Leaders gather to improve communication

For the people leading local nonprofits to improve on major social issues, it can be lonely at the top.

A summit held Thursday morning at New Spire Stages looked to reverse that trend and promote conversations between nonprofit CEOs and their boards.

Patrick Jinks, a leadership coach with The Jinks Perspective, led the presentation “Governance Through the Lens of Leadership” over several hours. The morning training session for around 100 people was sponsored by the Ausherman Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of Frederick County, among others. Board members often have a lot to learn, Jinks said, but his organization focuses on building leadership.

“The idea today was to get board members to think of themselves not as governors, but as leaders,” Jinks said.

Being a community leader means not just having people following but empowering others to work in their own circles, Jinks said.

The topic was chosen after responses to community surveys and feedback from previous summits focused on questions related to communication between organization presidents and their boards, said Leigh Adams, director of the Ausherman Family Foundation.

Interacting with other leaders and boards is an important way to share ideas and build connections, said Elin Ross, Federated Charities executive director.

“It’s really easy to think that you’re the only organization who has ever gone through this and we can’t figure out a way forward, but it’s helpful to go to these collective events,” she said.

A takeaway from the presentation was for each board to strike the right balance of communication with people in the organization without micromanaging them. Each board is different, so each has to decide the correct level of control, Jinks said.

Some board members at the summit said the event was reassuring that their board was on the right path, though all boards struggle to identify and connect with donors.

Jodie Ostoich, president and CEO of the Interfaith Housing Alliance, said her organization has worked with Jinks before but still had some questions about how to get an entire board behind a shared mission.

“I really looked at today as a huge reinforcement of what we’ve learned already with some big takeaways,” Ostoich said.

Mark Long, vice chair of the alliance’s board said the lessons of the summit will help organizations improve along with the communities they serve.

“The more we can help ourselves be more effective leaders and all of that, and fulfill that mission more effectively, we feel it helps everybody,” he said.