About the Organization
Since its founding in 2007, Maverick Landing Community Services has served the residents of Maverick Landing, a mixed income community of 1,400 people, and the surrounding East Boston community with programs for families, children, youth, and digital technology learners. The important Maverick Makers program focuses on helping kids and teens increase STEM achievement and close the opportunity gap.
In October, 2018 ESC consultants Mike Stauff and Ron Ryan were engaged to coach MLCS’s Executive Director Rita Lara and the Chair of the Board as to how to lead the Board of Directors toward a sustainable governance model that would meet present and future needs consistent with best practices in comparable nonprofit organizations. A previous consulting engagement had identified that more education for the board was needed to improve its understanding of their roles and responsibilities, a better grasp of its financial situation, and assistance to increase its fundraising capacity. In addition, it was felt that some of the governing documents needed more clarification and definition.
How ESC Helped
The project focused on growing and strengthening the board, governance structures and protocols, and training the board on good governance practices. The process included a regular schedule of monthly meetings attended by ESC, the MLCS chair and the executive director. The consultants attended board meetings, built relationships with board members, and laid out a comprehensive strategy and list of tasks that needed to happen. Following a work plan the consultants guided the project through a methodical step by step process of critically examining key governance documents and policies, board composition, structure and meetings, financials, training, and applicability of best practices. A “SWOT” analysis identified strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and prompted practical solutions suitable for a nonprofit of MLSC’s size and structure that the leadership subsequently implemented.
Education and training are central to good governance. Mike and Ron orientated the new treasurer/chair of the finance and audit committee and the chair of the governance committee about the specialized subject matter and requirements of their new positions and presented a tutorial on financial basics to the Chair and the ED. Following the Mass Attorney General’s Guide, ESC informed board members about their roles and responsibilities and explained how board members can support fundraising in “non-ask” roles and participation on a well functioning development committee.
The consultants aided establishment of a governance committee and drafted its charter and a Finance and Audit Committee charter. MLCS inaugurated informative graphics to explain cash flow and reserves trends and projections and redefined the content of financial reports to the board. Pre-board Finance meetings became a regular practice.
Together with a legal advisor retained during the engagement the group identified improvements in governing documents, director roles and obligations, and policy enhancements. The consultants left behind an outline of pending actions that the board would formally schedule for completion on a rolling calendar.
Maverick Landing Community services is well on the way to a board that is self-governing, self-sustaining, meeting its roles of oversight and strategic direction, and maintaining a robust partnership with management. The work with ESC led to stronger collaboration across the board and to a stronger relationship between the ED and the MLCS board chair. There is a deeper understanding and clarification on board member roles and responsibilities. And board meetings became far more productive. In the words of MLCS’s Executive Director Rita Lara, “It (ESC) was the best investment our organization ever made.”