Written By: Christy S. Renjilian
What do you think of when you think of a Board meeting?
Is it a bunch of stuffy people in suits sitting around a long table? Overseers, out of touch with what their business is doing and its impact in the world?
This is exactly the vision that Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) has worked hard to avoid with its Board of Directors. We want a Board that is fully involved in the organization, filled with members who enthusiastically participate in CCC’s mission to ensure all families have access to affordable, high-quality childcare choices that lead to success in school and life in our region.
During my tenure as Executive Director, we’ve focused on building a strong Board and thus a strong backbone and support system for CCC. We evaluated Board Members’ term limits, implemented a Board recruitment strategy, updated the by-laws, and established “classes” for Board members to join each year that define their duties and responsibilities.
These changes spurred the Board Members to become more actively engaged in fundraising and the governance of the organization. And an engaged Board means the entire staff is able to do their job to their full potential—without additional tasks. As a result, we can serve each family and our community well.
But what exactly does the Board of Directors do? And what steps can you take to strengthen and engage your Board of Directors? Let’s take a look.
What Role Does the Board of Directors Play?
A Board of Directors is essential to any nonprofit. It oversees how funds within the organization are used and what direction the organization is headed in. It’s made up of volunteers who believe in the mission of the organization and have a desire to serve—ones who give their time to support their community.
Our goal at Community Connections for Children is for our Board and staff to work collaboratively. Every level of staff has access to the Board and vice versa. Free-flowing information allows us all to do our best work in a transparent and open manner.
There is no corporate ladder to climb up or certain procedures that have to be followed. If you need help, you reach out. If you have a great idea, you share it, regardless of what title you hold in the organization.
CCC strives for a culture of trust and open communication. This culture means that if a Board Member happens to show up in the building, there’s no need to “be on your best behavior” or for a leader to “run interference” and intervene.
Everyone is always working together for the common good. We’re not fighting to impress one another; we’re on the same team.
Board Members work with staff members on task forces, such as our Give Local Committee. Working in tandem, our staff and Board fundraise or complete other tasks that are essential to achieving our goals—providing resources and access to childcare to every family in our area.
Pre-COVID, the Board was also involved in staff parties, retreats, and training. They aren’t just overseers that show up once a month to dictate what’s happening with the organization. They form great connections with the staff. And the staff members do the same.
A Look at the Board Structure
Community Connections for Children currently has fourteen Board Members, and are working to add new members. If you’re interested, please call (717) 968-8398 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Board meets virtually every other month, with committees meeting on alternate months.
The committees are small groups that focus on specific functions. Most of the Board’s work is done at the committee level and promotes active participation.
Our current committees include:
- Executive Committee- which also serves as the Governance and Nominating Committee
- Marketing Committee
- Personnel Committee
- Finance Committee
Currently, the Board of Directors has five officer positions including President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Past-President.
With this structure, the Board is able to effectively help to lead the work of CCC. The various roles and committees provide support and guidance to the Executive Director and every staff member in the organization. Keeping the Board running efficiently is essential as CCC is one of the region’s largest nonprofits, with a $175 million budget and over 80 team members.
What Do We Look For in Board Members?
Community Connections for Children seeks out Board Members who are interested in serving children, families, and our communities. A commitment to our mission is the most important requirement.
We also want Board members to have a passion for giving back. And we want diverse representation on our board—in all the ways that can be defined.
Board Members that bring specific strengths—such as marketing, finances, legal, and human resources expertise—add significantly to our depth of knowledge. But we also appreciate the “generalists,” those who have experience and skills in a wide variety of disciplines.
More than anything, we look for enthusiasm, a willingness to share opinions and ideas, and a drive to help us be the best CCC that we can be.
Proven Ways to Boost Board Member Engagement
In the past decade-plus, we’ve explored various ways to encourage Board Member participation and help new members acclimate to our organization.
Here are six proven ways for you to try:
- Have recruitment procedures and standards.
Board Members should be enthusiastic about your organization’s mission and have enough available time that they can commit to the duties. Starting off on the right foot with the right Board Members is key to high Board engagement. [Wiley Online Library]
- Create sub-groups for Board Members.
Well-defined classes or committees that Board Members belong to give both structure and purpose. Each sub-group should have specific functions or responsibilities. This will help your Board Members feel like they aren’t just another face in the crowd. They have purpose and value within the organization. [Sheila M. Bravo, PhD]
- Survey Board Members often.
At CCC, we survey our Board regarding their understanding of the organization, experience as Board Members, and ways we can improve. The responses guide our Board development and engagement efforts.
- Keep Board meetings focused.
With each discussion, stay on topic and be concise. Make sure everyone shows up prepared and briefed on the topics to be discussed. Be as mindful of your Board Members’ time as possible.
- Emphasize the relationships between Board Members.
Board Members need to work together as a team and that will go much smoother when they know one another well. When a new Board Member joins, assign them a veteran ‘buddy’ to show them the ropes. Encourage Board Members to connect and socialize at the organization’s events.
- Envision a shared future together.
A Board of Directors should be future-minded, leading the organization’s next steps. Emphasize that everyone is working as a team to accomplish these goals.
Engagement is a Core Value at Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Recently, CCC received a three-year Capacity Building Grant from the Donley Foundation. These funds allowed us to support further Board development. We partnered with Leadership York to receive Board training, assistance with Board recruitment, and revision of the By-Laws.
Community Connections for Children continues to work on the diversity of our Board to best represent our region. We know that listening to unique perspectives provides incredible value to our organization.
The training that all new Board Members receive enables them to understand CCC’s programs and funding streams, early childhood education issues, and our operations.
However, we know this work is ongoing and that engagement is an active task.
As we continue to recruit new Board Members and welcome them to our organization—and as we consider expanding our services and implementing new programs—we work hard to actively engage our Board. They are an essential part of the CCC team and mission.
“A strategic board has a view of looking ahead, an insight to look deeper, and competency to look beyond.”
— Pearl Zhu
About Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic.
CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.
Heather Spitzlay serves as CCC’s Human Resources Manager and Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.
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