This past March my 3-year term on the global IGDA Board of Directors came to an end. I knew it was coming. I did my best to prepare for it. However, it was still a big part of my life for three years.

I took my seat on the board with a strong sense of duty and responsibility mixed with a lot of passion, ideas, and dreams for helping keep this org moving on an upward path. Being the highest vote getter since they started publishing election results in 2010 with at least 10% of the membership putting their faith in me to do a good job didn’t ease the pressure any either. 🙂

Thus, it has taken me a while to get to this post because for the longest time I wasn’t sure what to write. I’m still not sure I could ever truly express what my time on the board meant to me. So, I’m going to try to focus on (not so briefly) covering some of the ways the org has changed and improved and my hopes for the future.

Although not all of my campaign focuses were completed – something all candidates should expect to happen – I ended up extremely pleased with where things were when I left. It turns out a few major things had to be tackled before any of my hopes/goals could happen, but I think they were items well worth addressing.

 

Some of the accomplishments I’d like to highlight from my three years on the board

New Executive Director!
We successfully searched for and found a new Executive Director – Kate Edwards – who took charge of the execution side of the org with gusto allowing us, as a board, to focus more on the higher-level governance aspects. This was a huge gap in the org’s operations and I’m glad Kate was willing to step in and take the role on.

New Operations Manager!
We brought in Tristin Hightower as Operations Manager who brought with her extensive knowledge of the org, community management expertise, and a huge desire and great understanding of how to help us build a solid infrastructure and foundation – something she continues to push the org forward on to this day.

We Replaced The Website!
Long a sore spot for many members and volunteers our new website was a welcome breath of fresh air to both the users and the content creators. Although admittedly not perfect – Kate/Tristin mentioned at the chapter leader meeting this year at GDC they are looking for potential replacements – it was definitely a huge improvement.

Better Financial Health And Stability! (One of the main goals I focused on in my campaign)
We rely on member, studio/academic affiliate, partner, and sponsor revenue to operate and when the great economic crash of 2008 caused cost cutbacks for them it meant reduced revenue for us – something we were still recovering from when my term started.

The board committed to making the hard choices necessary to increase our operating cash reserves while ensuring continued support for all of our current programs and services. Through sound decisions and proper financial oversight, we are now in a better position financially than when I started and can weather future downturns more easily.

Improved Member Management! (One of the main goals I focused on in my campaign)
This org – to my knowledge – has never truly had a full member management program in place and it was why it was one of my top goals and hopes for this org. We’re nowhere near having an end-to-end program but we did or tried a few things I felt improved things for our members quite a bit:

  1. We replaced the membership database (again!) when we replaced the website allowing us to have better internal access and ability to support our members.
  2. We increased the amount and types of globally accessible tangible benefits providing greater value to our members – with many discounts worth more than the cost of the membership itself!
  3. We finally implemented the “first-year member” emails – an effort designed to stay in touch with new (or long-lapsed returning) members and periodically remind them what programs, services, and benefits are available to them. After languishing for years in various folks’ inboxes, I made sure to push this project through to completion as part of my efforts on the MarComm and Membership committees.
  4. We ran a series of successful membership drives and promotions. Whether it was a giveaway at GDC or partner-provided memberships with UKIE, we found new ways to encourage people to join or renew their membership with the IGDA. When combined with the other items above we were able to increase our overall membership numbers.

Better Advocacy! (One of the main goals I focused on in my campaign)
I am particularly proud of this area as well. With the new ED (Kate) now in place, I worked A LOT with Daniel Greenberg (Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee Chair), Sue Bohle and Robert Brown (our PR folks), Kate, and a few MarComm volunteers to up our advocacy efforts. Whether it was the responses to the Newtown school shootings, various governments around the world wanting to ban or censor video games, or the support and education of developers on IP and copyright matters thanks to the King.com “saga” issue we were there. When Daniel, Sude, Rob, and the whole crew at Bohle won two of the three MVP awards that year I was so happy – they totally deserved it.

 

My hopes for the future

Improved Chapter And SIG Programs
Kate and Tristin have been implementing changes to how the Chapter and SIG programs operate and are structured as well as how they interact with the volunteers who run the various individual chapters and SIGs. After attending many of the volunteer leader events at GDC this year, I’m interested in seeing where they’re headed with these two mission critical programs.

Volunteer Management Program (One of the main goals I focused on in my campaign)
This item has always been near and dear to my heart. I have been managing volunteers for over two decades – and even took a certification course on volunteer management! I know the importance of properly taking care of and being there for your volunteers (and the 3Rs).As a volunteer with this org since 1999, I have also seen the various levels of support (or lack of support) this org provides to its volunteers.

I have always felt (and been told) that the relationships I have with my direct volunteers are why I’ve been so lucky to have so many of them always willing to just jump in and support me when and where I needed it. Having volunteers be surprised that you checked in with them purely to see how they are doing personally versus to bug them about their progress should be the exception, not the norm.

Creating an end-to-end Volunteer Management Program (VMP) takes a lot of thought, time, effort, and planning but the rewards of properly creating and maintaining one are priceless. I had started working with a small board-staff committee to guide the development a “phase 1” VMP but the aforementioned large items ended up putting that on hold. At the end of 2014, the staff restarted efforts to build the program and I hope we see the fruits of their efforts soon.

 

“Thank You”s and ending thoughts

Although I’m no longer on the global board that doesn’t mean I’m no longer with the IGDA. Once called a super-mega-volunteer I’m still involved in many parts of the org. Even if I may not always understand or agree with some of the things that happen with this org, I’m about as hardcore IGDA as you can get and can’t even fathom a time where I won’t be involved in some capacity.

As for right now? I continue to serve as a board member for the IGDA Chicago Chapter; I’m Chair Emeritus of the QA SIG; participate in and support multiple other SIGs; and, of course, the staff, board, and other volunteer leaders know I’m always willing to jump in and help where I can.

The past three years were wonderful filled with great progress and adventures (one board offsite almost literally killed me!) and reminded me why I do what I do as both a volunteer and a game developer. I appreciate all the trust and encouragement my fellow members and volunteers gave me throughout my term on the board.

I’d also like to thank some of the folks who were there with me as my term was ending:

Justin Berenbaum (Board)

Sue Bohle and Robert Brown (The Bohle Company/Stride PR)

Tom Buscaglia (Board)

Dustin Clingman (Board)

Luke Dicken (Board)

Kate Edwards (Executive Director)

Diann Furfaro, Daniel Le, and the rest of the crew at Talley (our AMC)

Jon Grande (Board)

Daniel Greenberg (ACSI Chair and amazing industry advocate)

Tristin Hightower (Operations Manager)

Elizabeth LaPensée (IGDA Perspectives)

Sheri Graner Ray (Board)

Anne Toole (Board)

Cat Wendt (IGDA Perspectives and all around awesomesauce provider)

Lastly, I’d like to give a very special shout out to Ed Fries. As my ‘partner in crime’ on the board we started our terms together in 2012 and worked on numerous committees and projects with each other for the next three years – leading to a lot of the above accomplishments.

Sitting down together for a chat at the VIP luncheon this year, knowing this was our last GDC as board members, filled me with a mixture of both happiness and sadness. You were a true friend and colleague supporting me (as I hoped I supported you) all the way to the end of my time on the board and beyond. I can’t imagine a better person to have shared my term with on the board than you.

With much love and gratitude,
Sheri
Director, IGDA Global Board (2012-2015)

 

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