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Leadership Summit provides guidance, advice to nonprofits

More than 50 organizations attend Placer Community Foundation session
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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An informational gathering for area nonprofits brought together more than 250 board members and executive directors, representing more than 50 organizations, at Placer Community Foundation?s Leadership Summit held in early May in Lincoln Hills. ?It came about because we?ve been making grants to nonprofit organizations for technical assistance ? helping them improve their business model,? foundation CEO Veronica Blake said Monday. ?We did that for about six years. We were getting a lot of applications coming in for board training and development. When we realized that was the lion?s share of their requests, we decided to try something different, bringing them together into one room with one great consultant and helping them all.? This was the second year for the meeting. ?We knew the summit had struck a chord with area nonprofits last year,? Blake said. ?We verified our impressions by the surveys everyone took. They gave written evaluations and insight on what their boards had learned and how the organizations benefited. We also asked them, ?What do we need to do (next time)?? They gave us feedback and we formed a focus group and that?s how we came up with the content this year.? Nationally known consultant Chuck V. Loring, last year?s speaker, was back this year. His topic this time was best practices in nonprofit governance and providing a framework that gives every board member the opportunity to participate in keeping their organization financially sound, according to a press release. ?(Loring) would talk on a topic and then they would go into breakout groups and discuss how the information they had just learned would apply to their specific organization,? Blake said. ?? It was definitely interactive. People were encouraged to ask questions in front of the larger group because everyone benefits from the learning and Chuck was there as a resource to answer the individual questions.? The day-long meeting was funded by the Placer Community Foundation and 20 donor organizations. ?It?s free to the nonprofits,? Blake said. ?(The funding) pays for the trainer and the meal. We have a reception afterward to celebrate all these board members doing all this work to make our community great.? Those interested in participating sign up through the foundation?s website. Last year, 32 organizations sent representatives. This year every table was filled and Blake had to turn away three applicant groups, she said. Among the attendees were the executive director and several board members from PEACE for Families. ?The reason I attended was to strengthen the mission of PEACE for Families, (which is) providing a life free of domestic violence and sexual assault,? board member Ian Boeye said. The most important thing he came away is that nonprofits are a lot like for-profits in the sense that the same skill set is required to govern in the non-profit world, he said. ?Your customers are donors and understanding that customer relationship,? ? ?we don?t always put together that those same skills in the for-profit world are applicable in the non-profit world. ?It helped me bridge my for-profit background to governing a non-profit.? Sandy Carlson, grants chairwoman for the Assistance League of Greater Placer, attended with five other league members. ?We?re a nonprofit all-volunteer group of about 260 ladies that services the western slope of Placer County,? she said. ?We are always looking for monies and ways to provide more services to the community. The Placer Community Foundation has always been a great supporter of ours and we were delighted to attend (the summit). We felt it was an enjoyable day and a very educational day for us. We learned a lot of new things. It was very informative. ? We had lots of opportunities to network with old friends and meet new acquaintances. The program provided an opportunity for us and for our agency to better develop and sustain community services, plan for our growth and manage our operations.? For Blake, the end result is strengthening area nonprofits. ?In this economy, they have greater demand on their services, and resources are getting tighter,? she said. ?What we want to do is help them bring more money into their organizations and be more effective in carrying out their missions.? It was a valuable education experience for the Placer Community Foundation as well. ?Eleven of our 15 board members were there at their own table learning how to improve their own efficiency as a board,? she said. ?That?s part of the fun that we can learn alongside our nonprofit partners.? Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.