Best Practices Case Study

Organization: Portland Latino Gay Pride

Capacity Building Area: Board Development

Organizational profile

Portland Latino Gay Pride is a volunteer driven organization made up of community members committed to educating and celebrating the Latino LGBTQ Experience.  The main programs of Portland Latino Gay Pride are organizing the annual Latino Gay Pride Celebration, selection of the Annual Community Mariposa Awards, PLGP Scholarship Program, Board Meetings, and Board Retreat.

The Mariposa Award was established at the 2008 Portland Latino Gay Pride Celebration, to recognize and honor individuals and organizations making a difference in the community. Past awardees have:

  • Been respected businesses and organizations
  • Celebrated the artistic talents of our people
  • Been dedicated to empowering future generations
  • Represented the tenacity to educate and advocate for others

The Portland Latino Gay Pride Annual Celebration consists of a four-day series of events celebrating the Latino Gay Pride experience, including:

  • Voz Alta (loud voice): An evening of poetry, song, dance, and dramatic performances.
  • La Lucha Dance Party: Evening of dance celebrating the Latino/a LGBTQ Experience.
  • Latino Gay Pride Festival: Includes local and national entertainers, performers, community leaders, elected officials, and community & sponsor resource far. The Mariposa Award recipients are presented.
  • Chicas Who Brunch: will be this year’s closing event. This special brunch is an opportunity to focus the attention on LGTBQ Latinas, their experiences and contributions.

Organizational situation

In 2006, a planning committee formed to organize the first Portland Latino Gay Pride Celebration – Noche de Familia y Mariposas. Made up of community volunteers, the planning committee partnered with El Hispanic Newspaper and Jupiter Hotel to organize an evening mid-week event.

Over time the range of activities grew and has become the robust programming described in the overview. Given the level of growth and depth of the programming each year, the organization knew that its initial structure as an organizing committee was inadequate to keep up with the needs of the event. Given this, the planning committee grew to a loosely defined Board of Directors, along with various leadership roles. In 2010, the organization knew that greater definition and structure was needed, as the coordination and planning of the programs had become much more intricate.

The indicators that told them that this structure was needed were:

1)      Expectations. While there were Chairs of events and other leadership roles, it was unclear how much authority each of these roles had within their program area. There was also unclear delineation between roles, so it became sometimes difficult for people to be clear on their unique role, and how it was different from another’s.

2)      Accountability. Because Board membership was not clearly defined, it was difficult to have consistency in participation, or develop plans without having to revisit them when new participants arrived. This made it difficult to hold people accountable for things they agreed to do, as membership was constantly evolving (with a few stable participants).

Solution

The primary activity to address these challenges was to create a more formal Board structure, specifically addressing formal Board roles and responsibilities, committee structure, and official voting/decision-making procedures. This was a two-year process, primarily conducted within two daylong Board retreats, one year apart (one in the summer of 2010 and the other in the summer of 2011). The nature of the organization being fully volunteer-run, along with the responsibility of producing a time-intensive event contributed to a longer process.

Within these retreats, the following decisions were made:

1)      By looking at what the events needed in terms of leadership, the group created a basic Board structure. They agreed to limit Board membership to 15-19 members, with 17 specific positions available. Those specific positions include: PLGP Chair, Treasurer, Communications, Secretary, Volunteer Coordinator, Sponsorship, and Event Chairs (Voz Alta, Dance Party, Chicas Celebration, & Festival). All Board members are expected to take leadership in one or more primary activities of the organization.

2)      They agreed on when Board meetings were to be held (the 4th Monday of each month at 6pm), and the general structure of each meeting.

3)      They agreed that only PLGP Board members are eligible to vote on committee decisions and direction.

4)      They agreed upon and developed a structure for the selection of new Board members, which looks like:

  • Identify and apply for one of the specific committee board roles
  • Submit a letter of interest to the PLGP Chair
  • Set-up an interview with Committee Board (at least 5 board members must be present)
  • Selection Board members will deliberate and recommend to the entire Board
  • Upon Board approval, applicant will be notified and invited to upcoming meeting

5)      They looked at the skill-sets of current Board members and identified what skills they specifically needed to recruit for.

Results

As a result of this work, the organization now enjoys a much more sustainable infrastructure that is not dependent on one or two people. Board members are now much more clear on their roles and level of authority, making planning of each of the signature events easier to plan and execute. Decision-making has become more effective, and because decisions are not being revisited, committees are more action-oriented. And accountability is stronger now that potential Board members are clear about what they will be expected to contribute. This has made the Board a more cohesive team with greater investment.

In addition, because there is greater definition of role, everyone involved feels more effective and is having more fun. The definition of role (i.e. not everyone is a Board member) has provided clear opportunities for volunteering in other ways, and in creating opportunities for different levels of skill and time availability.

While the organization has experienced this shift as highly beneficial, there are others who have previously volunteered with the organization for whom the shift is challenging. They are accustomed to a more informal planning group, and appreciate a more fluid organizing process. Board members have stayed engaged with those for whom the change is difficult, looking for ways to actively involve them in activities they enjoy and that contribute positively to the event.

Resources you used and/or recommend

  • Templates from other organizations/groups, including job descriptions and committee structures.
  • Technical Assistance resources – particularly feedback from staff at the Pride Foundation.

Best advice and recommendations

  • As a volunteer-run organization, manage expectations about where “you should be.” Be realistic about how long a process may take – and that it will look different from an organization with paid staff. Celebrate your accomplishments together.
  • Adapt resources (templates, ideas for facilitation of meetings, etc.) to your group and culture.
  • Recognize that building a structure for your Board will yield great things – but it won’t fix everything. Structure provides much more clarity, which will then allow you to address some of the issues you face.
  • There is value in having structure. Organic organizing is great – and important – but when you have greater resources involved, and your program needs more in order to grow and serve the community, it’s important to be open to shifting how you do business. It doesn’t mean that how things were done in the past were wrong, just that something else is needed now.

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