The NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors traveled to Oregon in early May for its orientation and face-to-face spring Board meetings.
NIRSA Foundation President Janice DeMonsi, new Board members Linda Knight and Randall Ford, and reappointed Board member Lexi Chaput joined the NIRSA Board President and newly-appointed and elected NIRSA Board members for orientation on May 8 at NIRSA HQ in Corvallis. Orientation focused on developing an understanding of the Association’s history and strategic trajectory, learning the ins and outs of governance and NIRSA leadership structures, as well as building relationships with NIRSA HQ staff. Board members met with multiple HQ department to introduce themselves and hear the goals and duties of each team.
“Spending the day at NIRSA HQ was a great experience,” Randall reflects. “As a new Board member, I gained valuable insight into how the staff serves all areas of the Association.”
This is the NIRSA Foundation’s third year of face-to-face orientation meetings, but it’s the first year NIRSA and NIRSA Foundation Board members experienced orientation together.
“I believe the intentional planning of bringing both groups together provided grounding for our future work as we all move forward with our efforts,” says NIRSA President-Elect Cara McFadden, PhD, who also serves on the NIRSA Foundaiton Board as an At-Large Director representing the NIRSA Board.
To Janice, bringing members of the two Boards together sparked productive conversations and better illuminated the connection of the NIRSA Foundation’s work to that of the its parent Board.
The group then headed up to Portland to meet the rest of the NIRSA Foundaiton Board for two full days of face-to-face Board meetings May 9–10. Board member Caroline Dotts kicked off the meetings leading the Board through discussion-based activities around their top five strengths as identified by the CliftonStrengths assessment. Board members explored how their individual “Signature Themes” contribute to the dynamics of the Board as a whole, examining how their unique strengths help the team execute, influence others, build relationships, and think strategically to accomplish the mission of the NIRSA Foundation and fundraise for the NIRSA family.
“Being able to take some time in the meetings to do Strength Finders and learn about each of our individual strengths, as well as how those will work with others’ strengths, will assist us all year long,” Janice says, adding that such in-depth discussion would have been more challenging and less productive if it weren’t for face-to-face meetings.
At these formal meetings, the Board nominated and approved Board member Brent Harrison as NIRSA Foundation President-Elect for the 2019-2020 leadership year.
NIRSA Foundation staff enlisted the guidance of Amy Varga of The Varga Group, a local fundraising consultant, to empower and orient the Board members regarding strategies for donor stewardship, understanding philanthropy trends, applying principles of “essentialism,” and adapting strategies and priorities to meet the evolving needs of donors and the Association.
“The Board has been more and more intentional about understanding and engaging with different groups and generations in our Association,” Lexi says. “We are finding new ways to educate our members, tell our story, and recognize our supporters, and this type of strategic and individualized approach is something that I think has been a great enhancement to our work.”
The Board also used its in-person meetings to discuss committee appointments, Annual Conference activities for 2020, field of interest funds, and donor stewardship strategies. The Board reaffirmed its main purpose as the fundraising arm of the Association, and discussions from the meetings will be incorporated into its 2019-2020 Annual Giving Plan, fundraising goals, and stewardship strategy.
“The Foundation Board serves the NIRSA family by raising money to invest in the Association’s future,” Janice affirms. “We have a very energized group of leaders on the Board this year, and I am excited for us to do great things.”
Board members left the week excited for the year ahead and prepared to serve the NIRSA family. “I look forward to working collectively with amazing friends and colleagues across generations as we embrace our past and step into the future,” Cara says.
To Lexi, the ability to take learnings from her first term on the Board and apply them to her second term fuels her excitement, especially as it relates to the NIRSA Foundation’s work with students and young professionals. “I am incredibly proud of the work that has been done by the Foundation Board to find new ways to engage our members, especially our students and young professionals,” Lexi reflects. “It is so powerful to not only see students recognizing the importance of the Foundation to our profession, but also to see the impact that our members can have as partners and advocates for our work.”