by Jill Mapstead, YWCA Board Chair
Blink Whoosh!! That’s the sound of 3-year term as the YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix Board Chair coming to a close. It has been a full and fulfilling run, and I stand proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with our Board, our amazing CEO, Dr. Regina Edwards and her fabulous team as I journey nostalgically down the ‘what have we accomplished’ path.
When I ‘raised my hand’ to assume the seat of the then-exiting-Chair-Elect in 2014, I did so as a new board member sitting on a board where many of the Director’s terms were coming to a close and whose newly appointed CEO (Regina) had recently taken the helm. I thought seriously about where my skills and talents in organizational development and process identification and improvement could contribute to an organization whose mission was so powerful and so resonant with my passions. I was excited for the opportunity to lead and to preserve what is so very special about this now 106–year-old organization. I saw these areas clearly as:
- Ensuring a strong infrastructure and solid Board development
- Initiating a new Advocacy ‘alliance’ as a formal board effort
- Increasing Community Engagement and Visibility
In reflection and in summary of this 3-year run, here’s what we’ve achieved as a collaborative Board and staff effort:
Ensuring a strong infrastructure and solid Board development
In 2015, when my position as Board Chair began, our board had 4 Directors. As a part of growing this board strategically, we set to the task of really defining what skills were needed, what characteristics of our ideal board to embed, and the values and culture we were wanting, ensuring that the board we were creating would reflect not only the mission of the organization but also the community we serve. The tools and processes we’ve created will ensure that long after this leadership term, our YW will have “tracks to run on” in continuing the growth and development of the Board of Directors and association.
As we close our fiscal year and my term as Chair, our Board stands strong at 15 members, a culturally and demographically diverse group of smart, influential, and passionate women. And while we are not at our maximum board capacity, we have defined and refined our recruitment, on-boarding and orientation process into a system that allows for continued strategic and considered growth of the board. We have planted seeds to begin a peer-mentoring program, a board assessment strategy/tool and have a considered eye on ongoing board development opportunities for all of our members, specifically but not exclusively, our young board directors. This Board of Directors prides itself on collaborative leadership, transparency and passionate contribution.
Initiating an Advocacy Alliance
What does Advocacy mean? How is the YWCA delivering on both sides of our mission to Eliminate Racism and Empower Women?
While our existing programming in 2014 most certainly could be defined as both advocacy and empowerment, it was heavily weighted on the ‘empowerment’ side of our mission. In 2015, we established a new committee dedicated to fully developing our advocacy efforts and programming. We’ve defined what Advocacy means for our association, we’ve surveyed the community, partnered in statewide YWCA efforts, connected to grassroots and established organizations and launched our YWCA Stand Against Racism. We have aligned our already-powerful financial education work with the advocacy agenda to close the wage gap among women as well as the gender pay gap, through complete and interactive salary negotiation training. We are now ‘chartering’ our Advocacy committee, defining specific actions and focus while continuing to refine who we will ‘be’ in the community with regards to Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. We are committing to collaboration with partnering organizations to ensure that we are providing needed, not duplicative, services/messaging/programming.
Increasing Community Engagement & Visibility
Our YW was (okay, still is!) the best-kept secret in the Valley! We are a powerful but humble organization, deeply committed to an unwavering mission to Eliminate Racism and Empower Women through our programs and services. Our first strategic plan of my tenure set forth a powerful goal to become known as THE Go-To women’s organization in the Valley advocating for women and families.
How best to attract people to our mission and engage in our association?
I knew it was not through a “committees” or “task force” model of engagement, as those simply imply “WORK” and that is an unattractive proposition for an already over-burdened social sector. As a result of this notion, we created a structure we call Engagement Councils whose purpose is simply to connect, engage, share, and produce reciprocal benefit to the community and the YW. Our Engagement Councils have been formed around distinct purposes with specific desired outcomes. For example, our newly created Advocacy engagement council is creating partnerships to other ‘boots on the ground’ organizations who are already do the work of Eliminating Racism, helping our YW to focus and direct our current and future programming through collaborative, not duplicative, efforts. As a result, we have established a toe-hold in just under 3 years in a wide variety of circles of influence, introducing our mission, our board, our programs and services to ever-widening networks of community.
So while these accomplishments over the past 3 years can be attributed specifically to the work of the Board of Directors, we could not have been able to achieve any of this without the true partnership of Board and Staff. It is firmly embedded in the culture of this Board that we support, uplift, guide and are guided by our incredible CEO and her staff. We are committed to a unique relationship of transparency and collaboration and know that this powerful symbiosis is what allows our growth to continue.
Other Achievements over the past 3 years that can only have been accomplished through our amazing staff include:
- Financial Sustainability through the creation of an Investment policy, investment management and a strong independent investment committee dedicating to stewarding and ensuring our financial strength.
- Establishing and growing a planned giving program with a strong committee and leadership in our Legacy Giving council
- Increasing the reach and delivery of Financial Education and Salary Negotiation programming and support
- Increasing the reach and delivery of our Senior programs and services
- Expanding our annual Tribute to Leadership event
- Reaching new and strengthening existing funding relationships
- Offering Women’s Empowerment events that align with our mission for both increased visibility and community engagement.
- Created and/or enhanced web and social media presence
I know that my successors in leadership of the YWCA of Metropolitan Phoenix share the vision of extending our reach, ensuring our relevancy, and promoting our mission in this community. And the Board of Directors is a true team, locking arms, and partnering to ensure our sustainability and growth. I look forward to stepping back into the newly created “Immediate Past Chair” role and continuing my passionate contribution to our YWCA for years to come.