New Procedures for This Year’s Election

In the coming weeks, NumFOCUS will be holding Board of Directors elections to install a new board of seven members whose terms will begin at our Summit, September 22-25.

It turns out that we have not had elections in a few years. The board felt there was a need to get a number of organizational hurdles fixed. This included readying our financial systems for an audit, improving processes for accepting projects, planning for the launch of an EU-based organization and working out team procedures for all the work we have taken on over the years. A turnover in the leadership during this time seemed like a way to make things slower and more error prone. With that said, our organization has grown substantially, so much so we are updating our election process.

In this post, we want to explain our needs and the process we came up with for the election to meet those needs.

A 3-Step Elections Process

Each type of elections process comes with its own set of challenges.

General member elections often become a popularity contest rather than a principled decision based on the needs of the organization. A closed door process where a small set of leaders pick the the next set of leaders is subject to bias and cronyism. To balance these two effects, the board has decided to blend our nomination and endorsement processes.

Our process will have three steps:

– July 20 – Aug 3: Nominations from the community. This includes NumFOCUS members and the public.

– Aug 10 – 24: Endorsements by NumFOCUS members who volunteer or donate (more details below)

– Aug 26 – 31: Selection and ratification by the NumFOCUS board and advisory council


Board member qualifications

Before we discuss all the details of the board election, we should cover the duties of a NumFOCUS board member. First and foremost, we seek board members who have a demonstrated dedication to the betterment of science through open source software. While the purview of the board isn’t technical, it does help to understand the interplay of our sponsored projects. Science and industry use the codes we sponsor to achieve great things; our job is to help these projects sustain themselves.

A board member needs to have between 2 and 10 volunteer hours a month to dedicate to the NumFOCUS organization. The board is still actively involved in almost every part of the NumFOCUS operation. We provide guidance to the staff on critical issues and help resolve challenges that arise. In general, we have two meetings a month.

Our board members are elected for a two year term. Having staggered terms means that new board members can learn the ropes without unduly impeding the work of the board. Because of this staggered term, we expect to have 3-5 positions available during this election.

Officer Positions

We need four members of our board to commit to be officers of the board.

  • Our President is responsible for working with our Executive Director to oversee our daily operations and help carry out the board’s initiatives.
  • Our Chair runs our meetings and wrangles the board agenda.
  • Our Treasurer is responsible for working with our financial team to ensure our organization is using our funding according to best practices.
  • Our Secretary is responsible for tracking decisions from the board and recording them for the public.

Each of these offices requires an additional time commitment, closer to the 5 – 10 hours a month.

Diversity on the Board

Finally, we look for folks that can represent different aspects of our organization. These include our projects’ needs, our programs such as our diversity and inclusion programs, and our ecosystem of events such as the PyData conferences and various other user conferences we help host.

We provide legal, financial and organizational services to scientific software projects. This requires us to work with many different partners such as private institutions, corporations, universities, government organizations, and other nonprofits. Having an understanding of how these types of organizations function is a big help in undertaking the work of a board member.

New Initiatives

A few major initiatives over the next y