Nonprofit Board Engagement: Strategies for Cultivating an Effective Board of Directors

Cultivating an engaged and effective Board of Directors is an ongoing challenge for nonprofit leaders. In my work with nonprofit organizations, helping to create a credible board is more than simply assembling individuals; it’s about finding the right fit for your organization. In this article, we’ll delve into fundamental strategies to enhance the board engagement and effectiveness in your organization.

Clarify Your Organizational Needs

Before recruiting board members, it’s crucial that you gain a deep understanding of your organization’s needs. Beyond a passion for the mission and a commitment of time, I encourage you to consider the following factors:

  • Time Allocation Preferences: Understand how your board volunteers prefer to allocate their time. Some may prefer hands-on involvement, while others may prefer strategic planning or fundraising.
  • Comfort with Uncertainty: Assess the comfort level of potential board members with uncertainty and ambiguity – navigating the nonprofit landscape often involves unpredictable challenges, as we well know. 
  • Relevant Experiences and Connections: Seek individuals with experiences and connections within the community that align with your organization’s mission and goals. Their networks can be invaluable for fundraising, partnerships, and outreach.
  • Specialized Skills: Identify individuals with specialized skills that complement your organization’s needs, such as financial expertise, legal knowledge, marketing acumen, or strategic planning experience.

Without a clear understanding of what your organization actually needs, your recruiting efforts may miss the mark, resulting in a board that lacks the diversity of skills and experiences necessary to govern your organization effectively.

Involve Volunteers in Your Planning

Quote: Generative ideas emerge from joint thinking, from significant conversations, and from sustained, shared struggles to achieve new insights from partners in thought.” Vera John- Steiner

Engaging volunteers in strategic planning not only empowers them, but also fosters a deeper connection to your organization. Strategic planning is obviously beneficial and even smaller organizations can benefit from focused discussions about the future. 

Something to consider is the possibility of hosting a planning retreat early in a board member’s tenure with the aim of achieving the following outcomes:

  • Fostering Relationships: Facilitate interactions between your new and experienced volunteers, building a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
  • Educating New Members: Use the retreat as an opportunity to educate new members about the organization’s mission, history, vision, values, acheivements, and strategic objectives.
  • Shaping Your Organizational Culture: Collaborative planning allows volunteers to contribute their ideas and perspectives, shaping your organizational culture and fostering a sense of ownership.

By involving volunteers in your planning process, they become personally invested in implementing strategies for your organization’s success – and that’s exactly what we want, right! 

Foster Mutual Growth

Effective board engagement is a two-way street. While your organization will benefit from dedicated volunteers, it’s essential to invest in their development and well-being. Consider implementing the following strategies to demonstrate your appreciation and support for their dedication and commitment: 

  • Comprehensive Orientation and Training: Provide thorough orientation sessions to familiarize new board members with your organization’s mission, structure, programs, and governance practices. Offer ongoing training opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge.
  • Mentorship Programs: Pair new board members with seasoned veterans to provide guidance, support, and opportunities for professional growth.
  • Attendance at Industry Conferences: Facilitate attendance at relevant industry conferences, workshops, and seminars, where board members can learn best practices, network with peers, and gain fresh perspectives.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: Regularly acknowledge and celebrate volunteer contributions through various channels, such as newsletters, social media, awards ceremonies, and personal thank-you notes.

Quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

When organizations prioritize the growth and satisfaction of their board members, engagement naturally follows, leading to a more cohesive and effective governing body. Cultivating an engaged and effective Board of Directors requires intentional effort and investment. By clarifying organizational needs, involving volunteers in planning, and fostering mutual growth, nonprofits can build a strong foundation for governance excellence and mission success.

Of course, every nonprofit is different and has unique needs and challenges which is why I am here. Email me at Kim@Athena-CoCo.com, or schedule a Discovery Call if you would like to discuss ways to effectively engage your organization’s Board of Directors. 

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors, and helper of nonprofit leaders.
kim@athena-coco.com

Think of your Board of Directors as an Adult Leadership Program

When I was an Executive Director with the YMCAs, I had Program Directors who ran our programs – things like day camp, youth sports, teen leaders, etc. Other organizations probably have similar roles, people who run programs, services, do case management, etc. A couple of months ago I shared an article on effective board meetings. In it, I talked about how I think of the Board of Directors as an Adult Leadership program that the Executive Director leads. 

Our youth programs would teach kids things like teamwork, sportsmanship, and how to develop healthy relationships. Similarly, our Board of Directors helps adults to develop their presentation and collaboration skills, it teaches them how to problem solve and advocate for things that are important to them, and it gives them a connection to their community that they might not otherwise have. 

When we think about our boards in that light, it shifts how we think about the structure, functions and activities of the board. It also helps us shift from a one-way street to a two-way street. If we just think about the board as being there to serve our organization, it’s a one-way street – what can the organization get out of these people? When we consider our work with the board as a two-way street we start to think about how the work engages and develops the members of the board. 

In planning a youth development program, the director needs to consider these components: 

  • Objectives and Purpose
  • Target Audience
  • Program Structure and Activities 
  • Curriculum and Content
  • Resources and Materials
  • Staff and Volunteers
  • Budget and Funding
  • Outreach and Recruitment
  • Evaluation and Assessment
  • Safety and Risk Management 

Let’s look at each and see how these planning components can apply to running an Adult Leadership program, AKA the Board of Directors. 

  • Objectives and Purpose

    • Clarify what you want the organization to get out of the program AND what you want the participants to come away with. Will they experience skills development, personal growth, community engagement, network building, leadership skills, personal fulfillment, etc? 
  • Target Audience

    • Who and what does your organization need in order to advance the work on the cause? Think about the skills, passion, connections, characteristics, and demographics of the people you want on your board. If the people on your board do not possess the qualities that you need, how can you help them to level-up?
  • Program Structure and Activities 

    • What are you going to have your board members do? It’s not enough to just have them come to board meetings for a sit & get. Incorporate opportunities for every board member to speak and contribute. Think about engagement opportunities outside of board meetings; such as committees, task forces, program observations, community outreach, public appearances, and more. Ideas for engaging your volunteers at a higher level:
      • Provide experiential learning to help grow their knowledge of the cause
      • Give them research projects or reading to do and report back to the larger group
      • Have them interview experts in your industry and share their learnings 
      • Give them the opportunity to conduct mission moment interviews and share the impact the organization is having
      • Delegate the facilitation of a discussion topics to someone other than the board chair
      • Additionally: opening thoughts, timekeepers, and committee reports are all roles that volunteers can step into 
  • Curriculum and Content

    • The content of board work should tie back to the mission and strategies of the organization. By including volunteers in strategic planning and tying those plans back to the month-to-month work of the board, you actively engage your board in advancing the mission. In addition, consider the opportunities you are including for your volunteers to grow. You might include:
      • Formal or informal training on things like: board governance, community initiatives, leadership skills, industry trends, etc. 
      • Board mentoring
      • Presentation opportunities
      • Networking 
      • Mission education and connection
  • Resources and Materials

    • This involves ensuring that your volunteers have the information available to do their job as a board member effectively. That can include an onboarding process, access to historical information, agendas and reading materials distributed in advance, and staff or volunteer support.
  • Staff and Volunteers

    • In order to ensure that the adult leadership program is effective, it requires staff or volunteer monitoring. Often the Executive Director is the leader who ensures that the program runs according to design. A Board Development committee or a Board Governance committee can (and should) help with planning, executing, and evaluating the work of the board. 
  • Budget and Funding

    • Just like with any other program, potential expenses need to be considered. Do you need to rent space for meetings, provide meals or snacks, purchase name tags or shirts, host socials, etc? Meals or other refreshments can serve as a great strategy for bringing people together and providing informal networking. 
  • Outreach and Recruitment

    • I hardly ever talk to a nonprofit leader that doesn’t ask me how they can find and recruit good board members. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that a professional and highly productive board can be one of your best attraction and retention tools. When people are excited about serving on your board and they believe their time is being used valuably, they will want to get others involved. And, the opposite is true. If meetings are unproductive and poorly organized, they can repel prospective board members.
  • Evaluation and Assessment

    • Again, this is often led by the Executive Director, and it is great to enlist the Board Development committee with this process. Good questions for the group to discuss include:
      • How effective was our last meeting?
      • Did we engage all members?
      • Are volunteers actively contributing?
      • What can we do to make the next one better? 
      • Are there any “off-line” conversations that need to happen? 
      • Are we meeting our objectives in regards to adult leadership development? 
      • Are we moving the needle on the work of the board towards our strategic objectives? 
  • Safety and Risk Management 

    • Serving on a board is usually a fairly low risk program in terms of physical safety. Unlike providing swimming or camping programming! To make sure that your volunteers are protected, all agencies should carry Directors & Officers (D&O) insurance. Additionally, ensuring that you create a culture where it is safe for people to step outside their comfort zone is key to helping them grow. No one grows when they do not feel safe. 

There’s no question that our best volunteers are the ones who give their time and energy to our organization out of a passion and desire to give back. And that is still super important. But if we are only thinking about what we can get out of our board members, rather than what we can give them, we are missing an opportunity to further develop the adult leaders we interact with and who care about making our world a better place. 

Every nonprofit is different and has unique needs and challenges. Email me at Kim@Athena-CoCo.com, or schedule a Discovery Call if you would like to discuss your organization’s Adult Leadership Program. 

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors, and helper of nonprofit leaders.
kim@athena-coco.com 

 

Effective Board Meetings

I believe that this is my last article comparing leading a staff team to leading a team of governance volunteers. If you haven’t been following along, but are curious to learn more, check out my previous articles on this topic:

What I have observed in working with and speaking with hundreds of nonprofit leaders, is an interesting disconnect. Whether it’s Board Chairs, who supervise and lead staff for their paid job, or Executive Directors, who lead a team of employees to deliver the work of the organization. These folks are often highly skilled when it comes to supervising and managing paid staff. Then, when it comes to leading a group of governance volunteers, they struggle. That was the motivation behind my last several articles comparing these two types of teams. 

I often say that all business is people-business. And when it comes to the nonprofit sector, that statement can be multiplied by 100. Everything about leading a nonprofit comes down to the ability to work with people. Relationships drive programming, funding, governance, partnerships, vision, impact and more. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking with your paid staff, volunteers, friends or your spouse, healthy communication is the foundation of strong relationships. 

Board Meetings as Special Events

One of the main communication systems most nonprofits have in place for connecting with their volunteers the regular board meetings. Hopefully this is not the only communication system, but it’s a pretty important one. So much so, that I have always thought of a board meeting as a special event. 

Think for a moment of the  Board of Directors as an adult leadership program. This program supports the volunteers governing the organization, and also helps develop even stronger and more passionate volunteer leaders. Running this program involves engaging different volunteers in a variety of aspects of leading the organization. This could include leading a committee, doing research, advocating for the organization, friend-raising, and more. Then the board meeting is when it all comes together. 

Like with a special event, a lot of planning, communication and preparation go into ensuring that it’s a success. The March article on communication goes into a detailed process on how-to and what-to communicate with your volunteers leading up to and following a board meeting. Ensuring everyone knows when the meeting will be and its content is important, but it’s just a small part of planning this special event. 

Components of Effective Team Meetings

Whether your team is made up of paid staff, or governance volunteers; meetings are a critical tool for effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving within any organization. An effective meeting requires careful planning and execution to ensure that everyone is engaged, productive, and focused on the team’s objectives. 

  • Clear Objectives: Every meeting should have a clear purpose and objectives. If you don’t know why you are bringing people together, it’s worth evaluating the value of the meeting. Generally with board meetings we are looking to do some or all of these things:
    • Connect volunteers to the mission
    • Ensure everyone is well-informed and on the same page
    • Educate volunteers on their role and/or skills development
    • Problem-solve
    • Team-building
    • Strengthen communication
    • Address official business
  • Agenda: A well-planned agenda is a critical component of an effective team meeting. The agenda should be distributed to all participants a minimum of one week before the meeting, along with any pre-read materials or preparation required. The agenda will help keep the meeting focused and ensure that all relevant topics are covered. My recommended board meeting agenda is as follows, and is similar to my staff meeting agenda:
    • Welcome/Opening – In addition to introductions, this is a great time for a mission moment spotlighting the work of the organization. (Connecting volunteers to the mission.)
    • Segue – Have everyone share some good news, both personal and professional. This provides a transition from what they were doing before, to this group. It also ensures that everyone speaks at least once in the meeting. (Team-building.)
    • Approval of Minutes (Address official business.)
    • Customer/Employee/Board Headlines – Note anything worth celebrating or acknowledging. (Connect to the mission. Team-building. Strengthen communication.)
    • Operational Announcements (Strengthens communication.) 
    • To-Do Items – Review any action items from the previous meeting. Are they completed, progressing, or off-track? Any off-track items drop down to the Discussion section. (Strengthen communication. Identify issues needing problem-solving)
    • Committee Reports – High level presentation of the work of the committees. Vote on initiatives when appropriate. Drop any issues down to the Discussion section. (Ensure everyone is well informed. Problem-solving. Strengthen communication.)
    • Discussion Items – All of the previous items should be addressed fairly quickly, leaving half or even two-thirds of the meeting time to focus on your Discussion Items. If there is a long list, as a group choose the 3 most important topics that need to be addressed. Give each topic 15-minutes. If you get through all items, pick the next most important one to discuss. (Skills development. Problem-solving. Strengthen Communication. Address official business.)
    • Conclusion – At the end of the meeting review any action items or assignments made. Discuss any outward communications that need to come out of this meeting, and who will handle it. (Ensure everyone is well-informed. Strengthen communication.)

You can grab a copy of my recommended board meeting agenda here.

  • Active Participation: Effective meetings require active participation from all team members. Otherwise, why are they there? The meeting leader, usually the Board Chair, can encourage this by asking specific people for their insights, going around the room and having everyone contribute, or breaking up into smaller groups for in-depth discussions. 
  • Time Management: We are all busy and time is a precious commodity. Effective meetings require good time management. Consider assigning a time-keeper to keep things moving along and minimize tangents. Effective meeting time management can bolster engagement when volunteers know their time is respected and used effectively.
  • Action Items: The point of a meeting is to make decisions and move the organization forward. As stated above, capture action items and next steps during the meeting and assign ownership and deadlines. Review at the end of the meeting and put these items on the agenda for next time, so they don’t get lost. This will help to ensure that decisions are acted upon and progress is made.

If you have not been thinking of your board meetings as a special event, give it a try. It establishes a greater sense of importance and production. Running quality board meetings can be one of the most effective strategies you implement in attracting and retaining quality board members. People want to know why they are coming together, they want to use their time effectively, and they want to see progress. Thoughtful and intentional board meetings can be the backbone needed to advance your work. 

Make Sure Everyone is Prepared

In addition to sending out agendas and assignments in advance of the meeting, everyone should know their role in the meeting. If you have a committee chair giving a report, review it with them in advance. Without guidance, they may end up just reading the minutes from their last meeting. Coach any who will be speaking or presenting on what and how they should approach the assignment. There is a bit of orchestrating that goes into delivering a quality board meeting special event. 

Timing is Everything

Finally, I highly recommend that your meetings have a set day and time. This way volunteers can have an entire year’s worth of meetings on their calendars. They can plan around them and communicate when there are conflicts. If yours is a brand new board, and you are still figuring out when that best time to meet is, use the input of the group, and then set the time that works best for everyone. As early as possible, establish that standing day and time. 

When it comes to frequency, I think monthly or every other month is best. Any less frequent, and you totally lose any momentum that you gain at the meeting. There are exceptions. For example, if you bring people in from all over the country/world. Or if your agency’s focus is on an event that happens once a year. For those who bring the board together less than every other month, it will be important to develop a robust committee structure or other work to keep your volunteers connected to your cause and to the important work of governing your agency. 

I love helping organizations evolve their board meetings from “sit & gets” to engaging and robust systems for advancing their work. Email me at Kim@Athena-CoCo.com, or schedule a Discovery Call to discuss creating board meeting special events that will drive your organization’s success! 

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofit leaders.
kim@athena-coco.com

Mission Monday ~ envida

The word envida, rooted in Latin, translates to mean “together in life.” That’s exactly the commitment of the nonprofit organization envida. They come together to ensure our entire community is able to live their lives fully. By providing transportation and homecare services to individuals with disabilities, older adults and those experiencing financial challenges, they help make this possible.

Getting around and staying in your home are essential to health and happiness. For nearly 50 years envida has transported clients to medical appointments, work, classes, recreational activities and more! With a fleet of 50 vehicles; as well as community based volunteers, envida is able to serve clients with recurring needs or single rides.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Gail Nehls, CEO of envida for the past 11 years. Gail is passionate about continuing to address this growing need in our community. She wishes more people knew that envida is here and accessible to many who can benefit from their services. Gail has a vision of expanding services to provide more weekend rides, and more accessibility in the outlying parts of the Colorado Springs metro area.

Their volunteer program involves neighbors helping neighbors. This is an opportunity for growth for this agency. Currently envida is seeking volunteers in Monument, to help with short rides around town. If you are interested in helping occasionally or on a regular basis, email them to learn more.

Right now envida’s biggest challenge, like many nonprofit organizations, is revenue. Demand continues to grow and resources remain limited. As a result, they are currently in need of a Grant Writer, a Business Development Specialist, and an Administrator skilled in reporting. If you have interest in helping ensure mobility and home-based living (or know someone who would be a great fit), reach out to Gail or check out their employment page.

Discover the difference envida is making in our community on their website.

Engaging Prospective Board Members

In this article I talked about where to find prospective board members. (Incidentally, the sources for finding board members are also a great place to look for good donors.) Then, in this one I talked about the importance of clarifying your board expectations. Afterall, you wouldn’t take a paid job without knowing what the company was expecting from you. Similarly, no one wants to get into a volunteer position and be caught off guard by what is expected of them.

Today’s article is going to look at those crucial next steps. Once you know what you expect from your board members, and you have some ideas about where to look for and recruit them – you need to be ready with a plan for what to do with them once you start attracting them. 

I have observed leaders who meet someone – who has a little bit of interest in their organization – and they ask them to join their board right away. Finding, recruiting, and keeping good board members is hard work. It’s understandable that leaders may want to try and capture those interested as quickly as possible. However, slowing this process down is a much better approach. Let’s explore why. 

Recruiting Your Boss

Often, especially in younger nonprofits, the Executive Director does a lot of the work of recruiting the board. It often becomes just one more of the millions of things that she or he needs to work on. The very top reason to slow down the board recruitment process is because, as the ED, you are essentially recruiting one of your bosses. It’s safe to say that you probably want to make sure that you bring on someone who you trust, who you know will make decisions with the best interest of the organization in mind, and who is volunteering for your organization for the right reasons. 

Relationships Drive the Work

The work of a nonprofit organization is highly relational. Successful organizations engage more and more people in the important work of making the world a better place. Strong and healthy boards help to share the story of the organization, connect to partners, recruit more people to engage, and ensure impact and sustainability. Discovering how a prospective board member might contribute in an effective way takes time. It requires multiple interactions to develop a relationship and understand how their involvement can be mutually beneficial. 

Good Decisions Take Time

Just like you want to make a good decision for your agency, you also want to be sure that the prospect makes a good decision for themselves. They need to make a connection to your cause; determine if they have the time, energy and capacity to serve; and decide if your board is a good fit for them. It can be very disruptive to bring on a new board member, have them stay only a few months, and then lose them. 

For these reasons and many more, I recommend that organizations put a recruitment process in place. Having a process doesn’t mean that you cannot deviate from it, it just means that you have a plan for how to develop a relationship with a potential board member. 

Every organization needs to determine how their process looks. Many factors will determine what is right for each agency. An organization’s size, maturity, current programming, current board health, needs, and challenges are just a few of the things to consider. 

When working with agencies I recommend a minimum of 3 to 4 interactions prior to inviting someone to serve on the board. In the generic example below I’ve outlined some basic elements to include.

Board Recruitment Process

  • You get a Lead. This can come from networking, through your programming, a name presented by a volunteer, etc. 
  • Qualify that the Lead seems like a good prospect. Start (or continue) the relationship-building process. Take them out for coffee or lunch. Begin to share the idea of them serving on your board. 
  • If appropriate, invite them to observe a program or operations. Help them get a feel for the work that you do. During the observations make sure that someone hosts them. You want to clearly explain the methodology of your work, what sets your agency apart, and the intentional things you are doing to make a difference. 
    • Agencies that serve highly vulnerable populations may have to find different ways of educating a prospect about their work. 
  • Again – when appropriate, have them visit and observe a board or committee meeting. This is a good way for them to get a feel for the culture and how they might fit into it. 
  • Follow-up with the prospect to answer any questions, review expectations in detail, and explore how they are feeling about the possibility of getting involved. 
  • If they are interested, present to the board for a vote.
  • Officially invite them to join – OR – thank them for going through the process. 
    • A future article will talk about what to do with them once you invite them to join and they say: “Yes!” 
    • If you need to turn them away, share honest feedback. If the door is open to future involvement, let them know. If they are not a match, be clear about that too. 

As you consider who to bring into your organization, there is a lot to think about. Are they a good fit? Do they have skills that your agency needs? Can they help with connections, open doors, or raise money? These are all important questions you need to ask. I believe the most important thing to look for is passion. Do they care about the issue your agency is addressing and your strategies for solving it? If not, they may not bring their best self to the table and they may not contribute consistently. 

When you have a great first “date,” do the next logical step and ask them to get together again. Bringing someone on your board is not as significant as getting married. So after a few good “dates” it may make sense to start talking about taking the relationship to the next level; ie: getting them involved as a volunteer. Just as you should hire slowly and choose a life partner slowly – take your time bringing on new board members. 

If your organization needs help creating a recruitment process that is right for you, I would love to help! Email me at Kim@Athena-CoCo.com to learn more. Let’s connect!

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits and small businesses.
kim@athena-coco.com 

 

Mission Monday ~ First Tee

First Tee is a nonprofit organization that teaches children life skills through purposed golf lessons. By integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, First Tee attempts to build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience in participating children. This is not to be confused with Top Golf. Who would do that? Well, maybe me. 

Once I understood which business we were talking about, I had a great conversation with Community Impact Coordinator, Lauren Graziano. Lauren shared that all programs, activities, curriculum, volunteers and staff are dedicated to helping youth to develop confidence, overcome challenges and achieve goals. With Executive Director Sandy Johnson on maternity leave, Lauren currently has a lot on her plate! 

There’s a quote on their website about golf being the closest game to living life. Famous amateur golfer Bobby Jones said, “You get bad breaks from good shots, you get good breaks from bad shots, but you have to play the ball where it lies.” Using the game of golf, First Tee — Southern Colorado teaches core values and life skills to help kids from all backgrounds and ages tackle the good and bad breaks they get in life. The team is currently getting ready for summer programming. In order to deliver the impactful, quality programming that is a hallmark of First Tee, they need lots of volunteers! If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of young people you can get involved here

One thing Lauren shared that I thought readers would be interested in is that anyone can purchase a membership to their facility at 525 North Academy Boulevard in Colorado Springs. The facility includes: six micro-range hitting bays with 32 inch TV displays of ball flight analytics, two aboutGolf PGA Tour simulators (where you can play 9 or 18 holes) and full size putting and chipping greens. How fun is that?!?!?

Most people think of First Tee as a golf skills program. What Lauren and the team would most like for people to know is that it’s actually a youth development program working on character development through understanding and managing emotions, resolving conflicts, setting up step-by-step goals, planning for the future, and appreciating diversity. If you would like to contribute, volunteer, or just learn more go to https://firstteesoco.org. You can also connect with Lauren at lauren@firstteesoco.org.

Nonprofit November Week #5

Here we are, the final stretch! Thank you to those of you who have been reading along with Nonprofit November, and also to those who skim to find what appeals to you. This final week has proven to be educational, but also difficult to connect with people during the holiday week. 

In full transparency, it’s because of the holiday that two of this week’s agencies were not actual interviews. The first is the YMCA. I did not interview anyone from the Y, and they are not really a small organization. However, I believe they are largely misunderstood, and I thought I would take this opportunity to share a little of my knowledge from working for the Y movement for over 30 years. The second is Tri-Lakes Cares. I have met with their Exec, I serve on their board, and I distributed Thanksgiving meals with them last weekend. However, I did not technically interview them specifically for this project. But, it’s my project and I’m going to share about their great work anyway! 

I hope you enjoy reading this final edition of Nonprofit November agency spotlights. I also hope that it has helped to spark an interest in you, to find a cause where you can make a difference in your community. If not, here’s your last chance . . . 

 

The William Stanley Foundation

This is the only foundation I have interviewed during this project. A foundation varies from other organizations I’ve highlighted in that it serves as the funding source for work being delivered through other nonprofits. They work to address a critical social need through a variety of programs or agencies. 

My friend, Bill Stanley, founded his foundation just one year ago. Having had several successful careers, Bill decided that he didn’t want to leave all of his assets to his children. Instead, he wanted to leave a legacy. While Bill is very philanthropic, he doesn’t choose to give through larger organizations. He wants his giving to go straight to recipients or to programs directly serving individuals. He loves to be able to see the impact of his contributions. 

The William Stanley Foundation works to address education, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship in our young people. Bill is building his network of nonprofit agencies in order to connect with and fund projects that match his passions. Some examples of the organizations this Foundation has supported include: Inventa Academy, Rocky Mountain PBS, Kids on Bikes, Junior Achievement, Cool Science and many more. 

As a brand new organization, Bill is still developing processes and figuring things out. One of his biggest needs is to grow his Board. Currently there are two Board members and he would like to double that. With no paid staff, it is a working Board. The intent is to keep it that way in the foreseeable future. If you are interested in getting involved at the leadership level, or if you know of a program this Foundation should look at, email Bill at: wsfoundation02@gmail.com. You can also learn more on their Facebook page. 

 

YMCA

Thanks to the Village People, everyone has heard of the YMCA. Many people live in a community where there is a Y. And almost everyone I speak with has participated in YMCA membership or programs at some point in their lives. Which makes it kind of ironic that relatively few people realize that the Y is a nonprofit organization. Fewer yet can articulate the mission or cause. 

It seems most people think of the Y as a swim-n-gym or a fitness center that “does good stuff in the community.” That’s not wrong, but the Y provides so much more. As a grassroots organization, every Y seeks to address the unmet needs in the community they serve. This can be anything that falls into their areas of focus: healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility. 

With a 177-year history, it’s difficult to sum up all the amazing work of the Y in just a few paragraphs, but I’ll try! Every program they offer is designed to strengthen the community and help individuals reach their full potential. Some traditional programs include fitness classes, swimming lessons, day camps, youth sports, before and after school care, youth-in-government, and Bible study. Based on their community needs, there is a lot of creativity in programming. Some of the more unique offerings include a food-mobile in a food desert, a writer’s workshop for aspiring young artists, a resource center for expecting moms, adventure trips, speed dating, garden clubs, a competitive yoyo team and so. much. more. 

You are probably familiar with many of the things started or invented by the Y. Basketball, volleyball and racquetball were all created at Ys. So was organized camping and swimming pool filtration (thankfully, ew). Toastmasters, Gideons, Scouting and Father’s Day all came out of YMCAs. In many communities, the town library and night school were initially started by the Y, eventually spinning off and becoming public libraries and local colleges. These are just a few of the initiatives the YMCA has provided, all in an effort to strengthen our communities. 

The Y is committed to ensuring every community member has access to their programs and services. No one is ever denied access due to an inability to pay. Financial assistance for membership, programs, child care and more are made available because of the generosity of the community they serve. Find your local YMCA at www.ymca.net. From there you can get involved in programs, membership, volunteerism, philanthropy, leadership, and more! 

 

Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI)

One of the most crucial roles that nonprofit organizations fulfill (in my opinion) is engaging the community in delivering upon their mission. By doing this an agency connects people to their cause, deepening their passion for the work. RMFI (pronounced RIM-FEE) does an amazing job at this. The pandemic impacted their numbers, but in a typical year they engage over 2,000 volunteers as stewards and guardians of our outdoor resources. 

RMFI is dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in partnership with the forest service, cities, and counties; as well as state and federal lands in Southern Colorado. This isn’t just about building and maintaining trails. The RMFI team is committed to education and research, ensuring preservation of our natural resources for years to come. That means protecting and enhancing the ecological health of our land and water resources. In addition to creating sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities, their work includes completing projects focused on watershed restoration and forest health. 

When people understand, they care. That seems to be the philosophy behind the engagement and educational initiatives at RMFI. Whether it’s a brief talk on geology at the Garden of the Gods, technical training classes, or their accredited field study college course, education is woven into every aspect of their work. Since they have staff and volunteers on the ground, doing this work all the time, they are constantly researching and learning. They use the knowledge they gain through their work to develop better techniques and to educate landowners. 

According to Executive Director Jennifer Peterson, the biggest challenge currently facing RMFI is their physical space. Their offices are currently located in a very charming old school house, but during their “work season” the amount of space they have is insufficient. Jennifer’s vision is to create a collaborative hub where like-minded agencies can come together to share space, resource, and knowledge. To get involved in advancing the work of RMFI as a volunteer, donor, or seasonal staff go to their website. If you have space to consider, reach out to Jennifer directly at jennifer@rmfi.org

 

Tri-Lakes Cares

Serving Northern El Paso County, this agency does a lot! They improve people’s lives by providing emergency, self-sufficiency, and relief programming. This can mean any number of services or supports to help families or individuals in need. Tri-Lakes Cares (TLC) is probably best known for their food pantry. Through the pantry they provide supplemental groceries, snack packs, summer meals for kids, and holiday meals. In 2020 they distributed over 222,000 pounds of food, serving an average of 44 families a week!

While food is their best known service, TLC also provides financial assistance for housing, utilities, transportation, medical needs, education, child care, and more. Additionally, they offer medical support with nursing assistance, advocacy and connection, insurance help, emotional and spiritual resources, disease prevention and maintenance, and health education. Other programming includes: case management, their Getting Ahead group, a holiday giving tree, backpack/school supplies distribution, and more. 

I have the honor of serving on the Board of Directors for this agency. I’m pretty new to the organization, but I have already had the opportunity to see the impact they have on our community. Clients range from those dealing with generational poverty to families experiencing joblessness due to the pandemic. The beautiful thing about Tri-Lakes Cares is the way that they treat each and every client with dignity and respect. The staff and volunteers value the individuals and meet them where they are. From there they help clients move forward based on their personal needs and readiness. 

Executive Director Haley Chapin and Board Chair Rich Schur are dedicated to helping those in need in our community. They are the ubiquitous faces of the organization in the Tri-Lakes area. If you see them out and about, they can tell you that, as the community continues to quickly grow, so does the need for TLC’s services. Limited space and staff keep them from doing more. Community donations and volunteers help. If you would like to get involved go to https://tri-lakescares.org

 

Mary’s Home

Mary’s Home provides long-term residential programming designed to help single moms transition out of homelessness and create a bright future for themselves and their children. The National Center for Homeless states that over 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse, and that children experiencing homelessness have 3 times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems, compared to non-homeless children. These are complex problems, which is the reason for the long-term approach. 

Their research-based approach is broken into three phases, spread over about 5-years. The first phase focuses on healing and learning, the second phase involves discovering their career path, and the final phase helps them pursue their career. Through this process Mary’s Home not only provides a safe living situation, but the opportunity to create a new future. This approach isn’t a good fit for everyone. Single mothers experiencing crisis and who are committed to a life-changing health and growth process are the best match for this community. 

Mary Hoggatt is the Program Director at Mary’s Home (the name is just a happy coincidence). Mary loves her job more than anyone I’ve met. What she would most like for people to know about the women they serve is how strong and brave they are. It takes significant resilience to break away from trauma and create a better life for their children. These women deserve respect. 

Every family who enters Mary’s Home is welcomed with a safe, clean and comfortable living space. The space is fully furnished and surrounded by a built-in community of supporters and friends. Children attend childcare or school while moms gain parenting and employment skills. You can be a part of supporting the 19-families served through this program! Go to their website to learn about volunteering and donation opportunities. 

 

Want to learn more about how you can have a lasting impact on your community? Email me at kim@athena-coco.com to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call or check out this article on how to be a community superhero. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver. 

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.
kim@athena-coco.com

Nonprofit November ~ Week 2

Week 2 of my Nonprofit November project is here! Each weekday in November I am interviewing a different nonprofit agency in our community. I am sharing what I learn with you, in hopes that you learn a little something, and maybe even get inspired to connect with a cause or agency that sparks your passion.

Thanks so much for reading! Please share with others who you think may be interested. Let’s spread the word about the impact these amazing agencies are providing to our community.

Stranded Motorist Fund

When we think of helping those in need we often think of housing assistance, meals or food pantries, or even clothing closets. A safe, reliable automobile is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. But in an area where public transportation is lacking, it can be a huge barrier to accessing work, school, community, and more. 

During the course of 2020, Dan Adam, owner of Adam & Son, saw this need skyrocket. That led to the creation of A&S Stranded Motorist Fund. Through partnerships, internal funding, and customer donations, Adam & Son is helping to make sure there are fewer stranded motorists on the side of the road. By assisting with repair costs and necessary maintenance they are helping low income individuals and families to keep their vehicles up and running.

Scott Gill, the Brand Manager for Adam & Son, shared that their biggest challenge right now is that their need outweighs their current capacity. There are just not enough funds to help everyone who needs it. They are constantly looking for additional funding sources. If you are interested in making a donation or learning more, go to: https://adamandson.com/smf

In addition to financial contributions, occasionally the Stranded Motorist Fund has had the opportunity to receive a car donation. They have been able to spruce it up and donate back out to someone with that need. Scott would be interested in visiting with anyone who would like to know more about the incredible impact they are having on our community. Connect with him here

 

Kids on Bikes

As a cyclist, I was super excited to learn more about this organization! Having a bit of an understanding of their Mountain Bike Camps and some of their partnerships, I thought I knew what the organization was about. I’ll tell you right now, I was wrong! 

Kids on Bikes was founded to address the childhood obesity crisis in our community. In El Paso County over 58% of kids get less than the recommended 60-minutes of physical activity per day. In fact, the 2015 Colorado Health Report Card indicated that kids average over 7 hours of screen time a day and only 7 minutes of active play outdoors. Childhood obesity has grown by 300% in the past thirty years as the number of kids walking or biking to school has plummeted from 50% to just 13%. 

Earn A Bike is the original, signature program for Kids on Bikes. Executive Director, Daniel Byrd shared their belief that all children deserve the opportunity to experience the joy, freedom and independence of riding and owning a bike. Additional programming that supports that vision includes their Mountain Bike Camps, Bicycling Education, the Pedal Station and community rides. 

With a goal of getting kids active on bikes for as long as possible, the biggest challenges they face are staff capacity and a shortage of bikes, equipment and parts. To donate, volunteer, or just learn more go to https://kidsonbikes.net/get-involved or reach out to Daniel directly.

 

Day Break ~ An Adult Day Program

I had the opportunity to tour this Adult Day Program, located in Woodland Park, a while back. I was so impressed with the amazing work they do and care that they provide, that I wanted to make sure I included them in this project. 

Founder and Executive Director, Paula Levy shared that Day Break serves to address two distinct, critical social needs. First, there are the clients aged 60 and older who cannot live independently. Through Day Break they connect with their community, access wellness and self-care services, attend outings, and maintain connections with their peers. 

The second issue they address is providing much needed respite for caregivers, giving them time to refresh, recharge, and regroup. By taking some of the pressure off caregivers, Day Break helps to postpone the transition to assisted living, prolonging health and life for the senior. 

Paula’s passion for serving our older community members is what drives the work of Day Break. Because of that, Day Break is so much more than “day care for seniors”. Staffed with CNAs and numerous volunteers, programming is designed to meet the needs of the aging clients and enrich their quality of life. Services are fee based and supplemented with grants and donations. 

The theme of the day seems to be – more need than capacity. Day Break is no different. As a state licensed care facility they are limited on the number of clients they can serve at a time. Paula and her board are currently working to find a larger space in order to expand their services. If you are interested in getting involved as a donor or volunteer go to: https://www.daybreakadp.com. Additionally, Paula is always seeking opportunities to get out and speak to the community about their work. If you have a speaking opportunity email her directly to set something up.

 

Hope Advanced

Tim and Brownie Richardson work with the Broken, Busted and Disgusted. They connect with folks who are down on their luck and surround them with the resources, support and connections that will help them move down the path of their best life. 

When asked how they do this, Tim said that it’s different for everyone. Everyone’s situation is different, so there isn’t one solution that will help them all. Through intense listening and empathy, clients are able to come to terms with their past, then leave it behind. The goal is to get them focused on their next steps.

For some people this means helping them to access services such as housing, clothing or food. For others they need counseling to help them determine their path. Still others need to surround themselves with people who will support them in a positive way. Hope Advanced provides all of this, with the focus on finding forward movement. 

The vision is to add programming to provide job opportunities, as well as to expand to a nationwide agency serving people across the country. With many funding and volunteer opportunities, you can get connected by going to https://yourhopeadvanced.com or reaching out directly to Tim and Brownie.

 

Becky Baker Foundation

In 2017, Becky Baker lost her battle with Breast Cancer. In her final week’s, Becky made the comment that she was disappointed that no one would remember her name. Since then, Becky’s husband Rick has been on a mission to ensure that no one could possibly forget her.

The Becky Baker Foundation provides access to mammograms and thermograms for low income women, eliminating the financial barriers that could cost them their lives. In the 3+ years since its inception, the Foundation has provided over 2,700 screenings, as well as prevention education programming.

The biggest challenge Rick sees is what he calls “Pink Washing”. Agencies, organizations, and products use this cause to make money, compromising the reputation and integrity of philanthropic efforts fighting breast cancer. Rick encourages people to do their research when considering a cause to support.

If you would like to learn more about the Becky Baker Foundation or get involved, please visit their website. I also encourage you to check out the fundraising efforts associated with #golf4prevention. Lastly, Rick wanted me to close with this plea:

“Please go get your screening!”

 

Want to learn more about how you can have a lasting impact on your community? Email me at kim@athena-coco.com to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call or check out this article on how to be a community superhero. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver. 

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.
kim@athena-coco.com