Sections Supplements

Making Introductions

Get on Board! Event Will Connect Individuals with Area Organizations

Ellen Freyman says the Get on Board! event scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Basketball Hall of Fame is all about making matches between area nonprofits and business groups scouting for board members and individuals looking to make contributions to the community.
And she knows that such matches aren’t made in a few minutes or a few hours. Instead, they may take days, weeks, months, or even years to materialize. But the process starts with introductions, questions, and answers, and generating those is what this unique event is all about.
“We want to introduce organizations to people, and people to organizations,” said Freyman, a partner with the Springfield-based firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin and founder of an organization called On Board, which she started in 1996 as a way to bring more diversity to area boards.
Back then, the primary focus was on women and getting them more seats at the table, Freyman told BusinessWest, but it quickly became clear that there were many other groups, including the Latino and African-American communities, that were not well-represented in the board group.
On Board has been working diligently toward achieving greater diversity on area boards, but the Oct. 28 event represents its most ambitious undertaking to date with respect to that mission.
It will make use of what has come to be called the ‘speed-dating’ method of making introductions. Participants will spend a few moments with the representative or representatives of one organization before moving on to another, and, hopefully several more. Freyman said the event has been put together to help both sides of the ‘match’ equation achieve their goals.
Elaborating, she said that all boards want to achieve greater diversity and add enthusiastic talent, but many need help with the process of identifying individuals who want to serve the community and can help their group met its mission. Meanwhile, many individuals who want to serve the community are looking for ways they can effectively give back. Get on Board! will spotlight a wide array of nonprofits and business groups and hopefully spur some people to get involved, or more involved, in matters impacting the region.
And that is the broader, more far-reaching goal of the event, said V. Van Johnson III, an attorney with Denner Pellegrino, LLP and one of Get on Board! organizers. He said that, when boards become more diverse, more groups and individuals have a stake in the future of the Pioneer Valley. Meanwhile, boards that stress greater diversity can more effectively serve the community because those gathered around the table more accurately reflect the community they represent.
At last count, more than two dozen organizations had signed on to participate. They include the Greater Springfield YMCA, the Dunbar Community Center, the Girl Scouts, the Springfield Public Forum, Greater Springfield Senior Services, Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, the Food Bank of Western Mass., the United Way, and the Martin Luther King Community Center, among others. Meanwhile, Freyman and other organizers expect more than 150 individuals, including many from area young professional organizations, to attend.
When asked when and how organizers will be able to gauge the success of Get on Board!, Freyman said it may well take several months or even a year for the results to fully manifest themselves. But there will be some indications of success that night, she continued, adding that individuals and organizations alike will have a good feel about whether their specific goals, whatever they may be, can be realized.
Johnson agreed, but quickly noted that success in this case must be measured in ways that go well beyond effective matches.
“We’ll be providing opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise exist for boards to come into contact with people they may never have any other means to come in contact, and that’s a success in and of itself,” he said. “The other piece that’s a success is to get boards thinking about things that they wouldn’t necessarily have to think about if they were entirely homogeneous. I think that’s an important success.”
The event will take place on Center Court from 5 to 8 p.m. For details or to register, call Elizabeth Taras at (413) 687-3144, Brittany Castonguay at (413) 737-1131, or visit www.diversityonboard.org.

— George O’Brien

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