April 13 marked the opening session of JVA Consulting’s sixth Executive Director Academy (EDA) and featured a “Genius Bar” of executive directors from diverse organizations who discussed issues ranging from board development, fundraising and evaluation to finding balance in life as an executive director. The panelists included Marcia Donziger of MyLifeLine.org, Ricki Feist of Rocky Mountain Parents as Teachers (RMPAT), Cynthia Gallegos of Focus Points and Reverend Stan Perea of HIS Ministries. Here are some of the highlights.
When asked about board involvement in fundraising, Cynthia Gallegos said an active board is key for Focus Points. Each of Focus Points’ board members contributes to the organization and participates in fundraising. When recruiting board members, Cynthia said you must find somebody that wants to go forward with the mission. If the mission of your organization aligns with their passion, you’ll have a great board member.
Marcia Donziger was asked about how she is able to find balance in creating and leading MyLifeLine.org while raising two young children. She said finding balance is a work in progress that doesn’t end. Marsha keeps an office at home and works long hours—her passion for the cause makes the work not seem like work.
When asked what part of her job keeps her up at night, Ricki Feist said that it’s dollars in today’s economy. The economic challenges of the last few years bring an increased need for services, and Ricki is passionate about RMPAT continuing to meet that need. She also went on to remind the EDA participants to take time for themselves. The executive director position is a demanding one that requires you to focus on other people. It’s important for executive directors to find time to rest and rejuvenate.
At the close of the session, Stan Parea shared a personal story about fundraising that resonated with the entire room. As a young man, just beginning his career, Stan had secured an appointment with a potential funder who was very wealthy. After the presentation, the funder brought out his checkbook and asked Stan how much he should contribute. Unsure of the man’s financial capacity, Stan asked him how much he would like to give. The funder was offended, and offered young Stan some important advice: “Do your homework.” For the moment, an opportunity was lost. Fortunately, Stan rigorously researched the funder, was able to secure a second meeting and ultimately received a sizeable donation.
Throughout the Genius Bar discussion, a common theme was the importance of mission. Whether it is recruiting board members who are passionate about an organization’s mission, or remembering that the mission comes before money, panelists all showed a similar passion for their missions that ultimately has driven their work as executive directors.
EDA continues through May 27 with 13 best practice sessions on leading and managing nonpofit organizations. For more information, go to www.jvaconsulting.com/training.