Public benefit entities qualifying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status may be structured as “membership” or “non-membership” organizations. Some examples of the former would be KMUD, RRHC, MCC, and MRC. These organizations maintain a roster of current members in good standing and hold elections in which these members get to choose among a slate of candidates for their boards of directors. This approach provides a comforting feeling of democratic participation for all, tends to weight boards with people who have broad name recognition or effective campaigning personas, and sets the board up for potential disruption by minority factions or mischievous outsiders.
A “non-membership” structure permits an organization to select its board by inviting potential directors specifically for their commitment to the organization’s goals, the energy they have available contribute to its service, and the mutual compatibility of their various personalities as participants in a smoothly-functioning, effective cooperative group. Local examples besides the Park that have chosen this structure include Friends of the Eel, Hospice, ISF, RFFI, Sanctuary Forest, Trees, and WISH. So this structure is nothing unusual, and in fact Humboldt Area Foundation is now recommending it, except in cases when special conditions make the “membership” framework desirable.
A “membership” organization is obliged to give due notice of its board meetings and to make them open to the public. “Non-membership” status doesn’t carry that requirement and so permits meetings on short notice and at irregular intervals, as the actual requirements of the organization may necessitate.
However the park board is committed to holding regular public community meetings and public board meetings to facilitate both community participation and community access to information about the park.