Whether manned by a deep bench of passionate board members or driven by a handful of residents on a mission, the shoreline’s multitude of non-profit organizations all share one goal: assisting worthwhile causes in their communities.
Starting Thursday, Sept. 8 and continuing on the second Thursday of each month through Dec. 8, the wildly successful Shoreline Nonprofit Workshop Series resumes for a second set of workshops geared to help team members develop skills they need to help their non-profit succeed.
As part-time executive director of Branford Community Foundation and part-time executive director of the Guilford Foundation, Liza Petra readily sings the praises of the unique opportunity the Shoreline Nonprofit Workshop Series brings to this area. Both non-profit foundations have been sponsors since the inception of the workshop series.
“For many non-profits, I think a lot of organizations have to constantly be asking for operating support,” Liza notes. “So it’s almost frivolous to ask for strategic planning or professional development, because when you’re looking at your list of all the things you have to do, that’s going to fall way at the bottom. So we’re hoping this is helping, because the better-run these organizations are, the better the whole community will be served.”
Over the course of four two-hour workshops, the series will provide professional guidance at rock-bottom rates ($15 per participant per session) to enlighten and better equip staff, board members, or volunteers representing any local non-profit.
This remarkable opportunity arrives thanks to a partnership between the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit Council, the Branford Community Foundation and the Guilford Foundation. It is also supported by Guilford Savings Bank.
“It just happened to be this perfect dovetail,” says Liza. “The council was looking to help, and we had the funds to help. There are some community foundations, including Middlesex and New Haven, that already do this; I think some of our agencies pay attention to that and go—and we encourage them to go—but we also wanted to do something that’s local. We are the community foundations for Branford and Guilford. So it felt great.”
The fall 2016 workshops are being presented by principals and consultants from Danosky & Associates of New Milford. The consulting firm serves both non-profits and business clients. All of the fall sessions will be held at the Guilford Free Public Library and attendees can select all, a few, or even just one session to attend. Those signing up for all four sessions by Friday, Sept. 2 will receive a discounted rate. For more information and to register, visit www.shorelinechamberct.com or call 203-488-5500. Attendees needing financial assistance are encouraged to email Liza at email@example.com
Based on the success of the first series of workshops, advance registration is strongly recommended.
“The first series was held last spring in Branford at the Blackstone Library, and it was amazing,” Liza says. “We averaged over 40 people from 20 different organizations per session, from executive directors to staff people to board members to board presidents.”
Liza notes the series sparked inspiration not only in those who attended, but also provided a springboard for the Branford Community Foundation and the Guilford Foundation to assist local non-profits on another level.
“In addition to providing these training sessions, if some of these organizations find they want to go further in one of these areas, they can come to us and we can supply them with a grant for a consultant to help,” says Liza.
Last spring, Shoreline Arts Alliances (SAA) received just such a grant in order to further the SAA board’s experience in the area of governance. From building a board to evolving as a board and acting effectively, governance is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating and sustaining a successful non-profit.
Liza’s experience in the non-profit world includes her service as executive director of Guilford-based Women & Family Life Center, a role she took on in 2008. She then was named executive director of the Guilford Foundation in 2011 and, in 2015, of the Branford Community Foundation.
“I see my role as making sure each board is on task with what they have decided is their vision and their strategy,” says Liza, who splits her time between the two, thanks to her part-time status with each foundation. “It’s also about relating what we are doing to those who are investing their money with us, and celebrating the work that they are allowing us to do.”
To focus on projects and strategies while keeping track of managing the two foundations, Liza works with the assistance of an administrator and a book keeper. The busy professional is also mom to two children. Liza and her husband, Noel Petra, are raising their family in Guilford.
“Noel grew up in Stony Creek, so we have a huge connection to Branford as well as Guilford,” says Liza. “I feel very lucky. I think it’s lucky that, in your own community, we can all try to do something to make it a little bit better. We can try to help someone in our community to do a little bit better, or to do a little more.”