I turned in my keys Friday & resigned from the Board of Directors & as Secretary. It's the 1st time since 1989 that I haven't had keys there & I am completely unaffiliated with 924 Gilman now. I feel a huge wave of relief, although it wasn't an easy decision to make.
Gilman's always been a half non-profit, half-tax paying entity. It's been operating as a non-profit under the umbrella of another non-profit for a couple of years, and it's finally really close to being a legally independent 501(c)3 non-profit. This means it can go out & raise funds & in-kind donations from individual donors & foundations.
Part of Gilman becoming a non-profit involves having a Board of Directors (who would probably organize fundraising efforts) and restructuring it's governance structure to accommodate this, as well as rewriting the by-laws to add some tweaks & some major changes. It has been a collective that is run by the 2xmonth collective meetings since 1986, open to all. Before this weekend's by-law changes, anyone who had attended at least one meeting in the past was allowed to vote. I believe that the new by-laws (at least the last version I saw) requires voting members to do at least 1 task a month (which is completely reasonable).
I have a lot of experience with writing by-laws for non-profits & egalitarian entities, reorganizing governance structures, and planning fundraising efforts for these types of places. Doing this for Gilman was my main reason for attending the twice-monthly collective meetings again.
The recent by-law revision that happened showed me that the super-close coordination & collaboration that these HUGE efforts require wasn't going to happen, at least not with me involved. I reached out to the main regular volunteers & asked for us to collaborate, to work together, but was mostly rebuffed.
It's kind of crazy to me that a group of regular, hard-working volunteers would shine on legitimate offers of help to lighten their already heavy load. I was always up front with what I could offer & that I was not interested in personal drama. Unfortunately personal drama created by some of the current volunteers definitely played a part in their reluctance to collaborate.
So I said, fine, here's my keys, here's my resignation, good luck.
I'm ambivalent, because while I feel strongly about Gilman's history, I am very worried by the statements & actions of some of the current volunteers. "Gilman hasn't been run as a collective for 2 years" is one that is factually wrong but fervently expressed by the current Head of Booking. No doubt the recently-passed by-law changes will move the place further in his preferred direction. (By-laws that I happily helped re-write, by the way- I don't think a place should stay sacred & unchanging, especially when a lot of the changes are good ideas)
There's a sense of "us" (the people who can give many hours a week) and "them" (the larger community, including many Gilman veterans who have previously given many hours a week for years- decades- at a time). There's a contempt for the worth of the contributions of "them," even though "they" will be some of the main targets for any successful fundraising effort.
Additionally, there are issues of volunteer retention & volunteer relations- another out-going volunteer said that they were always afraid of being yelled at by their "parents," i.e. some of the main volunteers, if they did something those main volunteers disagreed with.
This disapproval of dissent by the main regular volunteers is not healthy for a community-organized space. I ran into this myself over the past few months when I refused to leave my experience & knowledge at the door & get in line, and instead have a discussion about pros & cons of various things. Nothing I have done is any different than what I or hundreds (thousands?) of past Gilman volunteers have done over the decades. Advocate for a position, go to a vote, & win or lose a collective vote. Rinse, wash, repeat. Democracy sucks, get used to it- or change the rules.
While I will not say that donating to Gilman is a bad idea, I can't recommend it either. That sucks to write after all of these years of being a huge booster, but that's where it is.