New German Village Society Board of Trustees President Jeanne Likins and I have just finished a series of what we've called "passion" conversations.
We sat down this fall individually with each of the 13 trustees to see what calls them to serve.
The Society is very much a working board. While collectively, "the board" oversees all of the big-picture items on the not-for-profit's agenda, individual members carry out a lot of the labor of getting projects completed.
In an effort to make the best use of each trustee's time, President Likins and I used the conversations to learn what members enjoy, what talents or interests they have that haven't yet found a place at our table, and what projects they'd really rather be left out of.
It will help me use them more efficiently.
To that end, the Organizational Development Committee (the committee tasked with identifying trustee candidates, adjusting policy/bylaws, and developing/tending to the leadership structure) spent the fall creating a "menu of support."
Many not-for-profit organizations have a commitment-to-serve document, including the Society.
These are often non-specific boilerplate about attending meetings, observing conflict-of-interest policies and generally looking out for the organization.
But for the first time this year, the Society is getting much more specific with trustees about how our organization can best use each individual's talents.
The committee wrote and rewrote the new menu, aiming to show the breadth and depth of options trustees have to further our goals.
The result is 34 distinct actions a trustee can take, divided into the categories of sponsorship, leadership, support, membership, volunteer service, board service and gifts/donations.
All 13 members attended a board retreat Jan. 11. The theme of the retreat was a discussion about how we can become a truly high-performing board.
There was 100 percent attendance and participation from members discussing how they can support each other -- and challenge each other -- to maximize their time spent as a team and individually working toward our shared goals.
To wrap up the retreat, the board agreed to fill in the menu of support and turn it into me by month's end to help me manage their time and talents to fill the needs of the organization.
My additional message was: How do we make board service the most fun, while getting some work done. This should NOT be drudgery.
Rather than ask all 13 members to work on every one of the 34 items on the list -- or send a general email to all "hey, I need help" -- I now have a work list of projects they have committed to help complete.
I know who to call when I need a shift covered in the Visitors Center and who to call for help engaging new members.
I know who has a network we might engage for sponsorships or legacy gifts and who would like to help write and edit the Haus und Garten Tour program booklet.
That's a powerful tool that wastes less time and deploys more talents.
The combination of the passion conversations and the menu of support have shown me once again -- and re-energized my belief -- the German Village Society is blessed with a board any executive director would envy.
They -- and each of you who contribute in so many ways -- make my job endlessly rewarding.
So that you may personally engage and thank them, here's a reminder of our current lineup of trustees:
Tim Bibler, treasurer; Dennis Brandon; William Case; Nick Cavalaris; Sarah Irvin Clark; Darci Congrove, vice president; William Curlis, secretary; Brittany Gibson; Chris Hune; Jeanne Likins, president; Dennis McCann, Jeffrey McNealey and Susan Sutherland.
German Village Society Executive Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column.