A Baby Boomer, a Gen X’er and a Millennial step onto a stage. They look different. They have diverse backgrounds. And they think differently.
The Baby Boomer, Scott Beyer, is a longtime board member of the YMCA of the North Shore. The Gen X’er, Eliza Cowan, has been on the board at Wellspring for three years. Yesenia de Leon, a Millennial who participated in the RAW Artworks program as a teen, has been on that board for two years.
Though their differences emerge, there is a common thread that ties this trio of nonprofit board members together: their passion.
Beyer, Cowan and de Leon took center stage for A Community of Generations: Harnessing the Power of our Differences, the keynote panel discussion that kicked off Essex County Community Foundation’s 8th annual Institute for Trustees, the region’s premier all-day conference for nonprofit board leaders and executive directors. The panel was moderated by Dr. Timothy M. Johnson, head of school at Pingree School in Hamilton, where the IFT took place on March 25 and has been held for the last eight years.
The panel topic, stirred by a robust discussion about generational differences at the 2016 conference, was a chance for the more than 300 nonprofit leaders at this year’s IFT to hear first-hand how these differences needn’t be viewed as an obstacle, but rather a powerful force for positive change.
During the panel discussion, Beyer, Cowan, de Leon and Johnson discussed how boards are working to attract and retain diverse leadership, assess progress, set priorities and ensure that all board members are engaged and valued.
“This conversation is absolutely critical to me because we are educating Essex County’s next wave,” said David Silva, Salem State University’s provost and academic vice president.
The keynote discussion set the tone for the rest of the day, which included networking opportunities and more than 20 inspirational workshops and master classes on development, governance, planning and financial management. The theme for this year’s conference was Strength Through Community: Working Together for the Greater Good.
The goal of the IFT is not only for participants to learn skills and tips from the dozens of nonprofit experts that are facilitating the workshops, but also to gain valuable insight from each other.
“I hope you are enlightened, educated and inspired by what you learn today,” ECCF’s Board Chair Jon Payson told the crowd.
Though there are many reasons nonprofit leaders attend IFT, many site the unique learning opportunities the conference presents.
“There’s always something new to learn,” said Linda Zimmerman, executive director of Neighbors in Need, a Lawrence-based hunger organization, who has attended IFT several times. “There’s always good content. It’s a great day.”
Michael Murray, a financial planner and board member of Peabody-based Haven from Hunger, was attending IFT for the second time. He said that the conference provides a good opportunity to gain a more in-depth understanding of nonprofits and how to be a better board member.
“It’s just a learning process,” said Murray. “I think a lot of people get on a board not understanding what their responsibilities are.”
Each year, the IFT provides both in-depth classes for experienced board members and opportunities for novice board members to get their feet wet with workshops that cover the fundamentals.
Melissa Dane, a new board member at Beverly Bootstraps, a nonprofit that provides critical resources to individuals and families, was planning to attend the workshop “Yes! You Can be a Great Board Member,” facilitated by Simone Joyaux of Joyaux Associates.
“It’s my first board and I want to figure out how best to utilize my time and make an impact,” said Dane, who was encouraged by fellow board members to attend IFT.
In her session, Joyaux, who has a no-nonsense attitude about good board governance, led a candid and often humorous discussion of board fundamentals.
“This is serious business,” Joyaux told the class. “This is a huge amount of work to intentionally create a board.”
Upstairs in room 301, Nanette Fridman, principal of Fridman Strategies, was leading “The Collaboration Continuum,” a workshop for organizations planning to collaborate with fellow nonprofits. Some of the things Fridman said improve a nonprofit’s chances of a successful collaboration include open communication, anticipation of challenges and being realistic about the outcomes.
“Everyone I know wants to innovate and collaborate,” said Fridman. “But I just want intentional collaboration.”
Elizabeth Neumeier, chair of the board of Gloucester State Company, attended Marie Peeler’s master class on board leadership, where participants talked about creating a board that leads by example. During a class break, Neumeier, who was attending IFT for the third time, said, “I leave with so many ideas, it’s impossible to implement them all.”
And Neumeier was not alone. The overall energy and enthusiasm of the day could be felt in the classrooms, in the halls and overheard in conversations between new and old acquaintances.
It was also apparent during the lunch break, when ECCF’s Julie Bishop gave a short presentation on Impact Essex County, the Foundation’s community leadership project that is using data to make strategic funding choices that will have a significant countywide impact.
Post-lunch workshops included Crafting Your 30-Second Elevator Pitch with ECCF’s Vice President for Development Beth Francis; Best Practices in Board Chair/CEO Relationships with ECCF’s President and CEO Dave Edwards and Board Chair Jon Payson and Budgeting Do’s and Don’ts with David Orlinoff.
“It’s been the best day,” said Donna Murray of Oasis of Family Campus Ministries, a nonprofit based on the campus of UMass Boston.
Murray, who is also involved with Building Bridges Through Music, a Lynn-based multicultural, educational and expressive arts organization, said she didn’t really understand what being a board member was all about, but that the IFT shed a lot of light on her roles and responsibilities.
“It was very informative,” she said. “Everything that I learned today has been really helpful.”
Essex County Community Foundation would like to thank our presenters, participants and also the generous sponsors who made the 2017 IFT a huge success. Sponsors for the day included: Amelia Peabody Foundation, AMG, Beauport Financial Services, John and Mollie Byrnes, ECCF Trustees, Edwin S. Webster Foundation, North Shore Bank, Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, Pingree School and The Hamilton Group.
Check out our IFT 2017 Photo Album on Facebook. PHOTOS BY SETH ALBAUM OF UPSIDE MEDIA.