PDF SPRING 2017: May 25 - 29
For many of us, the world as we know it was turned on its head on November 9th, leading many of us to question and readjust our priorities. As artists, activists, and changemakers in our own communities, so many of us were already involved in a high level of day-to-day civic engagement, but now we’ve seen those levels rise even more. We’re tired, but we’re fired up. We know that many of the fights that we see ourselves fighting for the next few years for equality and justice are only just getting started.
In the midst of this new social dynamic, Playa del Fuego, as an organization and as an event, is facing its own set of challenges. In comparison to the threats to our civil rights that we’re facing on a national level, many of these challenges may seem minor or even entirely unimportant. But they’re real and they’re having an impact on our ability to move forward. We’re reaching out to you today because we need your help in overcoming them.
For 15 years, Playa del Fuego has welcomed burners from up and down the mid-Atlantic region, and from around the country. The event has been a growing and ever changing family gathering. But just like in any family, tensions flare up and enthusiasm for even the most sacred traditions fade as time passes.
As an organization, Playa del Fuego is working to improve and formalize some of our policies, including those around safety, purchasing, and even art grants. In many ways, we are trying to put into writing the very processes that we’ve all known by heart, or made up as we went, and in doing so, we’re finding the gaps and getting a lot of pushback. Why change things if they’re not broken? Well, unfortunately, we’re finding that some of the processes are broken. And that’s okay, so long as we’re able to work together to fix them.
When PDF first started, we didn’t have other Regional events to learn from. Our Founding Members, including a handful of whom are still actively involved today, formed a framework of an organization in which an event could blossom. They founded Playa del Fuego, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and established a Board of Directors to oversee the organization.
Many of those early Board members were also the ones who initially handled the day-to-day coordination of the event. Even before there was an official Board of Directors, they created the Planning Committee, which remains a place where anyone from the community can participate in monthly calls to help plan and plot the details of the event’s structure. Departments started coming together out of the PC to oversee things like ticket sales, art grants, parking, public works, fire safety, and Rangering. Members of the community who had an affiliation for a particular part of the event would volunteer to help coordinate a department’s functions. Members of the Planning Committee would create new Departments whenever the workload for a particular Coordinator became too much, or they identified a way they could help make the event even better.
The Board of Directors has also evolved over the past decade. It has gone from a small group of individuals who made all operational decisions about the event to a team that strives to exist as an oversight body for the event itself, while overseeing the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of the organization and working to pursue broader community goals, such as identifying land and growing our community arts and civic responsibility grants program.
In 2007, the Board of Directors decided that the organization would start saving money with the intention of someday purchasing its own plot of land. This decision was made with the best of intentions, but has proven to be one of the biggest sticking points and causes of contention within the Playa del Fuego community over the years. Repeated failed attempts to find land have fueled rising levels of frustration from within the Community.
And it seems as though this frustration has filtered into other areas of the Community, breeding distrust and dissatisfaction.
Increasingly, members of the mid-Atlantic burner community have associated their frustrations with the muddy field in Delaware with the organization itself, and have abandoned all interest in assisting with the event or the vision of the organization. The Planning Committee meetings are now attended almost entirely by Coordinators only. Despite selling out in a matter of seconds, PDF struggles to recruit and retain volunteers, including Coordinators and members of the Board of Directors. This is not only disheartening, but it also puts at risk the future of the organization.
Where we are today:
THE PLAYA DEL FUEGO BOARD OF DIRECTORS currently has six directors. After what has proven to be an extremely unusual and stressful few months, three of the five directors we recruited last year have resigned since the beginning of 2017. And Ben Sargard, a founding member of Playa del Fuego who has been a member of the Board on and off for the past few years, has chosen to put his energy toward helping us establish our Advisory Team while also continuing to support our ticket purchase system.
After 14 years, Dave Diller is transitioning out of his role as President, passing off his responsibilities to Patty Simonton, PDF’s current Treasurer. This transition has been slowed by the fact that the Board has been unable to recruit a new director with the interest, the financial management skills, and the demonstrated commitment to the organization needed to fulfill the Treasurer’s responsibilities.
You can also complete this Board Nomination Form:
Additionally, the Board has instituted term limits for all directors. This means that once Patty officially replaces Dave, she will begin a two year term and then rotate out. Dave may remain on the Board for a few months before moving to a newly constructed Advisory Team. Damian has indicated that he is completing his term this November to focus his energy on raising little burners. Lizard, who has also been on the Board for many years, has committed to staying on through at least the Spring event. Both Monster and Gandhi are just over halfway through the first year of a three year term, and both will have the opportunity to re-up that term should they choose to.
As a team we have big dreams for the event and the organization. At the same time, we’ve acknowledged our individual capacity restraints, and know that we do not have the ability to do it all by ourselves. We’ve sorted ourselves into the following Committees, and are actively recruiting members of the Community to help support each of these teams:
* Governance and Finance
* Land Purchase
* New Event Planning
* Current Event Management
* Community Art Grants and Civic Responsibility
* Communications and Technology
Participants may apply to join the Board if they have an interest and feel it is a good fit. But more realistically, we envision working to facilitate larger teams of volunteers who are able to give what they can when they can, and work collaboratively, creating the event and the organization we want to see.
THE COORDINATORS have also seen a shake-up in the past few months. In particular, the entire Ranger leadership team has resigned for reasons that reflect the challenges the organization has faced addressing, formalizing, and writing down policies where once there were none. At this time, the Board is actively recruiting individuals from around the mid-Atlantic region and the world to help us fill these gaps. Simply put: Without a Ranger team, there will be no Spring 2017 event.
*** If you are interested in learning more or would like to volunteer or nominate someone who would be a good fit as a leader on the RANGER team, please contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org ***
In late 2016, the Board removed the MASH coordinator. This was the first time in the history of the organization where the Board was forced to step in to make a decision like this, and we did not take it lightly. At this time, we are working to finalize details around our new on and off-site MASH Coordinators. We are not currently recruiting for these roles, but seek to ensure that we have a large group of volunteers who can support this team.
As a result of the shake-up within the Playa del Fuego Safety Team of MASH, Rangers, Fire, and Sanctuary, the Board is recruiting a SAFETY LEAD to help us fill these leadership roles and assist with intra-Department communications.
*** If you are interested in learning more or would like to volunteer or nominate someone who would be a good fit for the Safety Lead, please contact us here: email@example.com ***
Finally, the Board is also actively recruiting an INVENTORY LEAD who can help the Coordinators and the Board lay the groundwork to ensure a smooth transition should the organization identify a new plot of land on which to hold our Fall 2017 event. At this time, a bulk of our inventory is stored in a shed on the property at the VVMC, as well as in the homes of our Coordinators around the region. We understand that while this has worked fine in the past, it could make for a challenging transition.
Position Description - Inventory Lead
*** If you are interested in learning more or would like to volunteer or nominate someone who would be a good fit for the Inventory Lead, please contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org ***
None of this is easy.
But those of us who have continued to give our time and our energy to the organization believe in the collective strength of our Community to be the force of change we need to clear the hurdles we face.
Today we’re asking for you to join us and prove us right.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The Playa del Fuego Board of Directors