“Working on the same goal: to make this a better place.”

Nonprofits are as different as the people they serve - and their leadership, especially their volunteer board members, are as well. Varying levels of knowledge, diverse backgrounds - all come together in a rich mosaic of learning. Our fifth Board Development Series is an example. Learn More »

A mosaic is defined as “something made up of different things that together form a pattern.” In the case of our recent Board Development Workshop Series, the “different things” were: dogs, kids, refugees, horses, actors; land use, workforce, housing and transportation; all volunteer-run to organizations with large staffs. The pattern these 28 organizations formed was, as Caroline West from Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today phrased it, “a gathering of nonprofits from Central New York – varied, but working on the same goal: to make this a better place.”

This past spring the Gifford Foundation partnered with the Central New York Community Foundation to offer a four-workshop long series, each 3 hours long. Between March and May, 70 individuals from these varied nonprofits participated in the fifth workshop series by forming teams of staff/volunteers and board members. Developed by the Gifford Foundation in 2012, the free workshops are especially designed for evolving nonprofits to maximize their knowledge and potential for building strong, effective boards of trustees/directors. Once again led by Maria Fibiger of Three Dog Consulting, the series conveyed powerful information in an atmosphere of mutual learning. All team members were expected to attend the entire series, thus building a learning community strengthened by peer input.

After an initial session led by Fibiger to remind everyone of the roles and responsibilities (fiscal and legal) of being a nonprofit board member, the group enjoyed a second workshop on group dynamics taught by consultant Angela Douglas. This topic was added to the Series this year as it makes up a key component of Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders (NTL) training (which taps the potential of future board volunteers.) NTL graduates participated in the third workshop, which encouraged honest and open conversations on the different interpretations and classification of diversity. The series closed with exercises and peer learning on being a community ambassador – advocating and understanding the mission, the work, the clients, community partners and budget of their organizations.

Organizations are encouraged to “teach out” the learnings to their other board members. “One of our team members regularly passed along updates on this training to our board,” stated Nicole Watts of Hopeprint. “We took this training as part of a larger board development initiative.” The Board Development Workshop Series is offered periodically.

NTL graduates James Graham and Dawn Penson present at a board diversity workshop.

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