General Administration Plan
The overall question is "How will Free Geek survive and fulfill its mission and live up to its principles over the next five years?", but here we are talking about administrative tasks. In other words, we are asking how Free Geek's structures and such will support the principles and mission.
How our administration shapes up in the next three to five years will largely depend on if and how we grow, or if we stay the same size, or even shrink.
Meetings and committee structure
As Free Geek has grown, its staff has delegated a number of decision making tasks to standing committees. The same can be said of the community council. The recent establishment of the Optimization and Priorities group and the Space Cadets are examples of this.
If Free Geek continues to grow, there could be a restructuring of the staff into three or four sub-collectives that have more autonomy regarding their hiring and schedules. It is likely that the board would establish a few standing committees as well, for example a formal budgeting committee. If this pattern of decentralization continues, there will need to be more emphasis on communication between the various groups. For instance assuming a larger number of collective members, it will be impossible to require them all to attend at a weekly meeting. This would mean more substantive decisions would get made at the committee (or sub-collective) level. In turn, this would require the coordinating group (currently C7) to transform into a more representative body. We would have to get better at posting concise reports to our email lists and also develop better habits of reading those reports.
An alternate direction (still assuming growth) would be for Free Geek to establish a second location each staffed by a sub-collective. The second location could operate much like the current one. The two locations could be jointly managed (regarding payroll, health care, etc.) but day to day decisions would obviously be made by the local staff.
It is also possible that Free Geek is peaking and will not grow larger. Competition from other recyclers, technological trends that reduce interest in tinkering with computers, or falling prices for electronics could all play a role in reducing the number of incoming gizmos or volunteers that participate. In this event our current structure is unlikely to change much.
If we actually begin to shrink, we need to be conscious that some of our structures may not need to continue. Committees and working groups will need to combine with each other, etc.
In a growing Free Geek it is likely that each sub-collective will take more responsibility for hiring its own members, with less of a need to get buy in from all collective members. Consider a Free Geek with six paid interns, each serving six month terms. This translates to a hiring each month. Add to that regular staff turnover and asking everyone on staff to weigh in on every hiring decision begins to look less practical. The HR committee will likely switch from the committee that does the bulk of the hiring work to one that advises the sub-collectives on how to do that job right (regarding Free Geek policy and legal requirements). Considering we already have four internships and a considering a fifth, we should consider this model for at least intern hiring.
HR also oversees staff and volunteer discipline and staff reviews. In a growing Free Geek, it would need to take on a more advisory role to the sub-collectives.
In a shrinking Free Geek, we would need to combine jobs as natural turnover happens amongst staff collective members. We would also want to consider reducing the number in paid internships as their terms expire. These measures require looking far enough ahead to determine if we actually are shrinking. There will also be an incentive to reduce staff costs by rolling back wages and benefits.
Staff Costs and Benefits
We will strive to increase benefits for staff members. There are several goals we could pursue, and we should try to make progress a little at a time on each:
- Increase pay of staff to a living wage defined at twice the minimum wage (or $15.60 at current minimum wage levels). The staff currently is paid $11.55 per hour.
- Increase the maximum amount of time we pay salaried staff members to 40 hours per week. The current actual number is 35 hours.
- Increase the matching amount the Free Geek puts into retirement accounts for staff members to 5% of the salary. We currently match 3.2%.
- Continue to cover health care, but extend it to cover children of staff collective members. Also extend it to cover interns and other long term workers.
- Increase staffing so we can have full coverage on the floor and administratively. This could include 2-3 more collective members (not including the soon-to-be-hired Education Coordinator) and 2 more paid interns.
Free Geek has a diverse funding base from earned income including a few different sales streams, "retail" donations, monitor fees, and the sale of scrap materials. Each of these streams should be maintained as they are a great strength of Free Geek as a community organization. We could also develop unearned income streams, typical of other nonprofits, for example a "Friends of Free Geek" sustainers club, foundation grants, etc. These unearned income streams would capitalize on Free Geek's good name in the community and should be directed at one time expansion needs and the establishment of new programs.
Threats to our current funding streams include the potential loss of monitor fees as a result of the ewaste legislation, long term decrease in "retail" donations as competing recyclers establish drop off points that are more convenient. We could meet these threats by trying to influence the rules governing the ewaste legislation such that part of the money comes in to Free Geek, or by partnering with recyclers as their "green" reuse component. We are, after all, essentially a reuse facility that recycles because through recycling we can skim the good stuff out and reuse it. If we could find another way to get the usable components, we could reduce our recycling related expenses (along with the income).
We'll need to do a lot more budgeting and forecasting in the next year as the ewaste legislation settles into place. This will be difficult as the lay of the land in the future is currently fairly unpredictable.
If we start getting government money as a result of the ewaste legislation, or if we pursue certain types of grants, we'll likely need to survive an external audit. This will require some changes in how we track money, authorize expenditures, etc. This in turn will require more time bookkeeping.
|Good (for Free Geek)||Bad (for Free Geek)|
(to Free Geek)
Strengths: Strengths are advantages we have that are internal to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things we do.)
Weaknesses: Weaknesses are problems we have that are internal to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Things we do poorly or not at all.)
(to Free Geek)
Opportunities: Opportunities are advantages we have that are external to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things that will or could happen to us.)
Threats: Threats are problems we have that are external to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Bad things that will or could happen to us.)