Board Con­nec­tor helps di­ver­sify non­profit boards

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY EMILY CRISMAN STAFF WRITER Con­tact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

“If you want to help your com­mu­nity, there’s some­thing out there for you to do, and we’re try­ing to con­nect with peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who haven’t been pre­vi­ously tapped for a po­si­tion.” — TRAVIS LYTLE, A BOARD CON­NEC­TOR AD­VISER

Af­ter out­lin­ing the strengths and weak­nesses of the Chat­tanooga De­sign Stu­dio’s board of di­rec­tors, Chair­man Ethan Col­lier iden­ti­fied a lack of diver­sity among board mem­bers in re­gard to age, race, skill sets, length of time in Chat­tanooga and types of work ex­pe­ri­ence.

In an ef­fort to bring in more diver­sity, he looked out­side the typ­i­cal method of find­ing new mem­bers: rec­om­men­da­tions from cur­rent mem­bers, which of­ten leads to can­di­dates from within the same so­cial and pro­fes­sional net­works.

In his search, Col­lier used Board Con­nec­tor, a web plat­form founded by Chat­tanooga City At­tor­ney Wade Hin­ton in June.

Hin­ton, who has served on a num­ber of boards for area non­prof­its, no­ticed that while Chat­tanooga is a di­verse com­mu­nity, the boards on which he served did not re­flect that. Rec­og­niz­ing the boards’ chal­lenge in iden­ti­fy­ing di­verse tal­ent, he felt a web plat­form would be a good way to ad­dress the prob­lem by con­nect­ing boards with a wider net of in­di­vid­u­als look­ing for a way to serve their com­mu­nity.

Mi­nori­ties and women, two un­der­rep­re­sented groups on lo­cal boards, may regis­ter with the site at board­con­nec­tor.org, in­di­cat­ing their skill sets and what types of non­prof­its they are in­ter­ested in serv­ing. Non­prof­its that are in­ten­tion­ally re­cruit­ing di­verse mem­bers may also regis­ter through the site, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on the types of tal­ent and skills they are look­ing for. Board Con­nec­tor’s project co­or­di­na­tor then matches non­prof­its with in­di­vid­u­als whose in­ter­ests and needs align, and rec­om­mends in­di­vid­u­als to the ap­pro­pri­ate boards.

“We were able to say, ‘Here’s the tal­ent we’re look­ing for and here’s what’s miss­ing on our board,’ and they were able to set us up with some­one who was a re­ally great match,” Col­lier said of the De­sign Stu­dio’s ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing the plat­form. “We were able to go out­side our per­sonal net­works and into a broader net­work of in­di­vid­u­als who would be a good fit. It was a re­ally help­ful tool.”

Since the pro­gram’s launch, 25 peo­ple have been rec­om­mended and just un­der 20 have been placed, Hin­ton said. Place­ments have been at or­ga­ni­za­tions sign­ing up through the site as well as with the pro­gram’s six ini­tial part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions: Ben­wood Foun­da­tion, Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion, Chat­tanooga Area Cham­ber of Com­merce, Chat­tanooga Women’s Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute, Ur­ban League of Greater Chat­tanooga and the city of Chat­tanooga.

Travis Lytle, a Board Con­nec­tor ad­viser who serves on a num­ber of area boards, said the plat­form is ben­e­fi­cial to both the in­di­vid­u­als and the non­prof­its.

“Be­ing a mi­nor­ity gives an­other per­spec­tive to the or­ga­ni­za­tion you’re serv­ing,” he said. “You get ben­e­fits through net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties — as a mi­nor­ity, you may not al­ways have the op­por­tu­nity to net­work with the type of peo­ple you’d be on a board with.”

He said serv­ing on a board also helps pre­pare peo­ple for ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions by pro­vid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence such as hir­ing CEOs or in­ves­ti­gat­ing in­ter­nal scan­dals.

“It’s a great way to use your ex­pe­ri­ence to help oth­ers,” Lytle said. “If you want to help your com­mu­nity, there’s some­thing out there for you to do, and we’re try­ing to con­nect with peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who haven’t been pre­vi­ously tapped for a po­si­tion.”

Dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2018, Board Con­nec­tor is rolling out a se­cond ver­sion of its web­site, which Hin­ton said will have a crisper look and al­low both in­di­vid­u­als and non­prof­its to cre­ate pro­files and in­ter­act di­rectly.

The plat­form al­ready has at­tracted the at­ten­tion of other cities that have sim­i­lar is­sues con­nect­ing non­prof­its with di­verse tal­ent look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve, said Hin­ton, and he hopes to in­tro­duce the plat­form out­side Chat­tanooga in the fu­ture.

STAFF PHOTO BY C.B. SCH­MELTER

Ethan Col­lier gives a tour of the rooftop space of one of the homes un­der con­struc­tion at the new hous­ing de­vel­op­ment One Hun­dred at South Broad on Wed­nes­day.

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