Announcing Dodge’s Board Leadership Training Series

September 3, 2014

The Dodge Foundation is excited to launch the 15th year of our Technical Assistance initiative with the announcement of the fall schedule for our Board Leadership Training Series, a free workshop series open to Dodge grantees.

The Board Leadership series, produced in partnership with The Non Profit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business, is designed to build a stronger and more effective Board of Directors by exploring critical questions of organizational development and culture, how to recruit and retain effective board members and the importance of assessment, strategic development and financial management. Courses are led by experts, including former Dodge Foundation President David Grant, The Nonprofit Center Director Laura Otten, Fiscal Management Associates CEO Hilda Polanco and Creative Capacity Founder Allison Trimarco.

The Board Leadership Training Series begins in October and runs through May.  Participating executive directors and board members attend at least six day-long workshops and are guaranteed to see improvements in board governance practices integral to the health and effectiveness of the nonprofit organization they support. The time commitment yields extraordinary results!

But don’t take my word for it – past attendees, all busy nonprofit leaders and volunteer board members, speak best about the value of the series.

Kathy Hendrickson, founder and executive director of the Jersey City Children’s Theater, and Jackie O’Brien, board chair of the theater, were among the attendees of last year’s Board Leadership series.

“The strongest residual effect of the workshops was our embracing our ability to change, to remain flexible in our programming and in our thinking, while remaining true and steadfast to our mission,” Hendrickson said. “In embracing this new-found freedom, we are giving ourselves permission to fail, and in doing so, permission to truly succeed.”

For O’Brien, having the opportunity to participate in the series was “nothing less than extraordinary.”

“For a young organization like ours, prioritizing all of the things that need to get done can at times seem overwhelming. This experience has provided us with a framework on how to assess, plan, execute, and then assess once again our activities to ensure that we effectively uphold and deliver on our mission,” O’Brien said.  “These sessions are dialogues, not lectures, with Dodge’s brilliant team of thought leaders and with our peers. The learning and insights we have garnered would have taken us years to realize on our own — if at all!”

The New Jersey Highlands Coalition has attended the Board Leadership series twice — as have many Dodge grantees — and Executive Director Julia Somers said the organization plans to do so again.

“We have always come away feeling there is so much opportunity to improve and do a better job, and grateful for the support we receive from the first rate presenters and other non-profit attendees,” Somers said.

“Personally, I have found the series invaluable in helping me work more closely with my trustees. It has really given us an unusual chance to develop a deeper relationship and understanding of how we can work more effectively to achieve our mission and support each other in the process.  It does involve trustees (and staff) giving valuable time – often precious weekend days — to make this happen, but the very act of making this commitment is already a great signal that they want to do their best to help the organization thrive and is a harbinger of good things to come.”

When James Pustorino attended his first Board Leadership workshop, he had already been Executive Director of Victory Hall Inc. for 10 years. He said at the time he was struggling to keep the arts organization going and to redefine its mission.

“The very first workshop, given by David Grant, was incredibly renewing. David’s explanation of Nonprofit Lifecycles put my last 10 years of work in perspective,” Pustorino said. “Once I saw where our non-profit had been in the cycle of growth, I could also start to see where we were going and how to get there.”

The Board Leadership Training Series and Communication Workshop series, offered in the spring, together make up Dodge’s Technical Assistance initiative, which launched in 1999 as a way to strengthen New Jersey’s nonprofits by institutionalizing learning around common issues in the sector. Last year, more than 220 people from 50 organizations attended Dodge workshops.

Stay tuned: We’ll announce the details of our Communications Workshop series in January.

Wendy Liscow, Education Program Director for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, oversees the Foundation’s Technical Assistance workshops.