours, they received a super computer. That was quietly changed. Volunteers do notice and discuss these changes. Quite a few volunteers, including some with over 1,000 hours do not feel listened to, and do not feel they would be listened to in Council meetings.
      • Ezra feels hurt when people say they are volunteering only for the discount. He has not heard complaints from other volunteers.
      • Are there other things Free Geek could do to recognize and appreciate volunteers? -- "Thank yous" from staff are good, but more needs to be done. The events aren't necessarily successful in making volunteers feel appreciated. The Inreach Committee is responsible for volunteer recognition. Should inreach to the volunteers that share this concern. Laura will get Inreach to talk to Debra about this.

  • Concern:
    • Roy feels that the discount should be much higher, but that minimum hours required to qualify for the discount should also be much higher. He does not buy a high volume of stuff in the store, but he really likes the discount when he does and thinks it's a great reward for committed volunteers.

  • Concern:
    • It's wrong to give volunteers only a 20% discount, when we have a "Friends" discount of 25% that applies to Citybikes, KBOO and People's Co-op.
      • Agreed. That policy has its own set of issues, and we are in the process of getting rid of it. We are transitioning to a system of printed coupons for "Friends." That is not part of this proposal but is under discussion.
  • Richard gave some background: The store and the store discount existed before Council even existed. There was a question in the early days whether or not to have a store at Free Geek. This is the first time that Council has really talked about the discount.
  • Dave and others clarified the reasons for the current proposal. This proposal is to address a particular problem: the abuse of the current discount. (Much discussion was had about this abuse, and its negative effects on volunteers, staff, and income.)
  • The Store Committee wants a single-tier discount, because it will be easier to keep track of and handle.
  • The store discount is not publicized at all right now, so the Store Committee is skeptical that it's a big incentive or reward for most volunteers. Many people first learn about it when they go to buy something at the store.
  • The Store Committee seem to feel strongly that policing the fair use of a high discount is a very, very difficult, time-consuming, distracting and unpleasant thing for them.
  • The new policy would probably take about 90 days to implement. Coding, website and communications will have to change.
  • Question: Why was 20% proposed? Why not 30% or more?
    • We expect to give away $100k this year in volunteer discounts, which is a huge percentage of our budget. This is way out of line with what other nonprofits do in the way of volunteer appreciation. The specific number of 20% seems fairly standard among nonprofits. The Store Committee has not seen any examples above 20%, which is also in line with an IRS fringe benefit level.
  • Proposed modification: Raise the hours requirement. One Proposal: six hours in 30 days. Another proposal: 24 hours in 30 days.
    • Concern: These higher hours levels would be difficult for a lot of people to to do. General feeling was that the discount should be for all bona fide active volunteers, not only those who are in a position to do high hours. 2.5-4 hours a month is a lot for many volunteers to achieve because of their other responsibilities as well as the backlog in volunteer opportunities.
    • The Store Committee considered using a 90-day period (say 4 hours in 90 days), but decided that would be too long to deal with. They also decided to lower the hours to 3 hours because a lot of people work 3.5 hour shifts.
    • The Store Committee discussed a two-tiered policy. One problem has been people staying to work toward a compensation rather than because they want to help Free Geek.

    • Decision adopted. There were two unresolved concerns AKA Stand Asides:
      • (1) Free Geek does not do enough to appreciate its volunteers. Reducing the discount reduces an important form of volunteer appreciation and sends the wrong message to volunteers. The Inreach Commmittee will follow up with Debra on this issue.
      • (2) Highly committed volunteers should be eligible for a discount larger than 20%. A higher discount level should be maintained, but the required hours should be increased significantly to address the problem of abuse.
      • All agreed that the new policy needs to be rolled out with sensitivity and an open ear to volunteer feedback.


  • Sergio - email Council when commissioned sales start - carryover
  • Seamus - email with possible evaluation criteria for how online sales is working - carryover
  • Richard - Present to Council about Optimization and Priorities Committee Process - In Progress. Presentation is ready.
  • Laurel 2.0 - talk with Inreach Committee about working with Debra on volunteer appreciation issues
  • Tony - Put the new store discount policy on the Staff agenda

Next Meeting

  • Facilitator: Laurel 1.0
  • Scribe: Shannon
  • Minutes Checker:
  • Consensus Trainer: Debra
  • Reporters to other meetings?
  • Date and time:
  • Place: Same Bat Place
  • List of unfinished business for the next meeting:
    • How the Optimization and Priorities Committee worked
    • Volunteer status discussion