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A Precious Resource

resource library

By Melissa Cordish
As Jews, we understand that the concept of a covenant is central to our tradition. From Abraham and Sarah to our collective experience at Sinai, the theme of Brit appears over and over again. Striving to understand what is expected of us and working to fulfill these expectations is part of the essence of being a Jew. This concept is also key to the relationship between volunteers and the organizations for which they serve; A clear mutual understanding is critical the achievement of a meaningful volunteer experience. Members of boards or committees accept responsibility for their work and, in return, expect a level of respect and enrichment from their experience.

To facilitate this mutually beneficial relationship, The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) has developed a Brit Avodah, a covenant of service, between board members and the organizations they serve. CCEL works both within The Associated system and in the general Jewish community to ensure that those who generously give their time and talent come away from the experience feeling good about the work they have done and also enriched by their interaction with the organization.

This is no small feat. To achieve this goal, CCEL has developed the tools organizations need to keep volunteers engaged in their board or committee experience and works with organizations to help them put these best practices into action. A robust resource library covering everything from writing a D’var Torah to ice breakers for meetings to Jewish values is featured on the Associated’s website and is available to the community.

CCEL professionals and ambassadors also work directly with volunteers in The Associated system to ensure that their communal role is well-suited to their wants and needs. By meeting individually with each person and exploring his or her strengths and areas of interest, CCEL is able to match volunteers to the right leadership opportunity. Some people pursue involvement which utilizes their particular talents; others may choose an area of need which resonates with them. No matter what they seek, CCEL can help connect an interested volunteer with the right opportunity.

CCEL’s commitment to this mission reflects important elements in Jewish communal life in Baltimore – the effective use of the time and talent of our volunteers and the cultivation of a cadre of active leaders for tomorrow. These dedicated volunteers are an incredible asset to our community. The decisions made by these boards and committees have the potential to impact countless lives. And the stronger and better trained that cohort of leaders is, the stronger our community will be.

Baltimore is unique among Jewish communities. Many struggle to engage leaders and lack a plan for succession among their boards. The Associated has been training future generations for many years and benefits from a robust cadre of volunteers who are poised and prepared to lead our community for years to come. Every committee or board member working in our community has the ability to lead from any chair. These leaders move our communal agenda forward and take care of our community. Thanks to them and their willingness to learn and grow in their roles, our community truly is in good hands.

Melissa Cordish is chair of The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership.

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Guide to Board Nomination and Selection Process

Successful financial plansBy Melissa Cordish
Vice-Chair
Center for Community Engagement & Leadership
THE ASSOCIATED

The selection, training and transition of Board leadership are deeply rooted in our Jewish tradition. A common theme throughout the Tanach (Bible) is the challenge of finding, sustaining and replacing good leaders.

In the Book of Exodus, G-d decides that it’s time to move the Children of Israel in a new direction. G-d selects Moses to lead His major change initiative. However, Moses doesn’t consider himself worthy of the position (“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take the Children of Israel out of Egypt.” Exod. 3: 11). Second, he fears that the people will not accept him as a legitimate leader (“…But they will not believe me and they will not heed my voice, for they will say, ‘G-d did not appear to you.’” Exod. 4; 1). And third, he feels that he does not have the leadership skills necessary for the role (“…I am not a man of words…for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech.” Exod. 4: 10).

The concerns with which Moses struggles are common fears that incoming board members or committee chairs may share. The nomination and selection process can be exciting and rewarding to those that are looking forward to taking on a leadership position, but others can be hesitant or uncertain of the challenges it may bring.

To best meet the needs of the organization and its volunteer leaders, certain steps should be instituted:

  • A nominating committee should be developed to bring on new board members and determine who will fill vacant offices each year. Professional and volunteer leaders or executive committee should discuss and determine goals and timelines, and they should appoint a nominating chair.
  • The nominating committee should identify the needs of the organization in partnership with an assessment of current and potential board members.

An effective governance structure, which engages its leaders in meaningful work for the organization, is a critical part of the strategy to guarantee that there are knowledgeable and committed people in the pipeline for the top leadership position. However, every leader brings different skills and talents to the job. Therefore, succession planning requires foresight, to ensure that the right person is in the right leadership position at the right time.

The ASSOCIATED’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership has created an online tool to help with your nomination and selection process.
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