Los Alamos Community Foundation recently hosted members of the nonprofit community for a training session held at UNM-LA. Courtesy photo
Joanna Gillespie, the executive director of the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, gave an informative presentation on the ABC’s of board development Nov. 3 to an audience of about 30 local nonprofit board members, directors and other volunteers.
This is the latest in a series of bi-monthly events cosponsored by the Los Alamos Community Foundation and UNM-Los Alamos.
Gillespie shared her knowledge of best practices from personal experience and observations. In addition to sharing basic and effective principles of governance, she offered insights about fundraising, the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest, and techniques she uses to help her board stay fresh, engaged in the work and committed to the mission of the foundation.
Introducing Gillespie was Don Cobb, vice-president of the Los Alamos Community Foundation. He shared his enthusiasm for the recent Chicago Cubs World Series win, and highlighted lessons that can be drawn from the Cubs’ example of persistence after a 108-year title drought.
“First is perseverance. If a goal is worth achieving, it’s going to be difficult. But if you stay focused and if you stay in the moment, you will be ready to capitalize when the opportunity arises. Second is teamwork. A group of disparate individuals working together towards a common goal, with mutual respect and individual accountability, can achieve seemingly miraculous results,” he said.
After the event, Cobb reiterated that “every nonprofit organization struggles with building and maintaining an effective governing board. Joanna shared her insights on what makes good board members. A couple of her best practices were to keep a running list of potential board members and make sure they clearly understand the organization’s expectations for board members BEFORE they are accepted onto the board.”
The audience was very receptive to Gillespie’s message. Pat Soran serves on the advisory board for UNM-LA.
“Joanna is a great executive director. She has the ability to make people want to contribute to an organization with both their checkbooks and their sweat equity. She knows what works and what doesn’t work. Sharing that expertise with the larger nonprofit community is what these training opportunities are all about. The attendees I spoke with were excited about what Los Alamos Community Foundation is doing for the community in this regard,” he said.
Kristy Ortega, executive director of United Way of Northern New Mexico, commented, “While a lot of the information was not necessarily new to me, it is always great to have the reminders of what works and what is important. I learned two new things that I can use in my own work, making this 45-minute workshop an effective use of my time.”
Not everyone who attended had years of experience leading nonprofits. Joyce Davidson, recently elected president of the board of Los Alamos Visiting Nurse Service, plans to purchase two books recommended by Gillespie and share the material with her board: Doing Good Even Better: How To Be An Effective Board Member Of A Nonprofit Organization by Edgar Stoesz and The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project, or Business Venture by Laura Fredricks.
“I think most nonprofit board members could benefit from learning more about the roles, responsibilities and opportunities of serving a worthwhile organization. I found Joanna’s spirited presentation on board development very helpful,” she said.
At the end of her remarks, Gillespie took questions from attendees, giving nonprofits a chance to receive one-on-one advice for topics of interest or challenges they face.
The outreach event was part of an ongoing effort by Los Alamos Community Foundation to provide relevant and timely leadership training for the nonprofit community. If you are associated with a nonprofit organization that serves Los Alamos County and you would like to receive Los Alamos Community Foundation newsletters and updates containing notice of future training opportunities, as well as helpful information and tips for local nonprofits, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register your organization.
The Los Alamos Community Foundation is an organized IRS-registered community foundation that seeks to facilitate and promote local philanthropy by Los Alamos residents and those with strong connections to Los Alamos County, highlight unmet needs and donation opportunities within Los Alamos County, and meet those needs through financial and organizational support to existing and new organizations.
To learn more about Los Alamos Community Foundation, visit www.losalamoscf.org.