Episcopal Retirement Homes Board
Episcopal Retirement Homes invests considerable energy in its Board recruitment and development processes. CEO Doug Spitler emphasizes, “A strong board will produce a strong organization.”
A Strong Board Enables Creative, Effective Programming
Since 1951, Episcopal Retirement Homes (ERH) has worked to improve the lives of older adults through innovative, quality senior living communities and through community services to older adults. In addition to operating 11 senior living communities, ERH provides elder care management services, Meals on Wheels, and a parish health ministry. Its various successes can be measured by a variety of indicators. It has mobilized over 560 volunteers from 70 churches to participate in the parish health program, touching the lives of some 10,000 seniors. Two of the nursing homes in their two premier continuing care retirement communities run by ERH have earned high marks in the OH Department of Aging’s Resident Satisfaction Survey and consistently score among the top nursing homes in the Medicare ratings. Many of its Meals on Wheels volunteers have been serving for over 17 years. In 2013 the organization was selected by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a Top Place to Work in Cincinnati–for the fourth year in a row. The organization is also accredited by the international Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC).
According to President and CEO Doug Spitler, a big reason behind the organization’s success is its strong Board of Directors. Ours is “a high functioning and engaged board,” says Spitler. “They are committed to opening doors, working hard, and applying their considerable talents to improve the lives of older adults.”
Building a strong Board takes hard work and intentionality. ERH’s example of both serves as a model for other nonprofits. They start with a thoughtful Board recruitment strategy. The current Board’s Leadership Committee conducts an organizational assessment to see what sorts of talents are needed on the board. This Committee drafts a profile of the types of needed Board members and crafts a short list of prospects. The rest of the Board then adds in their own suggested names.
The main steps in their board development process then include:
- A rigorous screening process including introductory meetings with selected Board and staff members. “We want to find the right [people]—those with passion and energy for the mission,” says Spitler.
- Attendance at a Board meeting. “It’s important for them to observe the Board in action,” Spitler says. “How we work, the issues we deal with. Are they comfortable with that? Do they feel they can they make a difference?
- Tours of the senior living communities; and
- A second meeting for both parties to decide whether the mission, strategy and vision are a good fit.
New board members are then engaged in a ½ day board orientation where they take a deeper dive into the programs, policies, legal structure, business strategies and accountability processes of ERH.
Board Chair Robin Smith recalls: “I was recruited to join the ERH Board in 2007, and it was a mutual interest. I had a desire to get involved in the mission of serving older adults in our community, and the ERH Board was interested in utilizing my finance, IT, and leadership skills to support the organization. The ‘onboarding’ process allowed me to become a productive member of the Board very quickly, and through active participation on several committees, I was able to get to work on the critical strategies and initiatives of the organization.”
Typical of ERH board members, Robin brings a broad base of skills and experience to her role. She is a former Proctor and Gamble IT professional with more than 29 years of experience. In addition to being the current Board Chair she plays many other roles on the board including Vice Chair of Financial Resources, Next Generation Leadership Development Committee Chair, and Member of the ERH Foundation Board.
Spitler reports that ERH’s board includes 24 members, a fairly large number. “To get the talent and expertise [you need],” he explains, “a larger board is desirable.” Board members serve on a variety of active committees.
To ensure that it continues to function with excellence, the ERH Board assesses its own performance through an annual self-evaluation process that includes attention to both the Board’s collective performance and the contributions of each individual Board member.
It’s a considerable labor—and unfortunately an area where some nonprofits fail to give sufficient attention. But as Spitler maintains, “A strong board will produce a strong organization.”