August 20, 2011
11am – Board members arrive at the home of John and Debbie Holland in Ringgold, GA, a two hour drive from the heart of Atlanta. One by one, they walked in the house, located the bathrooms, got settled at the meeting table and plugged in various devices for communication and note taking. Why did they drive all this way…for a meeting?!
The reason we all committed to traveling 2 hours outside of Atlanta was so we could journey through unfamiliar space together. C4 Atlanta has only been in existence for a little over a year. It took us several months to build a board. We focused a lot on tasks and organization in year one. Last Saturday was about building solidarity, celebrating successes and embracing challenges ahead. C4 Atlanta board members talked about WHY we serve. As we talked one by one about the mission of C4 Atlanta through our own lenses, it was really awesome to hear a unifying theme: community. C4 Atlanta board members want a better Atlanta.
Their desire stems from wanting a place for families, businesses, better schools, and the desire to create a safe and encouraging space for artists. We want artists to thrive in Atlanta. Side note: some of the members of our board are a part of the arts community to some extent or another. Several come from outside of the arts, but recognize the tremendous value of what the arts brings to our city.
We are the champions, my friend!
As staff, we forget sometimes that our board members lead lives outside of our company. I mean…I guess that’s okay, right?
We can’t expect board members to know every little detail about everything we do on a day-to-day basis. In fact, that would be counterproductive. I once attended a board meeting (not C4 Atlanta) where we spent over an hour talking about an email template. During that discussion, staff could’ve been actually working on the template. Wast-O-time.
So, we get that micro-managing is bad. I got some advice from one of our donors (who knows board service). She suggested that we ask board members to champion one program. Ask that they become intimate with it. Speak about it passionately. Some of our board members like technology. Others totally get why many artists (and most entrepreneurs) need help with business planning. I like this approach. This takes the pressure off of board members to become regurgitation machines that spew out a static list of services & products to potential donors or other supporters. It helps our board members make a personal connection to C4 Atlanta that resonates with people outside of the organization.
Commune over food
1pm – It is important to break bread with friends and colleagues. It is important to eat. Food. I honestly believe that the world changes one meal at a time.
- Food is good. During lunch, friends from Chattanooga, Enoch and Hannah Elwell (they are newlyweds, Awww) joined us. Enoch is with The Company Lab (Co.lab) in Chattanooga. Co.lab acquired the Springboard program– spun out of the Create Here initiative. Springboard is a program to help entrepreneurs take an idea to business. We met Enoch a few months back when the C4 Atlanta team visited arts groups in Chattanooga. Enoch and I have been sharing ideas on entrepreneurship. I hope to continue picking his brain as our program matures. Enoch and Hannah are very sweet people. I really believe the younger generation of workers are adept to collaboration. They get it. Atlanta has a lot to learn form our neighboring cities, but we also have a lot to offer.
After lunch we talked about fundraising, a very audacious goal for C4 Atlanta (more to come), and how board membership can help us reach our personal goals and visions. My husband, Spencer Holland, led a brief session on visioning. Spencer is a leader in his own company and a great guy. Really. He cooked all of our food for the Board meeting. He also asked us to think about our own impact within the community. Impact that lasts well after our tenure with C4 Atlanta is over. Well after we leave this earth.
It was a very successful board retreat. The most important principle to remember in these types of meetings is to trust the process. When we talk about vision and personal goals, we become vulnerable; however, it is important to be vulnerable from time to time to become a strong leader. I wanted to write about this retreat because it isn’t always easy keeping perspective on the long-term. Challenges arise. Starting a new business, nonprofit or otherwise, is tough. But I know that I have a team supporting me. You have a team supporting you. C4 Atlanta cares about the future of our city.
5pm – It wouldn’t be a C4 Atlanta meeting without some type of explosive energy.