College ForwardCollege Forward was launched in 2003 after recognizing a critical need to expand college access to economically disadvantaged students. Starting in just one Hays County school, College Forward has grown to serve 14 schools in the Greater Austin and Houston areas. The organization has experienced significant growth, with 99% of their students accepted into college and an 83% college persistence rate. However, with such growth and success, it is crucial to maintain a staff and board large enough to handle the growing capacity.

The Challenge

With only five board members, three of whom were founding members with expiring terms, College Forward found itself in risk of violating its bylaws with only two remaining board members. The organization’s leaders agreed that they wanted people who were passionate about their mission but could not come to a consensus on the best recruitment methods. Most staff members believed “that the most valuable players in business are sought after and do not actively seek out placement on the boards of organizations.” One board member suggested that College Forward give Greenlights’ Board Summit a try, but others were skeptical, expecting mostly young professionals with no board experience.

The Solution

Despite the skepticism, College Forward applied to be a featured nonprofit at the 2010 Board Summit, an energizing event designed to introduce hundreds of business professionals to the executive leaders of Central Texas nonprofits who are looking for new board members. At the Board Summit, College Forward experienced a continuous stream of diverse, enthusiastic professionals full of questions and deep-rooted interest in board service. By the end of the event, College Forward had compiled a list of 35 professionals interested in board service with their organization. After hosting an open house for all of the individuals they had met at the Board Summit, College Forward brought on four new board members.

The new members, in accordance with College Forward’s recently developed board orientation process, attended Greenlights’ Board Essentials workshop. This workshop provided the new and old board members with fundamental principles, best practices and a mutual understanding of their responsibilities.

The Impact

Attending Greenlights’ Board Summit was a pivotal event for College Forward, and the benefits extended beyond the initial board growth.  With the influx of new members, College Forward knew it was time to create a structure and system for board training, recruitment and oversight. They were motivated to determine and articulate exactly what they were looking for in a way that they hadn’t done before. After defining these parameters, they developed and implemented a board application and orientation process and amended the structure of the board to include several strategic committees. Serving as a catalyst, the experience at Board Summit helped College Forward not only increase the size of their board, but also improve board relations and “establish a solid foundation of leadership for the next phase of the organization’s growth.”

About Greenlights

Greenlights strengthens nonprofits for extraordinary performance and impact by providing valuable management consulting services, professional development workshops and conferences, in-depth research, a membership program and more. Nonprofits pay about half the cost of our services, thanks to the generosity of our donors.

For more information about our consulting services, contact Sherry Sybesma, Director of Consulting Services.


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