“Even when you think that you are doing OK, it isn’t until you go through the board development process that the full board has the opportunity to engage in active strategy and goal creation.” – Linda Kvasnicka, Board Member, Old School Art Center
Volunteer nonprofit board members earn a round of applause. They deserve a standing ovation when they’re on the board of an organization run by volunteers. In Pine County, Minnesota, located about 1.5 hours north of the Twin Cities, Old School Art Center’s 10-person board is all-hands on deck to carry out the mission of building and enriching the community through arts education, exhibition, and performance. The nonprofit also works to support the efforts of local and regional artists and provides a venue for public events.
Connecting New and Established Residents through Arts
Old School Art Center board member Linda Kvasnicka is a newer board member and also a community member who exemplifies why the nonprofit is a key element of community engagement. While she went to art school, she never pursued it professionally. “I guess I was intimidated…I went to school with people who went on to create what would be considered great art,” said Linda. She moved back to Pine County and eventually joined the OSAC board. Shortly after that, she had the opportunity to exhibit her own art. She received a lot of positive feedback from the community, and it continues to be a way for her to engage her creative side.
Not only does Old School Art Center provide a pathway for existing residents to connect and create, but Linda has also witnessed how it draws in newcomers. At a recent art surplus sale that OSAC hosts when it receives donated art supplies, an individual approached one of the board members and said they had recently moved to Sandstone. The newcomer had picked Sandstone over other communities because it had an art center. That person has continued to spread the word to others. “Our outreach is very word-of-mouth. Our artists do a great job of singing the praises of OSAC,” said Linda.
Board Development to Prevent Volunteer Burnout
In a volunteer-run organization, it can be especially hard to carry out all board roles and responsibilities: lead strategically, ensure financial stability, be an ambassador, and ensure healthy governance. With fresh eyes, Linda saw that OSAC’s board, while great at keeping the organization financially solvent and at being ambassadors in the community, needed some outside facilitation to help them lead more strategically. Linda also wanted to prevent heavily-engaged board members from burning out. She and the OSAC board reached out to Propel Nonprofits for board development and strategic consulting.
OSAC’s board worked with Mario Hernandez, Propel’s strategic services director, to clarify key roles, set strategic priorities, and build a workplan for 2019. “We had a pretty strong consensus around our limitations,” said Linda, one of which is OSAC’s facility. The nonprofit is in Sandstone’s old school, which OSAC closes for the winter since it’s not feasible to heat. “We have a strong desire for more programming, but because we’re seasonal, we have a busy volunteer schedule when we are open,” explained Linda. The board was looking for guidance on how to bring in more volunteers and resources to help expand the programming.
An Accountability Roadmap
After a winter board retreat with Mario, the Old School Art Center board aligned around five strategic initiatives which include mobilizing board members, volunteers, and community experts to implement the mission; increasing revenue opportunities; and expanding its program offerings to engage more community members.
“We’ve made huge gains,” said Linda. “We just had a board meeting, and everyone is really attentive to our goal plan. One board member commented ‘If we hadn’t had the board training, if we hadn’t written our goals down and didn’t have a date to get it complete, it wouldn’t have gotten done, and now it’s done!’” The board also knows that this roadmap will help onboard a paid staff person when it gets to that point. “This plan will help us write a grant to support that expense and show that OSAC is a viable and growing organization.”
For Linda, the true value of board development was simply making time to find consensus on many of the goals the board already shared but hadn’t formalized and then creating a workplan to be able to implement those goals. “Even when you think that you are doing OK, it isn’t until you go through the board development process that the full board has the opportunity to engage in active strategy and goal creation,” she said. “It was so much fun! Everyone was impressed with [Mario], and even with ourselves.”
To learn more about the Old School Art Center, the board encourages folks to stop in, become members, take or lead a class, or even better – become a volunteer. Learn more at its website: https://osacmn.org/.
Photos provided by Old School Art Center with permission by photographer Paul Raymond
Old School Art Center’s work with Propel Nonprofits was made possible by the voters of Minnesota thanks to a legislative appropriation for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.