Righting the Ship – Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders

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Interview with Marguerite Pyron, Executive Director

Broad Reach is charity that runs programs for youth from vulnerable communities. The programs’ include experiential education based in the sport, science and the mastery of sailing. The organization works annually with 200-500 disadvantaged youth, between the ages of 12 and 24, through partnerships with youth service agencies in and around Toronto. Participants get the opportunity to experience and learn from sailing, a sport and a recreation that is traditionally economically inaccessible to them. They gain valuable life skills such as teamwork, learning to make good choices, critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, communication, flexibility, adaptability and resiliency: a large set of transferrable skills that they take into their adult lives.

We spoke with Marguerite Pyron, Executive Director of Broad Reach about the challenges and opportunities for her board of directors and the organization. Marguerite is open and honest about the difficulties Broad Reach faces at the board level and the impacts to the organization. She credits BoardMatch Fundamentals recruitment platform for helping her find the right board members to steer the organizations towards a better and brighter future.

Last year, governance difficulties brought the Broad Reach board to crisis that resulted in more than of half the directors leaving the board and a loss of quorum. An interim broad was formed to keep programming running but the future of the organization was put at risk.

Marguerite saw this critical time in Broad Reach’s history as an opportunity to build a better, more effective board that would meet the needs of the organization. As the ED, and only full-time staff, she needed a board of directors whose members were candid and engaged, who would pitch in and do the work required, who would communicate openly with each other and share their commitment to the organization. She says, “It is more work for me to have a new board but there are more and great new opportunities. We could start with a clean slate and not deal with baggage from the past. It is so good!”

Her starting point for new board members was BoardMatch. Broad Reach’s postings on BoardMatch Fundamental attracted over 90 applications. She spent months shifting through résumés and interviewed over 30 candidates. After careful and exhaustive search, Broad Reach now has a full board of thirteen directors, as well as additional volunteer committee members with the potential to fill future broad vacancies.

Marguerite shared a lot of her valuable insights on how charities can find the right board members and what specific qualities she seeks in broad candidates.

Broad Reach 1“Candidates should cater their résumés to board of director positions, consider the competencies boards are looking for: leadership, communications, teamwork and fundraising. Don’t just say, ‘I want to give back.’ Tell me what makes you unique and interesting, be honest about why you want to be on the board of this organization. Avoid platitudes.” she says. “In return, I am open and honest about the problems, and opportunities facing our board and the expectations we have of new board members. It is a working policy board, so board members play an important working role that takes more of their time and effort than a strictly policy board.”

Starting with open dialogue is the only way to find right people for the board. Directors will go into the position with their eyes open, will be eager to tackle the issues facing the board, and become the most vocal advocates. Marguerite continues with a story, “ One of our candidates who was hesitant to join the board was invited to attend one meeting. After that first meeting, he brought his friend to volunteer and then his cousin…now they all serve on the board and committees. When we find the right fit between a person and our organization, they become our ambassadors. They share their excitement with their friends and family. It raises the value of our work and increases our reach.”

Broad Reach’s journey demonstrates the critical importance of an effective non-profit board to an organization’s health. Marguerite emphasises, “My board legitimizes the work we do in the community because it is accountable, committed and believes in the mission of the organization. Our board members are our best ambassadors, they talk to their friends, with the colleagues and family which results in more volunteers, more in-kind donations, more money that helps increases our reach. It also means more resources to support our mission to serve more youth. It is a cycle that helps generate more for all of us.”

After the struggles of the previous board, Broad Reach renewed itself with an excellent, eager and engaged board of directors, many that she found through BoardMatch. They are now setting their sights on the future — creating committees, setting up terms of reference and working on their strategic plan. Marguerite says, “We are open with each other’s ideas, we ask a lot of questions, we engage in dialogue and debate in a considerate way. We are all working towards the same goals. We are making the most of the energy and time available to us.”

With a dependable board, Broad Reach can maintain partnerships, like the one with the National Yacht Club and create new programs and fundraisings initiatives like the Legacy Canoe, a canoe built by non-indigenous newcomer girls and blessed by a First Nation’s Elder as part of the youth learning of this country’s history.

Broad Reach’s story demonstrates why finding the right people for the right board is vital to organization’s success. We thank Marguerite for her story and great advice!

Find out more information about Broad Reach Foundation For Youth Leaders on their website.