By Gregory Usberti
My parents always told me that raising two kids was a nearly thankless job, with horrible hours and no compensation. They bemoaned every time my sister and I fell out of line, and cheered every success as they stewarded us to adulthood, and to some extent still do today. Now, somewhere lost in my 30’s, I was invited to join a nonprofit board and finally understand what my parents were talking about. They relied on their parents to figure it out and provide guidance, and through a serious of mostly successful turns, they managed to craft two decent upstanding citizens. I, in turn, rely on Laura Otten. She is the guiding star in my role as a board member of a nonprofit.
Laura Otten’s Board Bootcamp is just that: bootcamp. The training is an intense overview of all aspects of nonprofit management, and its the best way you can possibly spend a Saturday if you’re a new, or even experienced board member. From the first words out of her mouth to the last stroke of your pen on the rubric analysis, every moment is worth committing to memory, learning and applying to your non profit job.
In fact, this is my second time through the nonprofit board Bootcamp. When I attended it last year, I left with a feeling of complete distress. I just bought a ticket on the Titanic. The amount of work to get my organization from where it was to where it should be seemed insurmountable. Over the course of twelve months, we made a plan at Artworks, directly in alignment to what Laura had taught us. We shored up our policies through the guidance provided by Laura; we refocused what our fundraising responsibilities are, we made sure everyone understood the financial policies, and the requirements of financial oversight and review; we critically examined programming to make sure it was in alignment with our mission, and even enacted new policy to develop and grow the board strategically.
A year later, I attended the boot camp again. This time, confident that I had worked a plan over the past year to address the questions Laura had raised during my first run through. I was proud to know that I had done much of what she had prescribed for a healthy nonprofit, and I learned a few things I had missed along the way. The experience the second time, while less shocking, was still eye opening to see how far we had come, and to learn that there was still more work to be done. If you had to attend one Dodge instructional session, this was the one. No other resource can provide the overview and clear vision of what your responsibilities are as a nonprofit board member.
As an added bonus to this years class, the attendees were treated to a short bonus session run by Mark Sickles. Mark’s excellent presentation, providing practical tools for change management and perceptions of knowledge and the unknown, were a great counterpoint to the clear black and white instruction presented by Laura. Overall, the two training sessions dovetailed nicely, and their incredible value to a board member cannot be emphasized enough.
It is with great pride and deep appreciation to The Dodge Foundation for supporting us at Artworks. I sincerely thank them for their financial support, but I cannot stress enough the importance that their guidance, knowledge and leadership has provided us.
Dodge’s Technical Assistance Initiative has a YouTube channel! We’re building a library of interviews and thoughts on our Technical Assistance workshops and will continue to add videos as our 2011-2012 workshops happen.
Recently, we talked to Tom McMillian, Board Member of Arts Council of Morris Area and Janice Ewing, a board member from Sustainable Haddon Heights, about the Board Bootcamp workshop. We asked, “What’s the one major thing you learned today and what would you take back to your organization?”
See what they say: