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Good News for American Atheists

June 12, 2008

American Atheists has added David Silverman and Kathleen Johnson to the Board of Directors.

David Silverman is the Communications Director of the organization, while Kathleen Johnson is the Military Director. Both will retain their current positions as they take seats at the Board.

http://www.atheists.org/nogodblog/index.php/2008/06/09/news_dave_and_kathleen_join_the_board

Also, the Board voted to dismiss Ellen Johnson from the Board (and she choose not to be present for the meeting in which the vote occured), although I don’t consider this good or bad news.

Also, after reading the comments section of this post, American Atheists also appears to have added Blair Scott to the Board, who left the posts of Alabama State Director and National Affiliate Outreach Director in order to focus on Board duties.

Here are some reasons why I think this news is good overall:

  • the board is growing. The board was apparently at 9 people when recent events began. This may be a bit small, especially considering that the organization has had many problems during the last decade or so, including a lack of transparency, connection to members, and a website left over from the 90’s.
  • The organization is changing and has adopted an attitude of reform. It appears that the board had been stagnant for a long time, although it is unclear whether it has terms and term limits or not. Lines of communication seem to be open among board members, and they have used recent events to look at how the organization can improve.
  • David Silverman should have been on the board years ago. I once talked to him online some eight years ago, after stumbling upon him in an America Online chat room, and from what I could tell he has long been a voice for reform and transparency in the organization. He is outspoken even on his own blog about some of the problems he thinks the organization has.

Here is the response I wrote to the blog post on this subject:

Congratulations, David and Kathleen. David, I personally think your appointment to the Board is overdue by about 10 years, give or take. But better late than never. Is the board considering terms and term limits? One book on nonprofits that I’m reading says that in many organizations, once a board member serves the term limit, they have to leave the board for at least a year. Afterwards, they are able to rejoin it. Also, if you haven’t already, you might consider recruiting board members with a diverse range of abilities and experience. For example, one with experience in accounting, one with experience in web design, one with marketing experience, etc… Is the board considering hiring an executive director? It seems that most nonprofits that reach a certain size will hire an executive director who runs the day to day operations of the organization, and the board is there to provide oversight, knowledge, and fund raising contacts… Does AA have an up to date strategic plan? Up to date handbooks for board members, staff, volunteers, state and local leaders? Does AA regularly put out a call for volunteers, contact community colleges and universities for both volunteers and interims, and place ads for interims? -Andrew Clapper

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