Mon 12 Mar 2018 7:42PM

Short Term Assistance Funding via MNA

JO Jonathan Ogden Public Seen by 386

I often see neighbors in a tough spot reaching out for assistance via Facebook groups or personal pages, the Neighborhood Association board oversees a fairly substantial account that has been accrued with neighbor donations and fundraising.

Typically this is used to cover event costs and services used by the board to maintain the enterprise, but I would like to see the utility of these funds expand to short-term assistance funding for members of the General Membership.

I've not fleshed out the legality, but there are a number of options for a 501c3 to be able to disperse funds, so I'm sure with the proper legal oversight it could be accomplished in some way (whether through donation or "employee payment".

This would also facilitate the push for all of the financial records of the MNA board transactions to be publicly available online (I believe this is happening soon if not already on the main site). All data would be available to the membership, i.e. available funds, costs, and current applications/purposes (priority could be given through proof of circumstances, i.e. SNAP or other low income programs).

The idea would be that an online platform or similar (like this one) would be used to seek a percentage approval for the dispersal of the funds where the general membership would democratically vote as to whether they think the dispersal is legitimate. Obviously this may need to have a special circumstance for emergency funding, but this can be addressed after the concept has gained approval.

The intent of this kind of program would be to help prevent displacement and houselessness at its source, which is often the result of too many bills too quickly (sudden sickness, injury, death in the family, etc.).

Is this something that would be feasible with this Association?


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 7:59PM

The simple answer is you cannot because giving grants to people in hardship is not a purpose of the MNA. Also MNA Members can only vote on two things 1. Electing and removing board members and 2. Amending the bylaws (the articles of incorporation list what members can vote on). Allowing any other votes can also subject the MNA to losing its insurance coverage as insurers will not cover organizations that let their members make decisions beyond bylaws and election and removals.

The membership is not allowed to vote on anything else. You could consult SEUL they exist so you can float ideas like this off them and get technical assistance and advice.


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:04PM

Sure, but that's per the bylaws which are subject to the desires of gen. membership, whereby the purpose of this thread is to catalog what level of support the engaged membership has for such an idea (before taking up SEUL's time).

Your points about the current state aren't relevant to the proposed future state, moving on.


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:24PM

It’s very clear you don’t understand how things work you’ve been citing statutes that deal with public bodies which the MNA is not. You clearly don’t understand that NA’s bylaws are subject to rules ONI sets and the MNA’s currently adopt the latest bylaws templates. And frankly it’s clear you didn’t sincerely have any interest in working on the focus area neighborhood associations work on but instead want to duplicate the work of other nonprofits with focus areas on the topics you are coming up with.

You guys can’t even get financial reports done and are spending money left and right without prior board authorization and you expect the membership to trust you administering a grant program? 😂


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:30PM

Says the guy who just sued the association to settle a debt of ~$13.50 or something...

Paying you out on that was really necessary, talk about good use of funds, amirite?

Also if you spent as much time making proposals as you did mudslinging you might have actually gotten something done during your time on the board.

Also the idea wouldn't be duplicating efforts (not sure how you arrived there), but networking the great non-profits we have in the neighborhood together through a platform that lets them interface with neighbors, i.e. what the MNA could do is assist in coordinating folks to those services at the very least, the world is an oyster or whatever, right?


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:34PM

It was a board approved expense so of course that’s proper. I asked for reimbursement and your uninformed Vice Chair refused and said it was invalid despite minutes being provided and multiple former board members telling her it was valid.


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:39PM

I’m not mudslinging I’m asking you to follow the same rules every board before you has.

Are you joking? I got tons accomplished during my time on the board.

  • pedestrian improvements on Glisan (three new crosswalks and lane diet)
  • pedestrian improvements on 82nd (two new crosswalks)
  • I did our National Night Outs
  • Hundreds of hours in meetings with neighbors address livability issues
  • Raised thousands of dollars
  • Funded grants for projects
  • Helped found the Montavilla Jazz Fest ( was a project of the MNA that got incubated)
  • Partnered with our diverse neighbors

The list goes on

You have no clue champ


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:48PM

I don't really care to engage this argument anymore, but there's quite a bit of debatable content there. Great job though.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:53PM

Benjamin is right, here. I love the enthusiasm, but it's just a fart in the breeze if the MNA can't function according to the purposes and rules that already exist. An NA is not a financial assistance program, but there are many of those. Why not just hold a vote on whether to transfer the MNA's account balance (which is an unknown figure because the required financial reports have not been done since the contested election last year) to a program that's set up to do what you're proposing?


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 8:58PM

Sure, that's completely fair. Also we're looking to just host our Quickbooks reports live on the web to alleviate this issue. We strive for full transparency, and are finally getting some tools to do that.

To your point of what to do, this is the exact purpose of this thread: what do interested neighbors think is the best course of action? Be a stop-gap for the existing services that (extremely often) have very long waiting lists or minimal funding? Simply act as supplementary coordination for different info?

The ideas can go on and on, let's agree on some viable ones.

I also contest that they MNA has ever "fulfilled its purpose" as many of these NAs are hamstrung with good intention but actually impractical bylaw requirements (I do ISO audits for a living, so I'm pretty aware of the commercial version of this problem).


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 9:33PM

I'm no expert, but in my opinion the MNA should communicate existing solutions to neighbors and facilitate discussion. Any decision to adopt action initiatives should include a hand-off to the appropriate, outside group - which may just be volunteers from within the MNA.

Relationships and synapses with those other groups should be the fundamental purpose of the MNA. To do that, the MNA must avoid becoming one or many of those other groups. It's not a fund, a bank, or a charity, but it can support all of those by connecting neighbors to existing groups, by identifying needs, and by using its voice to represent what it's hearing from neighbors (though the Board should not presume to speak for the neighborhood).

Jonathan, you're saying that the MNA's stated purpose could be changed to accommodate ideas like short-term assistance for neighbors. In my opinion, it's such a fundamental change that MNA would become something other than a neighborhood association.


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 9:46PM

Excellent content, so your point of "something other than a neighborhood association" is an interesting one also.

This often seems to come up in these conversations, at least in a way that seems like people are assigning a definition that's very close to a home-owners association. Given the history of their development in Portland, I think this actually is not exactly an accurate definition/understanding.

Also the ONI definition paints them as a bit more broad and focused on neighborhood needs as defined by the membership: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/28380

Additionally the history is helpful in framing their original purpose: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/article/109944

I think I'll make an open poll to get a temp check on what the engaged neighbors feel the purpose ought to be, seems to fit our bylaws, the ONI definition, and the history.

What do you think?

I feel that setting the scope first and foremost is required since there are so many debates about what people think an NA should be doing.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 9:59PM

I'm always up for more data. I'd caution, though, that framing it as "what the purpose ought to be" is likely to return data that can't be analyzed as a poll. Instead, I'd recommend asking whether members agree or disagree with the purpose that is currently spelled out in the MNA bylaws (and allow for comments).


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:00PM

I agree with that, the purpose is just written to mirror the ambiguous interpretation that ONI would give also (since it's easier to allow self-definition).


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:01PM

Reference the current purpose in the bylaws:


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:03PM

I personally feel that we're fulfilling that purpose right now, and I'm seeking to eventually get board approval for a project like this. So I fail to see how @benjaminkerensa is interpreting this article, I'm open to learning though.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:13PM

I'll say that I do like that purpose definition. I don't see how it can be interpreted to allow for setting up an assistance funds-disbursement program.

The purpose described is scalable. Even if we're fulfilling it now, it's possible to do still more within that same framework (more participating members, better communication). What you're suggesting would be a fundamental change to the framework -- from communication & facilitation to execution.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:14PM

How are you seeing the initiative you're raising as fitting within the existing Purpose? I don't see it there at all.


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:15PM

I'm O.K. with that, but I do believe item "f" would allow me to get approval for this to be included in the purpose, if it had support.

A common thing in these types of bylaws I've seen has been leaving determination up to the board (self-definition of purpose). Is that incorrect?


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:16PM

Boards vote on projects that align with the purpose. Membership decides purpose.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:16PM

I don't think the Board could legitimately decide that "other" means "something entirely different."


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:17PM

Lol, that's literally why this conversation is happening...


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:17PM

Jonathan quickbooks are already live on the web that’s been setup for over nine months.


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:18PM

The conversation is supposed to take place in membership meetings and places open to the public. (I know you see this somehow as mudslinging but I see it as a member and long time board member asking you to act with transparency as the playbook calls for and like past boards have)


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:20PM

This place is open to the public? It satisfies every ORS clause I've found about electronic communications, so I don't get your hang-up.

Also for both of you, I'm taking a literal (read: legal interpretation) of the bylaws, it seems you're both giving me a Personal. It literally says that in there, so I take it as I see it. https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/interpretation


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:24PM

ONI defines public space not the statute. You keep mixing up public meeting and record laws with ONI Public Meeting And Record rules they are separate things and the MNA is subject to the latter.

ONI does not consider online platforms like this to be open to the public. Plus can anyone discuss here? You’ve already made it clear only members can and I’d point out a lot of members are still not invited. We have a thread on FB where people are upset they aren’t allowed to participate as members here yet.

I mean you talk about inclusion and input but are having discussions where many members aren’t even being allowed to participate.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:25PM

Benjamin, I agree. As far as I'm concerned, our thoughts here carry no more authority than if we ran into one another in a coffee shop. If anything I said here were used to represent the "feelings of the neighborhood," I'd be upset.

As for legal vs personal interpretation, it's judges who get to make the latter -- everybody else's is personal. I think if the Board were to vote to change the mission of the organization, you'd find yourself in a pickle.


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:27PM

To Ben's point, above, I agree that --at very least-- you should be focused on clearing the "pending" memberships before starting or joining these threads. Once again, it's facilitation vs execution.


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:36PM

Ah that's a different question though at this time this is just the preliminary testing I had agreed to do (not full implementation), and no I'm not conflating the two requirements. You're referring to article VIII section G about meeting location, and that's what I'm currently bothering Paul about changing.

You do seem to be conflating what I've stated as the intent of this platform though, while eventually I would like to move to this being the meeting, currently it is not possible (but there is precedent for it in local government and elsewhere already). http://www.academia.edu/31336425/Local_councils_and_public_consultation_Extending_the_reach_of_democracy

ONI is overhauling soon, and I'm going to push to create less legal bs and more practical tools.

To the original point, bullet "f" would just require support from the membership. If folks are upset have them come register tonight, the records were in disrepair when we got them so it will be a continual effort to get the membership list back into alignment.


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:38PM

Also there's no intent to close this thread any time soon, it will be open and available once all of the current members are signed in, but I imagine usage rates will probably cap at like 85%.

We'll see, I guess?


Benjamin Kerensa Mon 12 Mar 2018 10:41PM

Paul doesn’t have authority to change it there is a city ordinance the covers how the ONI Standards are changed. It’s done by a committee of coalition directors and other stakeholders and your change I can tell you with a strong degree of certaintity would not be adopted. The city isn’t going to allow NA’s to take meetings online that’s less accessible than physical meetings and deprives those without internet access or limited access the ability to participate. Best of luck though but it really seems your putting the cart before the horse. This is why having committees with members to flesh out these ideas is important. In fact why isn’t this a discussion for your outreach committee?


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 11:11PM

Who's to say it isn't? I can send them a link to this thread, also I never said I thought he's the end-all-be-all, but as the director he'd likely be able to approve something provisional. Either way we'll see, and this is way in the weeds for this topic.

I'll start a thread about the purpose of the NA and you can load it full of feedback till your little pedant heart's content. Sound good?


Kevin Provost Mon 12 Mar 2018 11:15PM

I'm not sure which of us pedants you're addressing, but the purpose is already in the MNA Bylaws. That's why I recommended a poll of members: "Do you agree with this as the MNA's Purpose, or not?"


Jonathan Ogden Mon 12 Mar 2018 11:23PM

Oh I hear you, probably both pedants (takes one to know one), but I would argue that the purpose as its written would be in perfect complement to this kind of initiative, which points out the issue with a "yes or no" agreement: it's vague and requires a more nuanced/complex interpretation.


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 6:56PM

Exactly! A facilitator for connecting to
existing sources.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 6:57PM

Is there already a comprehensive list that we could add to the website? I know there's a really good map on the bus stop by the community center but forget what the org was named.


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:02PM

I think we need to compile a new list of resources since many I have seen are outdated. A past neighbor (she has moved) made a project of compiling a list and she had dozens of places for food and other resources she gave out. This would be a great project for a committee. At this point, regretably, I cannot help as my plate is full with multiple projects. But if I come across some resources, I will be sure to share.


Briar Rose Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:41PM

Hi Kevin, nice to see you on here 😁


Briar Rose Schreiber Tue 13 Mar 2018 12:04AM

Didn't the MNA have a fund for neighbors in years past? I believe it was $200 of emergency money to pay bills and such. I believe Benjamin Kerensa helped organize that, but I could be misremembering.


Briar Rose Schreiber Tue 13 Mar 2018 12:23AM

I'm trying to find the exact minutes, but I have my own notes about it when it was first proposed. It was called the Neighborhood Emergency Assistance Fund and was oversaw by Johnnie Shaver and Benjamin Kerensa (according to my notes which are just scribbles). It would be interesting to see what succeeded and failed from that effort.


Sir Meow of Purrington Tue 13 Mar 2018 5:20PM

This is a great idea, how do we move forward? Based on Briar Rose's link to the passing and approval last year, does that also imply that the planning phase can start?


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 5:30PM

Apparently it's already in place, maybe start reaching out to neighbors in need to let them know?


Briar Rose Schreiber Tue 13 Mar 2018 5:34PM

We would still need to fund that somehow. A budget with money allocated to that fund would be needed.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 5:38PM

Ok, sounds like something to bring up in the chat.


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 6:58PM

That was an extra fundraiser and not part of the regular budget of the NA. Nor should it be.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:02PM

The previous emergency fund? I'm not sure if it was meant to be permanent but I see having a planned emergency budget as a good thing to plan into our fundraising (worst case is it doesn't get used).

If it goes over then we have to either find funding or get more approved, could be a clause about that requiring general membership approval (there's actually a collective budget tool on here I think).


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:05PM

I believe the funding would need to be entirely raised outside NA funds. I am not sure of all the details before, but we have to be careful to not attempt to be a charity while still being charitable as individuals.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:09PM

Wait what? We're literally incorporated as a public-benefit corporation with charitable status as far as I know.

Isn't local, decentralized, community-controlled financing services (for emergencies or otherwise) right in line with that?

I guess I don't understand your assertion, i.e. do you mean legally or personally?


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:12PM

What I Want from Our Neighborhood Association:
*Facilitator not Dictator.
*Initiative not Ultimatum.
*Freedom of Ideas not Singular Agenda.
*Discussion not Final Answer.
*Open Communication not Closed Door.*Decisions
Inclusion not Exclusion.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:17PM

Ok, so this is still a question of the "purpose of the NA", I'll just make that thread later today. It's obviously needed.

Beyond that, in the case of an "emergency fund" and the way the 501c3 corporate structure requires legal responsibility (the board is responsible) how do your concepts apply, i.e. what is the ideal way to create topical initiatives (full disclosure that is the purpose of this platform, to log information about what the membership are concerned about and then create proposals based on it).


Evelyn Mac Tue 13 Mar 2018 7:33PM

For example, Buy Nothing is inspiring because it doesn't seek needs. Instead, it seeks to be a facilitor for generosity. The tax status of the NA is not an indicator of the purpose. Yes. Open a thread for edcuation on the purpose. I think that dicussion could prove helpful.


Cobb,Terry Tue 13 Mar 2018 10:53PM

I like this concept, but I just need some clarification....

...."Typically this is used to cover event costs and services used by the board to maintain the enterprise, but I would like to see the utility of these funds expand to short-term assistance funding for members of the neighborhood board.".....

So, this short-term assistance is available to members of the neighborhood BOARD, only?... or for the board's dispersal?...

I would tentatively support this, but would just like some clarification.


Jonathan Ogden Tue 13 Mar 2018 11:03PM

Hey Terry, I believe there was already a previous proposal that was passed that authorized a budget of $200.

The intent of this would be for it to be available to the membership (or really just Montavilla generally), so I guess that includes the board but a member requesting it couldn't vote on it or something.

The idea would be a community "just in case" fund though.


Jonathan Ortiz Myers Wed 14 Mar 2018 12:04AM

Jonathan, I too read that statement as short term assistance funding for members of the board....you might want to clarify that, as it seemed a bit self serving at first blush. Kind of like congress setting their own salary...


Jonathan Ogden Wed 21 Mar 2018 11:26PM

Fixed, btw