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Local nonprofits learn together

By Alice Ricks

“If we want to make real progress in tackling our biggest social challenges, then we need strong and effective boards leading each and every nonprofit organization,” says Anne Wallestad, president and CEO of BoardSource, a nationally recognized organization working to advance the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service.

Here in Oxford, representatives from almost two dozen local organizations came together today for a morning of learning and networking focused on strengthening governance practices and board leadership.

The free workshop, which was attended by a diverse group of staff and board members, was funded by both United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County and the McLean Institute for Public Service & Community Engagement, with additional support from Volunteer Oxford and the University of Mississippi’s Office of the Dean of Students/Volunteer Services. It was led by Jan Eastman, who is a highly experienced educator and nonprofit consultant.

The workshop sponsors decided to invite Jan Eastman to offer her training in Lafayette County after surveying local nonprofits to understand the professional development topics that would be of most interest and relevance to them. Board leadership was a popular topic and Jan Eastman came with rave reviews from her former workshop attendees.

According to Meridith Wulff, executive director of the Lafayette County Literacy Council, who attended a similar training led by Jan Eastman earlier this year, “The workshop was great. Truly. We presented an overview to our Board in September and are incorporating quarterly 15-minute board development opportunities into our board meetings.”

In addition to the sponsors, organizations attending the workshop included, among many others, Interfaith Compassion Ministry, the Leap Frog Program, Respite Day Services, the Gordon Community & Cultural Center, American Red Cross of North Mississippi, Good Food for Oxford Schools, Doors of Hope Transition Ministries and Holding Hands Resale Shop.

United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to “improve lives by uniting people and resources.” United Way funds programs that focus on ensuring that all Lafayette County residents have the building blocks of a good life: quality education, good health and a stable income. Each year, 99 percent of the dollars raised in Lafayette County stay in Lafayette County (with just 1 percent going to United Way Worldwide as a membership fee to the global network).

The McLean Institute for Public Service & Community Engagement advances transformative service throughout the University of Mississippi and fights poverty through education in Mississippi.

Alice Ricks is executive director of the United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County. She can be reached at
alice@unitedwayoxfordms.org.