And the award goes to…
East Harlem non-profit board recognized
Story by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
The awards season is not over.
While Oscar golden statuettes have been handed out, there are still more honors to come.
The Annual Brooke W. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Board Leadership approaches. There are five nominees, and the winner will be announced during a cocktail reception on Tues., March 11th.
One of this year’s five nominees, East Harlem Tutorial Program, is from Northern Manhattan. The others are BronxWorks, the GO Project, Reach Out & Read of Greater New York and Urban Pathways, and each organization’s board is being singled out as being representative of “outstanding examples of good governance”.
VCG Governance Matters, a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 by the Harvard Business School Club of Greater New York, whose mission focuses on building, strengthening and empowering the boards of nonprofit organizations. It focuses on bringing together boards needing new members—and individuals who wish to serve—across boundaries of skill, ethnicity, age and geography.
VCG Governance Matters established the award in 2009 to honor Brooke W. Mahoney’s memory. Mahoney sought to bring diverse, dedicated individuals into the nonprofit board room, and to create a “brain trust” to help organizations achieve their mission.
It is the only award that annually recognizes the leadership and work of an entire nonprofit Board of Directors.
Former winners include another Northern Manhattan organization, the Harlem RBI.
“These organizations are all dedicated to providing services to individuals and families in need, across our city,” said David LaGreca, VCG Governance Matter’s Executive Director. “We are delighted to be showcasing the dedication of the women and men whose volunteer Board service is critical in achieving the missions of their respective organizations.”
The VCG Governance Matters brings in an outside group each year, explained LaGreca, to evaluate submitted applications and to narrow the group down to 4 or 5 finalists. Each finalist is then interviewed by the jury (consisting of the Executive Director and Board Chair), who select the final winner.
The winner will receive a $5,000 award, supported by a gift in Mahoney’s memory from The Rauch Foundation on whose board she served.
The East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) has been around for over 40 years, serving the East Harlem community providing after school tutorial programs at area schools, and offering student-centered learning at its two charter schools, the East Harlem Scholars Academies.
Tom Webber has been a board member at EHTP for the past five years, but has been deeply engrained in the organization since childhood; his mother, Helen Webber, was one of its co-founders.
The first meetings were held in the Webber family apartment in the Washington Houses.
He wears many different hats, as he is also the Board President of East Harlem’s Edwin Gould Academy, which provides affordable housing for youth who have aged out of the foster care system or the juvenile justice system. And he is the Executive Director of Catholic Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
In the past three years, Webber explains the board of The East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) has undergone some major changes in the way it operates.
There are 20 people on the board, and to prevent stagnation, members must rotate out after three years. They are welcome to apply again, but only after a year’s reprieve. A committee of trustees helps to recruit, nurture and support board members.
EHTP has grown significantly in the years since the changes have been implemented. Beyond its tutoring program, the organization has opened two charter schools, increased staff twofold, and has gone from an operational budget of $3 million to $11 million.
Should EHTP be awarded the $5,000 grant, Webber expects that the funding will support the organization’s programming.
Some of the most important things to know when running a board are not necessarily organizational, noted Webber.
“It’s very important that the board understand that they have a fiduciary responsibility and a legal responsibility,” he explained. “[And that they] drive the mission and policy, but we’re not responsible for everyday operations.”
“Boards get confused and they think they have to be responsible for telling other people what to do, and that’s not helpful.”
Staff members can’t and shouldn’t be expected to take orders from both their direct supervisors and board members.
“They can’t have three bosses,” he added. “They need to know that the Executive Director is the boss, not the board.”
Accepting that they cannot be in control of every aspect of operations might be hard for some board members, but Webber said this is not a problem with EHTP’s board.
“We’ve made it clear what our role is, and what our role isn’t. It’s pretty key,” he said.
“There was a little confusion a few years ago. No more.”
Also helpful is the fact that EHTP has one concrete focus: improving education.
“We don’t try to do everything for everybody,” said Webber.
Aside from the importance of sticking to a single-minded mission and understanding that there is a delegation of tasks, passion is another key feature of a successful board.
“We’re all absolutely committed, and we all bring value added to the board to round out the board expertise,” said Webber.
The winner of the Brooke W. Mahoney Award will be announced on Tues., Mar. 11th.
For more information on the VCG Governance’s and the Award, please visit www.vcg.org.
For more information on the East Harlem Tutorial Program, please visit www.ehtp.org.