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From Quick Sand to Stable Ground
When a new mayor was elected, the agency became unimportant politically but was still mandated to bridge the many social and economic gaps, in part by having a board composed of representatives from both sides.
The board was made up of 35 people, many inexperienced or indifferent; they seldom came to board meetings. Board recruitment was impacted by the agency's association with low-income housing. "There was very little money on the board," the executive director said, "and yet the community has pockets of wealth."
"I started making demands of the board," he said, "and the workers rose to the top." Half of his board members had no money to contribute but they did volunteer to run programs. A few provided pro bono professional services, such as legal or accounting help.
Building from the ground up
"It took a long time to get to adolescence," the executive director recalled.
A second technique was networking. In every possible venue, from business associations to tenant associations, the executive director and board members searched for potential board members who would be active and effective.
"We were building the board from the ground up," the executive director said.
Expanding programs expanded visibility and smudged the line between old and new residents.
The finishing touches
Time and money commitments for board members were also implemented. "Those requirements caused a natural attrition and those who stayed understood their commitment," the executive director said. "It really called out the strength of the [community] residents."
That continuity, a board reflective of the total borough, and the emergence of a board interested in and capable of fund-raising impressed at least one funder that had previously taken a pass on supporting the agency. The funder recently gave a grant to the agency.