Romer: Community organizations are only as strong as their boards
Nonprofit organizations and community districts/associations play an important role by providing critical services that not only contribute to economic stability but fill important niche services that improve our quality of life.
These organizations, associations, and special districts are often run by volunteer board leaders — think nonprofits, metro boards, recreation boards, property owner associations, town councils, and other community associations — and these board members are civic leaders. Volunteer leaders are the voice of the people they serve.
Volunteer board members and their organizations often understand better than anyone else their communities’ needs and the best ways to meet them. Strong, well-resourced nonprofits and associations that are connected to the decision-making infrastructure in their communities strengthen both the organization and the community.
We are fortunate to have a strong depth and scope of these organizations in Eagle County, and every person in the county benefits from the work of volunteer board members in one way or another, whether they realize it or not.
Our nonprofits and community boards play a fundamental role in creating thriving communities. Consider the impact these districts play in your life, ranging from your property owner’s association to the water district, the fire district to a recreation district, the school district to your town or county elected officials — these civic leaders volunteer time and expertise to the community.
Board service as an elected leader for your metro board, recreation board, nonprofit or even town council often sounds appealing, but also a little intimidating to those who haven’t served before. The good news is that board service is accessible and attainable, and these groups need talented board members; the challenge is that there is no manual to guide board members on best practices and expectations.
This is why Vail Valley Partnership is hosting a course on Board Service Basics. This new Vail Valley Works course is an introduction to appointed and elected board service. The course is designed to give you the knowledge and framework to effectively serve on a wide range of local boards – from nonprofits to special districts to town councils and everything in between.
A good board candidate understands how their passion and strengths can combine with an organizational mission to provide a good board experience. This segment includes basic information on organizational structure, tax status, governance and roles of board members and expectations of being on a board.
Skilled boards are made up of individuals who each communicate in different ways. Understanding how one’s own communication influences both harmony and conflict is important for a healthy board. It is also vital to understand the diverse thinking, process, and learning styles of those “around the table” to maximize strategic strengths and the human capacity of those serving on the board. Attendees will gain understanding of the various stages of teams and roles of leadership within those stages, working together as a team, and the needs of the team.
Many boards are deep in preparation for the coming year and for the years that follow. They are considering what they have learned over the past 18 months from the pandemic and how that will influence their organization’s strategic priorities. We need to engage new voices at the table and encourage folks to shape the community by serving on a board and learning how to develop and refine strategic board communications and teamwork.
Our nonprofits and other community organizations are only as strong as their boards. We are at an important inflection point with an opportunity to look forward to the future by building better boards.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.