Board Meeting Minutes
photo_camera Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
A rescued rooster at Farm Sanctuary's Acton shelter

2019

February 11, 2019

Board members present: Kelly Witwicki, Jonas Vollmer, Diana Fleischman

Meeting moderator (chair): Jonas Vollmer

Minute taker: Diana Fleischman

Agenda items:

  1. Formalities
  2. 2018 Q3 report
  3. 2018 Q4 report
  4. Annual performance review of ED
  5. Miscellaneous

The board meeting starts at 11am ET.

1. Formalities

The meeting was held via video call. Diana Fleischman was appointed as minute taker. The full board is present, so the quorum is met.

2. 2018 Q3 report

Low income, but not concerning given typically uneven distributions of donations; no budget change; spent a lot on international speaking tours ahead of the book’s publication, earmarked; published some articles and podcasts.

Kelly assisted and advised a gender equity group in the animal rights community; continued advising advocates on strategy, careers, and research as usual; Jacy participating in monthly calls with other EAA research groups.

Hired Jamie.

In-progress research: Jamie’s exploration of the tractability of changing the course of history, informing what can we expect to learn from history and longtermism; J working on biofuels tech adoption case study; Jacy working on large-scale messaging RCT; Kelly working on review of research regarding strategies for equity and inclusion.

Mistakes: We probably should have waited on hiring Jamie as Jacy was too busy to give ample time to his onboarding, but it was fine.

3. 2018 Q4 report

Raised $134,000, some of which CEA is still processing.

Kelly discussed the budget, salaries, and the budget for getting representative samples from mTurk or other platforms.

Published book, and gave book talks in US. Two ways of measuring outreach, sales and quantity and quality of exposure: sales were low, unsurprisingly, but received substantial mainstream media exposure incl interview on TYT, Quillette articles, and The Guardian, which was especially good and can now serve as a resource on SI’s views of humane animal farming. MFA hosted a book giveaway which was good exposure for the book.

Kelly published DEI piece, which Diana reviewed. Kelly shared DEI piece’s positive reception.

Kelly called with THL staff about SI’s work.

J’s biofuel’s study has been recently edited by Jacy and that should be to external reviewers in the next few weeks.

Jamie’s health behavior lit review is done and Jacy will edit that soon.

Jacy now working on large-scale messaging RCT with two academics.

Kelly and Jacy have generally deprioritized how much time they think SI should be doing quantitative research, because of qualitative niche SI has developed in EAA ecosystem, pushing this to the 3rd full-time researcher hire (5th staff member) and deprioritizing Jacy working on quant research, though not deprioritizing entirely as shorter-term outlook of most EAA researchers leaves some quant projects neglected.

Kelly’s moral expansion literature review is on the backburner, not sure when it will move forward. Jamie is interested in doing a social movement case study, he’s currently considering which movement to focus on. J is thinking about shaping up the GM foods report into something that could be published in a journal. Kelly discussed some reflections on previous hiring decisions and staff contributions.

Mistakes: Jacy should have pursued a piece in the NYT more aggressively after they expressed interest. Also thinks he should have done more interview practice. Jamie’s history blog posts maybe should have been just one report. Jacy isn’t sure if he should have named the book differently or focused more on virality instead of intellectual rigor. We think that Jacy spent too much time on speaking before the book came out. Starting the messaging strategies RCT this year might have been too low priority. Kelly and Jacy should have been more in contact with donors over the past year. Kelly failed to thank one donor until about a year after their donation.

In the upcoming quarter SI is hiring a new quantitative researcher to run RCTs etc, hopefully will bring someone on board with social science research background in the next month or two.

Will get external review on J’s most recent report; previous reports did not due to time constraints. J and Jamie working on prioritization.

Jacy spoke at SF Alternative Protein Show.

Kelly spoke at NYC local EA meetup about antislavery study and other work.

Kelly will talk at New Food Conference in Berlin about psychological and social factors influencing animal-free food adoption. Kelly’s looking forward to talking with ACE’s new ED Leah Edgerton while she’s there.

Board reviewed annual mistakes for public page.

Kelly wants to formalize SI’s impact assessment and keep record of metrics. Shared document with some metrics recalled to date, broken down by insights, movement influence, and public outreach. Jonas suggested a way to measure relative value of research projects. We discussed considering impact relatively, and absolutely.

4. Annual performance review of ED

Jonas discussed the performance review of the executive director. This was originally written in the bylaws but could be simplified. Jonas has in mind a document detailing some high level decisions and how they were reached as the most important aspects to include in the evaluation and apart from that the rest we might get from quarterly reports. Kelly says she is happy to adapt the quarterly reports into an annual executive report that has the relevant details. Jonas will edit the criteria in the SI performance report as to what he thinks is missing from the quarterly report and we will all sign off on it, then Kelly will prepare the report and the board will review.

5. Miscellaneous

Jonas is considering stepping down from the board due to time constraints. We discussed consulting with new people to invite to the board. Three people must be on the board at all times. Diana discussed how she might have to step down in several months time too. Kelly will draft list of candidates.

The board meeting closes at 12:10pm ET.

2018

July 24, 2018

Board members present: Kelly Witwicki, Jonas Vollmer, Diana Fleischman

Meeting moderator: Kelly Witwicki

Minute taker: Diana Fleischman

Agenda items:

  1. Formalities
  2. Q2 2018 report
  3. Board of advisors

The board meeting starts at noon ET.

1. Formalities

Diana Fleischman was decided as the minute taker. We didn’t have a formal agenda but we did go through the quarterly report.

2. Q2 2018 report

Funding and budget: Kelly said SI has completed a whole year and has runway until March 2019. In estimating the runway Kelly excludes unusual grants. Kelly says she is comfortable budgeting a little over 250K a year. Including money CEA is holding SI has roughly 170K in the bank. Kelly said SI now has the funding to make salaries commensurate with other organizations’ entry-level salaries. SI is more funding constrained than talent constrained so it’s okay for now to offer entry level salaries. Jonas discussed with Kelly estimating funding runway including how much diversity of funding an org needs and how much runway to optimally have. Kelly said SI is increasing the amount to spend on Jacy’s speaking tour by about 5K.

Salaries: Jonas said other EA orgs regret not raising salaries earlier. Kelly intends SI to be very egalitarian salary-wise with herself and Jacy making no more than high-level research staff. Also, Kelly is skeptical about a policy of paying everyone what they ask for because men tend to ask for more money than women. One way of addressing the salary issue is asking “how secure do you feel with your finances at the moment?” and raising people’s salaries due to their response to that question, rather than because they asked for more money. Kelly thought that might be a good way to go about calibrating salaries.

Accomplishments: Blogs, research, case studies, op-eds, interviews, talks. Kelly talked about how Jacy made a post about “what do we mean by sentience” which is more armchair/less empirical than they prefer to be. In terms of response to data and research we are seeing advocates make intellectual updates but not yet making changes in practice. This is to be expected, change is slow. That’s why the blog about 3 changes that should happen in the animal rights movement was important — it was actionable change. The GM foods case study has been really useful. Clean meat entrepreneurs are grateful and some seem keen to put this knowledge into practice already. Insight that emphasizing moral motivations is important for clean meat industry. GMO failed hard because they were perceived as being profit-driven corporations despite starting as morally-driven startups. Brief conversation about how Lewis Bollard and SI view converge and diverge. Kelly talked about how she and Jacy both presented at the major US AR conference. Kelly spoke at EAG with Kieran Grieg of ACE and helped organize a gender equity mini conference for AR.

Mistakes and updates: Kelly is grateful that CEA still sponsors SI — the 1023 is finally submitted but this took much longer than it should have because the pro-bono lawyers kept pushing it to their backburner.

Perspective updates: Kelly is stepping away from the EA community due to a variety of issues around inclusion, like toxic masculinity in the community and excluding some of the right people. Also Kelly thinks EA has very low intellectual rigor when it comes to nonhuman animals and the inclusionary aspect of movement-building relative to other topics. Kelly added that things may not be as bad as she thinks but perhaps seem more that way because of her frustrating personal history with EA on both fronts. Jacy is still going to engage in EA. This quarter Kelly had a lot of excellent conversations at AR about effective strategizing and now believes that hostility towards EA in the AR community has much more to do with co-optive and bad implementation of EA in AR than with fundamental issues with EA principles themselves. Jonas said that formalizing a framing of “s-risks” made discussions of downside risks more accessible and exciting to x-risk people, perhaps a similar reframing effect increased interest in MCE in EA (and could continue to do so).

Concluding remarks (mostly) from Kelly: Maybe we should be doing more content output for the purposes of advocacy — things that give people harder evidence and doing research that might update AR more on questions we feel we have sufficient evidence on, like the use of cartoonish costumes.

Plans for the upcoming quarter: These include a speaking tour for Jacy. Kelly is considering fundraising more aggressively — at the moment she has been letting the product speak for itself but she could pursue more and deeper conversations about SI’s insights with influencers  as well as try more actively to get funds for SI. SI is onboarding Jamie next week. Next week Kelly will be speaking with a couple of directors of large animal sanctuaries. Sanctuaries get bypassed, have a bigger potential role in the movement and haven’t yet been offered tools other groups have in improving their programs. Diana said they might need help with entry and exit surveys in order to evaluate their impact on attitudes. Kelly is trying to finish her moral circle lit review and also said she has underestimated the time going to overhead, but now appreciates that it will probably always be ~75% of her time, which puts SI at an overhead rate of ~15% if any donors care. Jacy is probably going to have time to complete a messaging study, if not this quarter then next quarter. Kelly is going to make the talk she gave at AR into a blog post. Jonas brought up tracking SI’s influence on organizations and individuals more carefully, also for fundraising purposes. Kelly thought this was a good suggestion, just a matter of figuring out how to do this beyond annual survey, e.g. making notes of messaging changes.

3. Advisory board

Kelly sent out emails and a handful of people got back to her. She couldn’t find the names at that time but said she would get back to us. Diana and Jonas agreed with going ahead with the advisory board in general.

The board meeting closes at 1pm ET.

January 22, 2018

Board members present: Kelly Witwicki, Jonas Vollmer, Diana Fleischman

Meeting moderator: Kelly Witwicki

Minute takers: Diana Fleischman, Jonas Vollmer

Agenda items:

  1. Formalities
  2. Funding update
  3. Minutes for 2017 board meetings
  4. Board responsibilities
  5. Board of advisors
  6. Annual board reviews of finances, ED performance, and programs
  7. Transparency page and conflicts of interest

The board meeting starts at noon ET.

1. Formalities

The meeting was held via video call. Diana was appointed as minute taker. Jonas was tasked with editing the minutes after the meeting.

2. Funding update

Kelly gave a funding update. While there is less money than they thought initially because of a couple of errors, there is enough of a runway for SI for some time, at least 10 months. Kelly also predicted a greater pool of donors once SI’s work is more widely known.

3. Minutes for 2017 board meetings

The board agreed to publish minutes on its website from now on. The board agreed that it will not publish minutes for 2017 because it has not made that many major decisions in the past few months. In case there is demand, SI might publish these minutes at a later date.

4. Board responsibilities

The board agreed that Jonas should be the chair of the board (i.e. schedule board meetings, prepare the meeting agenda, take meeting notes). Meetings will be held quarterly from now on.

5. Board of advisors

Several reasons for having a board of advisors were discussed, such as giving people who are already helping with editing and advising some kind of title, or improving SI's credibility. Invitations to the board of advisors should only be given to people for whom this does not cause conflicts of interest. Several potential candidates were discussed.

6. Annual board reviews of finances, ED performance, and programs

Jonas was tasked with developing a process for evaluating executive director performance.

7. Transparency page and conflicts of interest

Kelly said that the transparency page for SI will gradually get filled out. The board members will have to list disclosures of potential conflicts of interest on that page.

The board meeting closes at 1pm ET.


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