Building Strong Leadership, Leading to More Children Fed

TABLE recently participated in the Executive Service Corps of the Triangle (ESC) Board Leadership Boot Camp program, a series of sessions for nonprofit board leaders provided in partnership with Triangle Community Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and Youth Forward. As a Foundation, our goal is to build a strong and innovative ecosystem of nonprofits that can address the big challenges facing our region. Through capacity building programs, investing in equitable outcomes and serving collaboratively as a platform for nonprofit needs, we are increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our local organizations.

Approximately 30 percent of children in Carrboro and Chapel Hill rely on school lunch programs for meals. Without the help of organizations like TABLE, these children cannot count on meals outside of school. For a decade, TABLE, a vital nonprofit organization in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, has been on a journey, working to feed local, hungry children. Initially serving only 12 children, TABLE has grown to feeding over 500 kids in preschool, elementary school and middle school. Rapid growth brought growing pains to both the organization and the board.

TABLE’s Board of Directors was working hard to keep up with the demand faced by the organization. Quarterly meetings left little time to go over comprehensive issues such as strategic planning and evaluation. Limited board efficiency threatened the impact of the organization.

The board knew something needed to change. When Executive Director, Ashton Tippins, told Board Chair, Debbie McDermott, about the Board Leadership Boot Camp opportunity provided by ESC, McDermott knew the opportunity couldn’t be missed.

“I was faced with the challenge of improving the efficiency of the board. I hoped the significant investment of time would be worth it, and it was,” said McDermott.

The ESC Board Leadership Boot Camp program is an ongoing offering that serves as a primer for board of director best practices. Organizations send two board members to six sessions covering topics from board structure to sustainability. “Participants walk away with a better sense of roles and responsibility,” said ESC Executive Director Trudy Smith. “We want to help them focus on their mission and impact so they can be stronger leaders, and we want to get them excited at the same time!”

Board Leadership Boot Camp came at just the right time for TABLE. As TABLE was outgrowing their old location and working to raise awareness about themselves in the community, the board was not organized in a way to respond to these new challenges. Participation in the program gave them access to ESC’s team of professional consultants who guided them through a new and exciting transition and establishing a new governance strategy.

“We could see the board members engaging more. They gained motivation and brought that back to the organization, leaving everyone enthused and empowered,” said Tippins.

Board Leadership Boot Camp helped TABLE to hold their first ever board retreat. Facilitated by members of ESC, board members not only learned about their own strengths and weaknesses but also began implementing best practices to create a stronger board and a stronger organization. The board came away with valuable strategies and established committees that are going to allow the board to make decisions to improve their efficiency during meetings. With the committees handling specific issues, the board will be able to focus on their responsibilities as members and look at the bigger picture for TABLE.

“This work allowed us to grow TABLE’s reach in a sustainable, deliberate, measurable way,” said McDermott. “By becoming more organized and targeted as a board, we will be able to shift our focus to strategic planning for the organization.”

TABLE’s transformation from these steps has created a laser-focused board and committees who will be on the job for challenges coming their way. So, what is next for TABLE?

“We will be thinking more about policies, operations and fundraising for TABLE. We hope to create a larger impact on the community through these efforts,” said Tippins.

McDermott says that the “The board retreat we held facilitated by ESC through the program served to re-engage our board members and fostered a renewed focus on clarifying TABLE’s mission, vision and short- and long-term goals. “I am inspired by what our board hopes to put in place and accomplish in the next year and beyond!” said McDermott.

The ESC Board Leadership Boot Camp program is a series of sessions designed to inform nonprofit board leadership about best practices in critical areas that will impact board effectiveness. The program is a collaborative offering made possible by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, Youth Forward and the Foundation’s commitment to building strong leaders in the nonprofit sector. For more information, please visit ESC’s website.