With the 2015 Institute for Trustees just around the corner (March 28), we sat down with Julie Bishop, ECCF’s vice president of grants and services, to hear her perspective on what many tell us is the region’s best leadership conference. Julie helped found IFT and has been a part of planning each one since!
ECCF: How did the Institute for Trustees (IFT) come to be?
Julie: In 2006, ECCF began offering an annual series of capacity building workshops for nonprofit staff members. They were so popular that some CEOs asked if we could put on similar programs for their boards. We tried it out in 2010 hoping to have maybe 75 attend and close to 300 signed up! We realized we were on to something special and the IFT became an annual event.
ECCF: Why do you think people attend the IFT each year?
Julie: Well, I’m a little biased, but ECCF's IFT is the only program of its kind (that we know of) in New England that brings top practitioners in the field of nonprofit leadership to train those serving on nonprofit boards. So many talented people volunteer their time to serve on boards, bringing a wide variety of expertise to agencies. For many, it may be their first experience with a nonprofit and they are unsure of their roles and responsibilities. So we bring people like Mary Beckman, Division Chief for Nonprofit Organizations/Public Charities with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office to teach a class at IFT on legal and fiduciary responsibilities. We also bring in insurance experts to talk about risk management, and CPAs to help us understand the 990; all stuff that most of us didn't learn in college.
ECCF: Who should attend the IFT?
Julie: I think any board member or executive director, whether from a small, all-volunteer organization or a large, multi-million dollar agency can gain valuable information that adds to their skills. Plus, it’s a great chance to network with others serving in similar positions on their board or from organizations with like missions. We have so many repeat attendees that a few years ago we added a couple of longer seminar style classes for experienced board members. These sell out every year. This year we're offering seven "Master Classes."
ECCF: It’s exciting to think of all the talent and wisdom at each IFT. But how do you keep it fresh? In other words, what's new for 2015?
Julie: We are thrilled to have Dan Pallotta as our keynote this year. Dan is the nationally known founder of the Charity Defense Council, and his TED talk has been viewed by almost three million people! He's also the brains behind the billboards on local highways featured in The Boston Globe. Funny thing is that we had Dan on our list of most wanted speakers since we started the IFT, but thought he lived in California, which is well beyond our travel budget. Then we found out he moved to Topsfield, a couple of miles north of ECCF! So we’re excited to have Dan, our neighbor, speak to us this year.
ECCF: You’ve also got some other new things scheduled, right?
Julie: Right! This year we're offering special sessions on Leadership and NextGen board participation. Strong leadership skills for the Board Chair and CEO are so critical to the success of any organization. Dave Welbourn, ECCF's recently retired CEO, will be back with his popular Master Class on how to be an excellent board chair. Plus, Jay Caporale, our executive vice president, will present the results of our Essex County governance study—which should be very interesting. And this year we're offering a second Master Class for CEOs to help them focus on the skills that will help them lead their organizations.
ECCF: Why the track for NextGen?
Julie: They’re our next leaders, philanthropists, board members and world changers! We’ve wanted to find new ways to include more training for NextGen participants (ages 20-40) by offering some workshops specifically for them. My hope is to see as many new or aspiring NextGen Trustees as possible join us at IFT. That’s why we’re also offering a two and a half hour primer as well as a special session by NextGens, for NextGens.
ECCF: You’ve been at IFT from the start. What’s your perspective on it now?
Julie: Well, we're had terrific reviews and almost 50 percent of annual participants have attended past IFTs. Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed after the 2014 IFT said they would attend a future IFT or recommend it to a friend. I'm pleased with that feedback. And I think we’ve raised awareness among Essex County boards of the need for training and good board governance practice. We know many have made changes based on what they have learned at the IFT—and that’s great to hear. I believe that stronger, well lead nonprofits really translates into better services and programs, improving the quality of life for all of us living in Essex County. See you there! You can register here!