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Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006 01:05 am

Strong foundations

Training offered for members of not-for-profit boards

Recent troubles at local not-for-profit agencies show why it’s important to have directors who keep a wary eye on top managers.

That’s why the Sangamon County Community Foundation is hosting an introductory course next week to teach and train board members, says John Stremsterfer, the foundation’s executive director.

People of “goodwill and good intentions,” Stremsterfer says, are attracted to serve on the boards of not-for-profit and charitable organizations because they share the groups’ mission and goals, but too often they lack the wherewithal be effective overseers.

Board members, the seminar will teach, participate in strategic planning, public relations, and setting direction. They also ensure that the agency has the resources it needs and provide legal and moral guidance.

The SCCF teamed with the United Way of Central Illinois to bring Vicki Clark, a consultant with BoardSource, a national group that trains board directors, to Springfield as the event’s main speaker. A panel discussion will feature members of local nonprofit boards.

Clark will discuss organizational structure, legal obligations, responsibility for performance, implementation of goals, responsibilities, among other subjects.

According to Stremsterfer, a good board member knows the law that pertains to the organization but doesn’t have to be a lawyer. “They need to understand that the buck really does stop with them,” Stremsterfer says.

Problems at two local not-for-profits show how effective boards can make a difference. At Goodwill Industries, the board ignored longstanding problems with the agency’s head until the threat of criminal prosecution forced his resignation; the head of Phoenix Center resigned after his board began scrutinizing his spending practices .

“What Does the Board Really Do?” takes place 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Prairie Heart Institute’s James Dove Conference Center, 619 E. Mason St. For more information and to register, call 217-789-7000.

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