An Open Letter from MNFurs President

The original post can be found HERE

Letter from the President of Minnesota Furs

A lot has happened in June and we apologize for the lack of communications in recent months. As president I take personal responsibility for this and every time we tried working on a statement, situations changed forcing a rewrite. 2020 is turning into quite a year filled with changes, opportunities, and a regularly changing series of challenges.

I do want to start by thanking our chartered organization Furry Migration for their handling and communications on having to postpone this year’s con. We encourage all of our members, staff, and friends to keep in mind and support all of the various fandom cons and communities working through these unique times.

On the positive side The Minnesota Furs Board was able to meet for our annual meeting June 26th through the 28th. This was challenging due to needing to meet in person with 10 people, hard under the guidelines form the State of Minnesota Health Department these last few months. We want to thank our partner Geek Partnership Society for hosting us so we can get this taken care of. Out of this I want to share with you the following take-a-ways:

  • Yes we are still here and while we are challenged by not being able to run our normal fundraisers, we do have enough reserves at this time to carry us through Covid-19.
  • We have had a hard time doing events and have been slow to adjust. After the board meeting we have some ideas and want to solicit feedback from the community. More on this in a bit.
  • Our online presence and resources need work. Coming out of this we are re-evaluating our social media platforms and have a plan to start website updates and get ready for a clean up. We continue to encourage people to use our forms and will be reaching out to get feedback from our community.
  • We want to make it easier for people to understand what we can do for and with them from a partnering, cooperation, and event submission standpoint. We are starting work on getting a new submission process to make it easier to differentiate people suggesting new types of events or those that wish to work with us to either run an MNFurs event or request a community driven event be posted on our calendar. I hope that this will be ready in the next few months in whole with parts appearing earlier
  • The Youth Program was a bit in limbo but we have been working on the groundwork to make it more scaleable in the long term. Bringing in parents more, making it less dependent on single points, and trying to lay the groundwork to something that can more easily scale. For a bit of background when originally formed we expected a few dozen participants at most, some events have had several times this just within the first year of its existence. The popularity and response has been far beyond our best case expectations. Part of this was to reach out to our other c3 partner organizations in the area so we could set up resource sharing which is now coming into play.

For events and online events we want to share what we are thinking and see what our community thinks, suggests, or has concerns. First as a larger local non-profit our events tend to draw between 40 to 300 people simultaneously (con not included). This causes challenges for us from modest fursuit romps to our picnics that are larger than many first year cons. To try and deal with the realities and the changing guidance of the Minnesota Health Dept we are working on playing with the idea of micro events. Small meetups that have no more than a dozen or two people simultaneously and try to set up a method to allow people to rotate through it. For example a sign-up process allowing people to sign up for a block of time to meet, chat, and hang out. Another idea being explored is doing a VRChat picnics or other smaller events. This has several challenges, but we are looking into how to make it as accessible and allow more of our membership to be able to take part in this. A flash meet or flash mixer where a few parks or other open spaces on a weekend or day. This would allow smaller groups of a dozen or so people meeting up in a park with several of these happening over a period of time helping people meet up.

Again let us know at feedback form what you think of these or other ideas you have. We want to get something up small and/or scalable to get started with so we can work on getting events back up and going sooner and later.

Communications with our community is also a major focus for us. Ideally we want to see at least 2-3 events/activities and a newsletter every month. This can be a mix of Official MNFurs events, community events, and even major partner events that strongly appeal to our membership. For the newsletter comeback we want to make it to be released a week or two before the events and activities it will cover happen. We also discussed having a quick few minute highlight video being made to be released with the full newsletter to tie into it.

We also used the opportunity to work on reviewing all of our operational documents. We are working on amendments to make everything more transparent and adjust for the changes in the organization since they were originally written. Making sure there are more community disclosures (like defining our annual report to the community and wanting to get some filings to our website when it refreshes) and clarifying some disclosures to the board, For example the convention charter talks about 2014 deadlines still, not quite applicable anymore. 😉

Last, but certainly not least, recent events in our greater community and region. As I indicated earlier we have worked and discussed several statements and with the circumstances and news constantly changing we kept having to start over. I apologize as president for being silent for so long on this. There are a lot of ways organizations have been responding, several cringe worthy, so I am going to try and be genuine and avoid speaking in PR or buzz. Minnesota Furs, like many, is not perfect and we are not doing everything we could be for addressing racism, LGBTQ+ issues, sexism, and discrimination. Once a year MNFurs Board meets on a multi-day retreat where we review the last year, plan the next year, and review our mission. I hope many organizations take times like this to not just plan, but to also seriously consider and question their own existence, community, and challenge their full shortcomings of their mission. In the over 20 hour retreat we spent over an hour just discussing recent events non-covid related. Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ issues, appearance of sexism, discrimination, and how we can better make these into our considerations whenever we find them. These came up both in dedicated topics and throughout our conversations on various topics. I am not claiming our organization is superior or better then others, just I hope that the first steps in addressing these systemic problems in our greater culture is to recognize, acknowledge, and start working on addressing these in our daily lives. Never accept the excuse of ‘this is just how things have always been done’ and consider alternatives. We can’t drive to be perfect, but we can drive to constantly be better versions of ourselves to give us the community and all of our members the organizations and society they deserve. Black Lives, Lesbian Lives, Gay Lives, Bisexual Lives, Trans Lives, Queer Lives, Women Lives, and so many more lives all matter. It has been far too long that All Lives Matter has had an implicit, and sometimes explicit, asterisk in its invocation throughout history and culture.

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Thank you for your time, consideration, support, feedback, and patience these recent months.

Chris Westphal aka Dei

Minnesota Furs President

On behalf of the Minnesota Furs Board of Directors