Nearly a year ago, I moved back to my hometown of Sheridan with the goal of being an active member of the community. So, I was honored when I was asked to sit on the WYO Theater’s board of directors.
The WYO has played an important role in my life, from singing in Tandem Productions as a kid to stage managing the spring musical as a 20-something. But while I’d always loved the performing arts and education venue, I admit that I wasn’t 100 percent sure how to be the best board member.
My eyes were promptly opened at the first board event — a day-long strategic planning session. For the better part of a day, a roomful of board members and staff came to the heart of the WYO, tracing the theater’s history, exploring its mission statement and discussing our vision and goals.
In other words: board baptism by fire.
I realized how lucky I was to get this introduction when I joined a group of 45-plus local board members on Wednesday at the second session of “Be the Best Board Member,” a training series led by Center for a Vital Community Executive Director Amy Albrecht.
While several attendees came armed with memorized statements, others hedged, realizing they didn’t know their mission or vision. More than a few discovered that their board still needed to define itself.
Enter: the CVC’s board member training.
The goal? To provide tools for board members to be “the best fiduciary or steward for their organization, for everything from financial oversight to promotion,” Albrecht told me.
This marks the CVC’s first year offering the nonprofit training. The series was created out of necessity.
“If you’ve never been on a board or are brand new, it’s very important that you understand what you’re legally responsible for and what your duties as a board member are,” she said. “So many people accept an offer to be on a board with good intentions, but I want to make sure they’re a good fit.
“I also want to make it attractive and accessible for someone to consider spending their time and talents supporting a cause they’re passionate about by volunteering to be on a nonprofit board.”
Held over five sessions, the training covers subjects ranging from the basics of board composition to the intricacies of financial oversight.
On Wednesday, we explored the art of storytelling. Albrecht, who has served on numerous boards in the community, walked us through the process of defining the mission, vision and values of a board and how to share that information with the outside world. After each topic, we entered breakout sessions, during which board members practiced telling the story of their nonprofit, learning from each other how to be ambassadors.
We were in good company. At my table alone, there were representatives from Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Bighorns, the Advocacy and Resource Center, Wyoming Big Brothers Big Sisters, North Main Association and Forward Sheridan. Hearing these organizations’ missions and visions was humbling.
At the end of the 90 minutes, I walked away feeling inspired to be a better board member and honored to live in a town where so many people have volunteered their time, talents and efforts to serve the community. These people are the heart of any board, Albrecht said, which is why their training matters.
“Stronger boards equals stronger nonprofits,” she concluded. “And successful nonprofits mean that more needs are being met and lives are improved in our community.”