NTL Launches Its 9th Cohort
Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders teaches participants how to become effective board members with the goal of building more inclusive, diverse, and engaged boards across our region and beyond.
Published September 20th, 2022
Community members from across the greater Syracuse area came together last Wednesday evening for what would be the first of nine workshops designed to prepare them for board service. Gifford’s Executive Director Sheena Solomon, the featured presenter for this opening session, set the tone by inviting participants to share their impressions and experiences with board service. Participants were primed to understand that although the rest of the NTL program would be rigorous, the real work would begin once they had graduated.
Key goals of NTL include educating participants about the role of a board of directors while also countering misperceptions about who belongs at those leadership tables.
Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders was born out of the realization that many nonprofit boards do not reflect the populations they serve. This means that key governance decisions are made without the input from those who will be most affected by them, or who have personally experienced the consequences of those decisions at previous points in their lives. Although this basic principle of representation is widely applauded in theory, it continues to be a rarity in practice. Even organizations who wish to diversify their board may not know where to start, or have the mechanisms in place to properly onboard and welcome new members. Furthermore, individuals from the community who wish to donate their time may not feel adequately prepared to serve or may struggle to connect with organizations with open board seats. NTL teaches participants to consider who their organization’s target population is, and then work to ensure that they have a voice at the table.
Gifford Program Administrator Sheria Walker welcomes the class and introduces the first session ahead of Sheena Solomon’s presentation.
In the first session, Sheena Solomon teaches the class to understand the duties of the board in relationship to the rest of an agency’s staff. They are faced with the sacrifices it takes to serve in that role, as well as the potential for high impact within their community. Basic terminology and practices are defined, such as Robert’s Rules of Order and the responsibilities of an Executive Director.
Participants are also invited to share their own histories, and reflect on how they might best apply their life experience to nonprofit governance. “Ice breaker” activities are also performed to help grow comfort and comradery among the new class.
Over the course of future sessions, NTL participants will be trained by a variety of instructors on subjects including conflict resolution, nonprofit lifecycles, accounting, legal best practices, networking strategies, the importance of diversity, and more.
Once they graduate, participants will have a chance to meet with nonprofits seeking new board members. Their profiles will also be added to Gifford’s online NTL Directory to help connect them with opportunities beyond the course of the program.
As a counterpoint to NTL, The Gifford Foundation is also launching a Board Development Series in collaboration with The Central New York Community Foundation. The three part course is offered free of charge, and will provide an opportunity for regional nonprofits to learn from veteran consultants about how to build stronger, more engaged, and inclusive boards. By investing in both the new board members as well as the existing organizations, the goal is that new members will be prepared to make a positive impact while ensuring that the nonprofit is primed to foster and embrace their contributions.
Gifford’s Executive Director, Sheena Solomon, created Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders in 2014 and has led the opening session for each cohort since then.