Dear members and friends of the.fmsoup.org (The Soup),
I am writing to inform you of some of the board's activities since the board assumed its functions on March 2, 2021.
The Soup was the property of its founder, Cécile Savoie, prior to incorporation. It would have been dissolved or a transfer of its ownership would have been required for The Soup to survive had the founder resigned prior to incorporation. Why? Because accounts, debts and assets belonged to Cécile. Property is unable to own or be responsible for anything.
The Soup was made a moral person as a consequence of incorporation. A moral person, like a physical person, can earn income, enter into agreements and own assets. A moral person is unable to make decisions on its own of course. It has no brain of its own like a physical person. A board of directors is a substitute for a corporation's brain, so to speak.
An important benefit of incorporation is the ability of a moral person to assume responsibility for its decisions and actions. Directors are shielded from responsibility from corporate decisions and actions… IF AND ONLY IF directors fulfill their duties and obligations.
The Soup is an organization with a global mission (See "Formulate the Organization's Mission" further in this post). Members hail from every continent of the world except Antarctica. The directors hail from three continents. While we cater to the world, not to any one country in particular, The Soup is a Canadian nonprofit corporation. We are therefore governed by the laws of Canada. This means the forum and the work performed by all directors and volunteers, Canadians and non-Canadians alike, are subject to Canadian law.
So our first activities were to educate ourselves and to perform our immediate duties. Cécile helped us with some of the initial tasks we were legally required to perform. One of us obtained, at personal cost, a book titled "Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada, 4th Edition", written by legal and academic scholars. This 600+ page brick turned out to be a valuable resource.
It may seem like being a director is risky, yet the risks are relatively low if we perform our legal duties and obligations. They are few but important. Cécile's position was riskier. She could have done everything right, yet could have paid a steep price had anything gone wrong due to unforeseen circumstances.
Systems, here, mean everything required to run and manage The Soup. We transferred assets and control from Cécile to The Soup. We established initial sets of procedures and obtained resources for the board to communicate effectively, manage The Soup's finances and to manage The Soup's operational and managerial data.
We evaluated, selected or created software, services and rules: an accounting software application; a bank account; a donation platform; a payment platform; a main and a redundant file storage service; a registrar; a hosting service; an email service; board meeting rules; moderation rules; a corporate dictionary. We are in the process of creating a management system.
Some of these were fairly straight forward. Some were / are complex and on-going (looking at you, management system).
Donations! The Soup relies entirely on them to fund its operations and projects.
Cashflow is king. A lack of cashflow can kill The Soup! Ours is uncomfortably tight. It forces us to focus too much on cash management. It also prevents us from obtaining useful goods and services (like the book that was purchased at personal cost).
We wanted to reduce barriers to donations as much as possible. We looked at the donation process and identified pain points. We reduced complexity as much as we could. The entire process is now click or tap the new button in the forum's header called "Support the Soup", fill out the web form… and that's it.
No need to enter URLs or deal with a payment processor anymore. You can even set up automated monthly donations. This re-engineered process ended up being win-win-win. Not only is the new process easier, it happens to be more cost-effective too.
Oh! Did I forget to ask? Please donate!
We created a mission statement. You can find it on The Soup's About page. It reads:
To offer an independent, accessible and freely available English language forum for all things FileMaker to FileMaker enthusiasts of the world and to ensure the persistence and searchability of the forum's knowledge.
I make it sound like a big deal right? It is! Every strategic goal made by The Soup's board of directors must be made in accordance with the mission statement. You would be right to think a mission statement constrains us. It also gives us focus and that is important.
We foster community, encourage creativity, respect diversity, and promote integrity.
Values are as big a deal as a mission statement. The mission statement tells us where we are going. Values influence how we will get there. They help all of us in our behaviour and in making and evaluating decisions and policies. While behaviours, decisions and policies may not tick all the value boxes, flags should be raised if any runs counter to a value.
The Soup encounters challenges from time to time like any other organization. Ours have so far mainly centred around moderation issues. Most of this work is the responsibility of the Community Administrator. The Community Administrator enjoyed the participation of the entire board from time to time specifically because moderation policies are still in their infancy. I will only give two examples here.
We revised policy regarding the posting of third-party content related to the FileMaker Platform. Think plugins, frameworks, etc. There was a concern here because many such content are published by the content's creators. Makes sense right? The problem lies in the fact much of this content can be viewed as advertisement and The Soup does not condone publicity for publicity's sake.
We had a case of a poster who used abusive language. The moderation team went to great length to help the poster change course. This member was expelled in the end. This was a tough one. We sought the advice of expert counsels. This case exposed a need to manage communications between members and management (directors and volunteers working on behalf of the directors). We created preliminary rules and the rules-making process is ongoing.
I know The Soup seems slow to respond to issues at times. We are a small team doing an awful lot of work… yet we want to do more. We want to be more responsive. We want to be more diversified. We want to increase the management team. We want to prepare The Soup's next leaders. In other words, we are looking for volunteers. I invite you to become a part of The Soup's management team. Contact a board member to get started.
The above list is not exhaustive but I hope it gives you an idea of what the board has been up to. I am personally proud of my fellow board members and I hope you are too. We have spent way more time and effort directing and managing than any of us anticipated prior to our election. We meet weekly. We communicate a lot. We remain active contributors.
The board still has a lot of work ahead of it. Setting up a management system is no small task. We have chosen the balanced scorecard as the basis for The Soup's management system. The creation of a balanced scorecard is a multi-month process. It started with the formulation of the mission statement. We are now formulating strategic goals. Formulation of initiatives and measurements will follow.
I hope this insight into the board's activities helped you understand where we are at, some of the progress we made and where we are going. I thank you all for your patience and your contributions, small and large, to The Soup.