Suggestions from a Start-up: Associate Board of the YMCA of Metro Chicago

Published: over 2 years ago by Lauren King.

John Tocora has spent the last year drawing on personal experiences and those of his fellow board members to build out a sound structure for the new associate board to support the YMCA of Metro Chicago. He's put into action a lot of great ideas and has volunteered to share them with our associate board community. Here are some of the unique ideas and considerations that came up during their start-up process.

1) Get an elevator pitch and practice! Every board member should have a clear and concise response when asked what the board does. The AB Leadership Team worked with members during a board meeting to help them create elevator pitches with their own “Y story.”

2) Enhance your pitch with giveaways. YMCA Associate Board members carry laminated business cards which outline key information related to the YMCA of Metro Chicago  so they can leave interested prospective members with some information to take away.

3) Build your board based on your needs. John and his board looked at it as if they were building a team; if you don't have anyone with financial background to be your treasurer, reach out!

4) Provide members with information and experiences. They'll be a lot more successful in fundraising if they have a true understanding of the need. Successful campaigns come from members who can speak to what they saw or experienced during a visit to a community or an interaction with a child.

5) Round robin with white boards. During the planning process, the Leadership Team gathered board members and had them brainstorm feedback and ideas on important issues which the board would face. Getting members involved from the beginning builds a strong foundation for engagement.

6) Adapt. As original plans doesn't always go so smoothly, be ready to adjust mid-course. John and team utilize surveys between quarterly meetings so that they can continue to progress with all members' feedback while not being slowed down by the inevitable difficulty of coordinating in-person meetings.

7) Take membership seriously. YMCA Associate Board members have routine phone or in-person check-ins with the Board Development Committee to gauge interest and involvement. If members are not fulfilling their responsibilities, John encourages an honest discussion of the board member's capabilities and preferences for involvement. This allows the board to redistribute resources or provide additional support for certain responsibilities so that momentum on projects is not lost.



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