June 4, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 4:39 pm
Nonprofit notebook

Match Maker

Ana Valentin-Jackson, coordinator, Leaders on Board program

Ana Valentin-Jackson doesn't consider herself a match-maker. It's not a skill listed on her resume or her job description. But as the coordinator of Leadership Greater Hartford's (LGH) Leaders on Board program — which connects interested volunteers with non-profit board service opportunities — Valentin-Jackson is helping spread the love of nonprofits across the region.

In fact, since the program launched in 2009, Leaders on Board has helped place a total of nearly 240 people — from young professionals to retirees — on 77 non-profit boards of directors; that's an average of more than one board member each week for the past three years.

To drive such big numbers, LGH needed to think small. "We wanted to expose potential board candidates to as many nonprofits as possible," Valentin-Jackson explained, "while respecting people's time."

The solution? Express match. Think speed dating for the nonprofit set.

"Through Express Match, potential board members meet with a number of nonprofit organizations in 15-minute increments," Valentin-Jackson explained, noting that prior to attending, participants must register and attend a brief orientation. Matching sessions are held monthly — except July and August — and typically last two and a half hours.

"Our goal is to educate volunteers about nonprofits in the community and connect people with organizations that might meet their interests," she said.

The strategy seems to be working. Overall, nearly one-third of the nearly 800 people who have gone through an express match event have joined a nonprofit board. And as more people — from corporate professionals to entrepreneurs — look to network and build community connections, many businesses are encouraging employees to seek out volunteer leadership roles. That's driven traffic to LGH's express match events.

In fact, Valentin-Jackson says nearly 25 companies have participated to date and some, including the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, have hosted express match events for employees on site.

Jill Mastrianni, Shipman & Goodwin's chief marketing officer, helped promote the firm's event and says she sees real benefits to the Leaders on Board program and the express match model in particular.

"It's important [to our firm] that our attorneys be involved in organizations and the express match is a fun, convenient and efficient starting point in that process," she said, noting that three people from her firm alone have been paired with a nonprofit through the Leaders on Board program.

One of those matches was Gabriel Jiran, a labor relations attorney with Shipman & Goodwin, who recently joined the board of Camp Courant, which provides a free six-week summer camp experience for Hartford children.

Jiran credits the express match approach with helping him find the right organization for him. "I was able to meet six organizations [that night] and learn about their needs and missions," he explained. His biggest challenge? Narrowing down his choices. "The nonprofits were so passionate about their mission that I was drawn to all of them," Jiran said. "Choosing my top choice was a challenge."

The express match process can also be challenging for nonprofits too, said Beth Gibbs, executive director of Camp Courant, whose organization has participated in two sessions so far.

"There are so many worthy organizations participating in the [express match] process that it can get very competitive." But having secured two board members already and with another board recruit pending, Gibbs understands the value of the express approach and encourages other nonprofits to participate.

That's good news for Ana Valentin-Jackson, whose five-year goal for her program is to place 325 people on nonprofit boards. The express match trends to date not only suggest that goal is highly achievable, it might also make Valentin-Jackson, despite what her resume might say, Hartford's premier match-maker.

UPS doubles donation

For more information or to register, please call Nancy Shapiro at 860-560-5471 or go to www.crtct.org/golf. United Parcel Service of America, Inc. has doubled its commitment — to $20,000 — to the Community Renewal Team's third annual "Tee Off with Women" golf tournament that raises funds for domestic violence prevention programs. Last year's event raised a total of $23,000 that included a $10,000 pledge by UPS.

The tourney is set for July 10 at the Blue Fox Run golf course in Avon. Co-chairs are Mickey Kramer, acting Connecticut child advocate, and Chris Donovan, speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Proceeds from this year's tournament will benefit Interval House and CRT programs that benefit women leaving relationships in which they have experienced domestic violence.

The cost is $175 per player, which covers golf with a cart, lunch and dinner, and many perks from vendors on hand. Players may register singly or in foursomes.

For more information or to register, please call Nancy Shapiro at 860-560-5471 or go to www.crtct.org/golf.

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