Jay Sloves CTLatinoNews.com
There was a time when just getting your foot in the right door was the goal of a young Latino professional. Now, thanks to Leadership Greater Hartford’s (LGH) “Leaders on Board” program, community organizations are also benefiting from their skills and insight at the policy making level.
Two of these Latinos are Desiree Vazquez, a 26-year old Program Administrator at Eversource, who is the Secretary of the Board of Directors at the Kinsella Arts School, and 41-year old mother and grandmother Marisol Cardona, a Senior Brokerage Operations Associate at Prudential Retirement, who sits on three community boards— CT Alive, Latino Community Services (LCS) and Sonia Plumb Dance Company. Both Desiree and Marisol were placed through the “Leaders on Board” program.
“Latinos represent the largest ethnic group in the Capital City and have a growing presence in surrounding towns,” said Ted Carroll, President, Leadership Greater Hartford. “Yet, their talents and perspectives are vastly under represented on area non-profit boards, despite the fact that many of those served by our non-profit agencies are of Latino background.”
Kinsella Arts, Inc. is one of many organizations that is taking advantage of the “Leaders On Board” program, resources and insights.. Kinsella Arts, Inc. is the non-profit organization that serves to support and sustain the Comprehensive Training, Cultural Exposure and Arts Integration at R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of the Performing Arts in Hartford.
“As a board, we need to find ways to both motivate donors and motivate the community as to why arts matter. It starts with the right board,” said Joan Rogers, Interim Executive Director, Kinsella Arts, Inc. “’Leaders on Board’ helped provide legitimacy to Kinsella Arts, Inc. as both a board and as an organization.”
Since January 2009, “Leaders on Board”, which is entirely free to LGH members, has successfully matched nearly 400 individuals with more than 95 non-profit organizations, many as Ted Carroll noted, serving the under-served Latino community.
Why Board Diversity Matters
“’Leaders On Board’ helped us develop a board that truly reflects the community we serve,” Rogers said. “We serve a diverse student population from throughout Greater Hartford. Board diversity brings together different thinking, different heritages and different experiences that all add to the discussion.”
For many non-profits, diverse boards add much more than diverse thinking. Funders also encourage diverse boards. Board composition matters. As part of its funding protocol, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for the Capitol region, seeks non-profits with diverse boards.
“Our board diversity policies ensure that organizations we support do all they can to ensure that their boards represent the diversity of the communities that they serve,” said Judy Rozie-Battle, Vice President for Program, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “We believe that diverse viewpoints leads to a better understanding of the needs and solutions of serving a diverse client population and are reflective of the diversity of the broader region.”
Mae Ryan Maloney who runs “Leaders on Board”, created by Leadership Greater Hartford with support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, describes “Leaders on Board” as a “match-making” service: matching candidates seeking their first board experience, seasoned board members seeking new horizons or organizations themselves wishing to diversify and expand their own horizons.
The board landscape has changed over the last decade with organizations more and more wanting their Boards to reflect the community they serve, Maloney noted. “Today, there’s a lot more focus on the community and diversity of gender, age, ethnic background or even where people live,” said Maloney.
“Leaders on Board” serves a wide array of organizations, from grassroots organizations with no paid staff to large organizations that focus on human services, health, the arts and education.
Board “Speed Dating”
What is also unique is how “Leaders on Board” uses a “speed-dating” approach, called “Express Match”, to cull both candidate and organization. Maloney said “Leaders on Board” provides information about the nuts and bolts of board service and we explore the hard and soft skills needed to serve on the board.”
The organizations may be looking for specific skill sets such as candidates with interests or expertise in marketing, finance or community outreach. “Through 15-minute ‘Express Match’ rounds, it’s a low pressure, low key and fun way for both candidate and organization to get to know each other,” Maloney said.
Marisol Cardona agrees on the approach. “At my ‘Express Match’ there were five to six non-profits. I got a ‘second date’ with three of them. I serve on those three boards today.”
“My ‘Express Match’ hosted ten non-profits,” Vazquez said. “It was like having ten mini-interviews where you can meet other board members and other young professionals. “‘Express Match’ helped me find the place I truly belonged; it was like it was meant to be.”
Often it’s the smaller organization that captures the heart of the candidate.
“I try to find value in things, so I wanted to connect to non-profits that are not really well known. I wanted a start-up non-profit where you can roll up your sleeves and provide real input. My interests are education, children and love for the arts, so all three just clicked at Kinsella Arts,” Vazquez said.
“Each Board that I serve on has something that touches me,” Cardona said. “Growing up I had family members who passed away from AIDS, so my support for Latino Community Services… I’ve seen domestic abuse so I’m passionate how CT Alive helps women go on with life after the violence. As a mom, Sonia Plumb Dance Studio impacted me personally. It brings the theater in an educational way to the kids.”
To Desiree Vasquez and Marisol Cardona, and to the people their boards serve, Leadership Greater Hartford’s “Leaders on Board” has helped open a lot of doors. But as Desiree and Marisol have also learned, it’s not enough to get help to push open the closed door. You need to know which door to push.
For more information for candidates or organizations, contact Mae Ryan Maloney at 860.951.6161 x1900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org