Thursday, October 4, 2007

the other side of a membership organization

last night I had my first meeting as the Bass Section Assistant Representative to the Membership Committee of the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles. I was elected by my fellow basses back in June. There were two reps from each section plus elected officers, also from the membership of the chorus, and then the Music Director of the Chorus, and the Executive Director. The chorus is a non-profit, membership organization, like a church. None of the singers are paid, but both the music director and the exectuive director are paid. And we have a few other paid staff positions as well.

At church I am udually the only paid staff person at the meetings I attend. And usually I'm the most informed person in the room as it's my job to know what's going on and to develop much of the vision and programming. At the chorus meeting I was one of the majority who were volunteers in the chorus, and I barely had any idea of what was going on. We listened to the Directors and gave input, but mostly tried to keep up with their excitement and plans.

Early in the meeting the directors shared an idea about a change in the performance schedule for the future: doing more smaller concerts in several places around Los Angeles, rather than a single weekend of four large concerts at one theater. It's a perfectly sound strategy for making our chorus more well-known and influential. It's the kind of idea I would have come up with myself for the church: focused on the mission of the congregation and the larger mission of the faith. But as a member of the chorus I balked. How could we ask volunteer members to sing more often and to drive themselves to more locations? The Directors, for whom their chorus work is a full time job, had not sufficiently considered the impact on the chorus members who are all volunteers. I wonder how often I've created plans for the church from my skewed perspective and proposed ideas that failed to account for the reality of the church membership?

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