Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

Think Integrating Clients Onto Your Board is Impossible? Think Again!

Service providers know the value of integrating client voices more actively, but often face a variety of barriers in doing so. The idea of including current or former clients on the Board of Directors might seem like an out-of-reach gold standard, but join our webinar on April 17th to hear how an organization did just that.

The Barrett Foundation is an organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico working to end the experience of homelessness for women and children by providing shelter, housing and supportive services. They have had such success transforming their organizational culture and building Board buy-in around constituent engagement, that a former client was just elected to the Board last month!

Part of the process leading up to this win was the Barrett Foundation’s involvement in the Common Good Action Project (CGAP) cohort with other local groups serving people experiencing homelessness. At the beginning of the CGAP process, all cohort members take an organizational survey that includes a question about demographic match/mismatch between the Board and clients. Connie Chavez, Executive Director of the Barrett Foundation, said the “survey results were the catalyst for the Board to clearly understand and embrace the need for change.”

In addition to the survey, the support and inspiration from other organizations in the cohort  helped Connie and the Barrett Foundation staff move the Board. Cohort members talked with each other about how to overcome challenges to operationalizing client engagement and establish long-term, measurable goals for moving constituents into leadership roles in their organizations. The cohort included two individuals that had experienced homelessness and now sit in leadership positions at  Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH). During a peer learning session they described their experiences moving into roles with power at AHCH.

To start the change process, Connie set up quarterly dinners with Board members and shelter residents. Recently, those meals have increased to monthly and Board participation reached 100% in March!

While challenges and pitfalls have cropped up along the way, the Barrett Foundation’s success shows to the power of small, incremental changes and organizational commitment to constituent engagement.

Learn more about the Barrett Foundation’s journey in a FREE webinar on April 17th featuring Connie Chavez, from the Barrett Foundation, and Leah Steimel, the consultant who coordinated and facilitated the CGAP program.

Register here!

Service and Social Change Board of Directors client voice Common Good Action Project Common Good in Action constituent engagement New Mexico