Project LEAD Celebrates 25 Years of Effective Board Training

United Way of King County is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Project LEAD, a one-of-a-kind training program that prepares people of color to effectively serve on nonprofit boards.

Project Leadership Effectiveness And Diversity (LEAD) takes place each spring, with workshops spread over the course of a month to address areas of training that are important for nonprofit board members. Workshop topics include addressing the issues nonprofits face: standard operations and protocol for a board, tips for conflict resolution and effective collaboration, fiscal management, fundraising strategy, how to create bold strategies in a nonprofit organization, and legal risk mitigation.

Participants attend the workshops throughout a month, with four weekday evening courses and three full-day workshops that take place on a weekend. At the start of the program, all participants are divided into six groups, which are called ‘mock boards’ — each group comes together to be board members of an imaginary organization for the duration of the program. Project LEAD participants move through the different modules of the program with their mock boards, making considerations about merging with another group.

At the end of the program, there is a graduation ceremony as well as an agency fair so that Project LEAD graduates can learn about the available board openings and meet with representatives from nonprofit organizations.

Over the years, staff from Jacobson Jarvis & Co have played a part in supporting Project LEAD by teaching the section, “Fiscal Management: What Board Members Need to Know”. Most recently, the nonprofit Audit Manager and Consultant, Carolyn Stevens has been teaching the course.

In Fiscal Management, Carolyn presents materials on the responsibilities that board members have with regard to financial statements. This includes highlighting important things to look out for, even without experience as an accountant or finance professional, so that board members are equipped to ask the right questions. “I’m trying to help them to see that financial reports tell a story. Hopefully, they can learn to see the story that their financial reports tell so that they can use that information to make good decisions for their organizations,” she says.

In addition to presentation, the Fiscal Management course has exercises for the Project LEAD groups where the participants review their own mock board’s financials alongside those of the mock board with which their imaginary organization is considering a merger. “They are very engaged and ask great questions,” Carolyn says. “The participants are very sincere about learning this stuff and everybody really makes an effort to get to the next step.”

Finally, the Fiscal Management course covers internal controls and the board’s role in setting them, and understanding IRS Form 990,the nonprofit tax return.

Carolyn has been teaching the Fiscal Management course for Project LEAD for five years, although she’s been on staff at Jacobson Jarvis & Co for twelve years as a nonprofit audit manager and consultant. Before she joined our team, Carolyn owned her own accounting firm supporting nonprofits and small businesses with bookkeeping and financial services. She has a long history of volunteering in the community with the labor movement, peace groups and community organizations. “My passion is helping nonprofit organizations achieve financial success so they can succeed with their mission,” she says.

Click here to read a recent interview with a Project LEAD alum.

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