“It was refreshing to witness the growth of our board”

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Interview with Jeff Dobbin, Executive Director of Partners for Planning

Partners for Planning (P4P) was formed, and continues to be directed by, families who care for loved ones with disabilities. P4P helps families envision, plan and implement strategies to ensure their relatives with disabilities will live full and meaningful lives in community and will be financially secure and safe for the rest of their lives.

In 2014, Partners for Planning started the P4P Planning Network. A online network designed to provide resources for people caring for people with disabilities. The network helps families plan for the future by connecting them with resources including financial tools, federal and provincial supports and how tos on breaking down barriers to accessibility and building personal support communities.

Visit http://www.partnersforplanning.ca/ for more details on this excellent organization.

Jeff Dobbin is Executive Director of Partners for Planning and Creative Director for the Partners for Planning Resource Network, a non-profit he co-founded in 2009. Since then, P4P has grown to staff of fifteen, working with over 100 partner organizations across Ontario to help families caring for a people with disabilities.

Interview with Jeff Dobbin

Why did you create Partners for Planning? What was the need?
As an organization started by and for families caring for a child with a disability, we knew every family shares the similar concerns regarding the future care for their children with disabilities. Specifically, what will happen to their children once the parents can no longer care for them.

We create resources and supports that empower families to plan for, and create, a meaningful life and a secure future for the children with disabilities.

How has P4P grown?
Social enterprise is central to our mission and the innovative projects we piloted were well received by our partner organizations, funders and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The Planning Network represented a platform for innovation and collaboration that engaged a wide variety of stakeholders.

Can you describe your current board of directors?
Our board functions as policy board with Executive, Finance, Governance and Innovation committees. Each Director holding an executive role leads one committee and every Director participates in at least one committee.

Currently we have nine members on our board. 50% of our Directors need to be parents or family members of someone with a developmental disability, we believe it representation helps us make better decisions and we value the first-hand experience and needs of our members.

How do you find board members?
Altruvest was instrumental in helping us find a treasurer with accounting expertise – perhaps the most difficult and critical director to recruit. We also participated in the Schulich BoardMatch program and had success there. Additionally, we recruited others from an email blast to our database. With Altruvest’s support we turned over 70% of the board members in a twelve-month period and rejuvenated our board.

P4P has undergone major changes in the past year or so. What were the issues facing your board pre-2016?
As a grassroots organization, we had few resources prior to 2016 and as such we struggled with even short term sustainability. Good governance was not a priority.

With rapid growth, it became apparent that our Director’s needed a better understanding of their roles, responsibilities and commitment and we were tasked with creating an entirely new governance model.

How has Altruvest helped your board?
The very first Altruvest Board Development Workshop set the tone for change within the board and a better understanding of the board’s shared responsibilities. Altruvest helped us recruit board members, develop an orientation package for new Directors, create a Board Manual, establish Executive, Governance, Finance and Innovation committees and provided us with a model for board meetings that is efficient, productive and inspired. In short, a complete overhaul.

What was a key insight/learning from your training/consultation with Altruvest?
As the Executive Director, it was refreshing to witness the growth of the board from one with very little structure to one that is transformed with clear roles, responsibilities and expectations for all Directors. The processes we learned from Altruvest were tried and true. We didn’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel as we were provided with many templates and best practices.

How have your board meetings run better since training with Altruvest?
Our board meetings are much more effective. Prior to Altruvest most agenda topics were led by the Executive Director. Now the load is shared with various Directors contributing through committee updates. Our Board Chair that has a deep understanding of the role and takes charge of the meetings. With a better defined agenda, all meetings end on time and some even early. With this new approach, attendance and Director satisfaction has increased significantly.

Would you recommend Altruvest board training/consultation to other charity boards?
Absolutely!!! Altruvest are experts in this field and their guidance and commitment in transitioning our board was instrumental. We found them trust worthy, responsive and cost effective.

Thank you Jeff for sharing your story.

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