A new program is helping strengthen our city’s charitable sector by helping Boards or standing committees recruit leaders who are prepared to serve.
Board Connect matches motivated leaders with charitable Boards or standing committees for one year. The program, piloted with Leadership Winnipeg graduates in 2015/2016, helps participants expand their skill set, ensures charitable organizations have access to talented professionals, and increases awareness of and support for the charitable sector.
“Volunteering for a community organization is a wonderful thing, but in these cases these individuals are also looking to develop leadership skills,” says Noreen Mian, Executive Director of Volunteer Manitoba, which operates the program.
Since 2004, Leadership Winnipeg – a leadership development program run by Volunteer Manitoba and The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce – has provided existing and emerging leaders with a “backstage pass” to our city, giving participants a unique, first-hand perspective on what’s happening in our community.
“The (Leadership Winnipeg) program really highlighted cool, up-and-coming initiatives our city and our province are involved in,” says Monica Dominguez, who completed the program in 2013.
After Leadership Winnipeg finished, Ms. Dominguez, who works as a Community Relations Advisor for Manitoba Hydro, was looking for ways to continue her involvement. “A lot of people have this interest to be involved, but we didn’t know how to make that happen. You’re skilled and at a certain level in your career, but then how do you connect that if you haven’t been involved with Boards or know someone?” Ms. Dominguez says.
Ms. Mian and her colleagues knew Leadership Winnipeg graduates wanted to continue their involvement, and anecdotally they heard that some have. Board Connect formalizes the opportunity and process. Plus, the program offers the added value of screening participants and organizations, to help ensure they are good matches.
In the pilot year, Board Connect paired 17 Leadership Winnipeg alumni with local charitable organizations, including Monica Dominguez and Family Dynamics.
Family Dynamics is a charitable organization that provides a variety of family supports, including counselling and resource centres. Board Chair Luc Lavandowski could see Board Connect is an excellent opportunity, so he, along with new Executive Director Pamela Zorn, met Ms. Dominguez for coffee.
“We explained we were in a period of transition this year,” Mr. Lavandowski says. “I didn’t want it to be a case where [she] didn’t know what [she was] coming into. And it ended up being a really good fit.”
Family Dynamics’ bylaws state all Board members must serve two-year terms and since the Board Connect program is only a year, Ms. Dominguez was initially brought on in an ex-officio capacity. But that ended up working out to her advantage.
“I found that really beneficial, it’s kind of like a warm up year. Process-wise I felt out of my depth – and that’s really what I wanted: to learn new things and new programs and interactions,” Ms. Dominguez says.
The skillset of Leadership Winnipeg alumni makes them a great fit for Board work, and according to Ms. Zorn, finding qualified volunteers isn’t easy. “[Board] governance is higher level and it requires just the right symbiosis among a large group of people that come from all walks of life. To find a skilled Board member and somebody who can give up that amount of time to make sure there is good governance and the organization thrives is a real balancing act,” Ms. Zorn says.
Ensuring the right placement is also very important, Mr. Lavandowski says. “I’ve been involved with Boards where you can tell someone’s there who doesn’t want to be but they feel, ‘I said yes, I better do the work.’ That’s not good for the organization or for the individual.”
In the case of Monica Dominguez and Family Dynamics, both parties were very happy with the placement. Family Dynamics has volunteered to take another placement next year, and Ms. Dominguez has joined the Board as an official member. For her, community involvement in this new capacity has been incredibly rewarding. “You get to experience community in a different sense. It’s just a part of becoming socially-minded and being part of a larger picture on how to improve Winnipeg.”
Board Connect is now open to any community leaders who want to get involved, and to registered charities based in Winnipeg. For a complete list of eligibility criteria or to apply, go to volunteermanitoba.ca.
Volunteer Manitoba is receiving a grant of $75,000 over three years in support of Board Connect. The grant is drawn from the hundreds of Community Building Funds held at The Winnipeg Foundation.