Background for future changes to membership in FSFE e.V.

At the general assembly in October the Executive Council sought the members’ consent to simplify and streamline the route to membership in FSFE e.V. The members gave it, and as a consequence, the Executive Council will prepare a constitutional amendment to remove the institution of Fellowship Representatives at the next general assembly. If this constitutional amendment is accepted, active volunteers meeting a yet-to-be-decided threshold will be expected to directly apply for membership in the FSFE e.V. The Executive’s reasoning for moving in this direction can be found below.

For the reasons listed below, the Council believes that the institution of Fellowship Representatives has ceased to serve its original purpose (and may indeed have never served its intended purpose). In addition, it has become a tool for arbitrarily excluding active contributors from membership, and has thus become harmful to the future development of the organization. Wherefore, the Council believes that the institution of Fellowship Representatives should be removed and asks for the members’ consent in preparing a constitutional amendment to eliminate the institution and resolve the future status of Fellowship Representatives in office at the time of removal. The proposal would be presented to the General Assembly for adoption at the next ordinary meeting.

The Council believes the following:

1) The Fellowship Representatives were introduced for the purpose of giving FSFE’s sustaining donors (known as the Fellowship) a say in how FSFE is operated. This is almost unprecedented in the world of nonprofits, and our community would have been justly outraged if we had introduced similar representation for corporate donors.

2) The elections have identified a number of useful additions to the GA. Most of them can be described as active volunteers with FSFE before their election. The Council believes that by identifying and encouraging active contributors to become GA members and better documenting the procedure of becoming a member, the FSFE would have attracted the same people.

3) We should either agree on including volunteers whose contribution exceeds a certain threshold (core team membership? local/topical team coordinatorship? active local/topical team contributor for a year? – the threshold is entirely up for debate) as members or we should decline to extend membership on the basis of volunteering. It is simply wrong to pit volunteers against each other in a contest where a mixture of other volunteers and a miniscule fraction of solely financial contributors decide which of our volunteers are most deserving of membership. This unfortunate mechanism has excluded at least one current GA member from membership for several years, and it has been used to discourage a few coordinators from applying for membership in the past.

4) Reaching consensus on removing the Fellowship seats is always going to be difficult because we will keep electing new Fellowship Representatives who will understandably be hostile to the idea of eliminating the post. The current members who have been able to observe past and current Fellowship Representatives and their involvement in our activities need to decide if the institution serves a useful role or not, and hence whether to remove it or not. The Council believes it does not, and will prepare a constitutional amendment for GA2018 if the majority of the members feel likewise.