For girls ages 6 to 18 in the greater Indianapolis area—especially those in underserved areas—there aren’t always messages of empowerment and encouragement to guide them into a healthy, educated, and independent future. That’s why the programs, staff, and trained volunteers at Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis play such an important role. Girls Inc.’s research-based, age-appropriate programming is delivered by trained volunteers and professionals who focus on the development of the whole girl, supporting, mentoring, and guiding girls in an affirming, pro-girl environment. Here, girls learn to value their whole selves, discover and develop their inherent strengths, and receive the support they need to navigate the challenges they face.
Whether it’s educating girls on healthy relationships and civic engagement, helping girls to recognize and cultivate their own leadership potential, or laying the groundwork for a financially independent future, Girls Inc. relies on its internal team, an extensive volunteer network, and its board of directors to competently serve and inspire the young girls of Indianapolis.
When Elyssa Campodonico-Barr joined the Girls Inc. Indy team in May 2018 as President and CEO, she knew the opportunity was a wonderful culmination of previous experiences and the opportunity to take her commitment to the advancement of women and girls to a new level. Elyssa previously served as the chief of staff for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as well as a Title IX litigator for Indiana University. During her time at the BMV, she volunteered with Girls Inc. Indy after being introduced to the organization by the commissioner of the agency, who was a former board member of the organization. It was this volunteer connection that brought her to Girls Inc. Indy in a full-time capacity, and since joining the team she has been eagerly working to spread the Girls Inc. message throughout the Indianapolis metro area.
The Girls Inc. Indy board is made up of 15 dynamic local leaders who care deeply about the success of the girls and of the city of Indianapolis. And, in Elyssa’s mind, the two go hand in hand.
“In Indianapolis, an increasingly tech-savvy city that is constantly being called the ‘Silicon Valley of the Midwest,’ we have a serious pipeline problem,” Elyssa said. “If we can inspire girls and help fill this pipeline with more diversity of thought from women and women of color, the city as a whole will thrive. We strongly believe that when women and girls thrive, so does the whole community.”
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While many nonprofit leaders tend to think of their board as having purely a governance function, Elyssa considers her board members as partners in both leadership and education. Together, Elyssa and the Girls Inc. Indy board can determine if they are serving the girls in the community in the right way, if they are giving them the right opportunities, and if there are any new avenues of growth they should be pursuing.
For Elyssa, the first few months of working hand in hand with the Girls Inc. board has been an invaluable learning experience.
“Our board members are incredible people who challenge me the way a board should challenge any executive,” Elyssa said. “They’ve been instrumental in getting us to think outside the box and helping us think differently. But it has never been a power struggle because, at the end of the day, it’s all about the girls.”
While there are 15 board members, there are also four Girls Inc. subcommittees, and, while all board members are on a committee, not all committee members are on a board. As a new addition to the Girls Inc. Indy team, it was a challenge for Elyssa to ensure all documents, calendars, and meetings were communicated and shared correctly with the right people.
“Prior to using Boardable, there wasn’t a central repository of information to work from,” she said. “Even though we had a Sharepoint site, some documents weren’t updated and there weren’t uniform naming conventions. It was getting hard to understand which document was most recent, or what draft had actually been presented to the board in a meeting.”
In addition to managing documents, keeping separate tabs on the board and the four committees was also a challenge. While the board meets every month, the four committees—Finance, Development, Governance, and Marketing—meet outside of scheduled board meetings, making communication and scheduling crucial.
While Girls Inc. had been using Boardable to manage board engagement since January 2018, Elyssa and the Board continue to explore additional functions of the platform.
“Boardable saved me on numerous occasions when I first started. I would check the Sharepoint site and not be able to find the most recent version of a document that was created before I started,” Elyssa explained. “But when I went into Boardable, I was able to see exactly what file had been shared and what resolution had been passed so I was always up to speed.”
The Girls Inc. team is fortunate enough to serve over 4,300 girls in the Indianapolis area with a team of only 12 full-time staff and an extensive volunteer network. Currently, Girls Inc. is leveraging Boardable to help the small team become more productive and efficient by:
“Boardable is unique in that it is built specifically for boards, so it addresses a ton of areas for which there is a need,” Elyssa said. “My team has found it helpful from a document management perspective, as well as the planning and calendar functionality. Additionally, our controller can be even more prepared for meetings by planning content around the questions and comments in the Boardable platform.”
Today, Elyssa cannot think of doing her job without Boardable.
“Being able to manage this information sharing in one central location, including the calendar, meetings, polls, lists, and more, has been amazing,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing this via email. It’s not a productive or efficient use of my time or my board’s time. With Boardable, I know both sides are seeing value.”
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While working with a board is an inevitable part of being an executive at a nonprofit, there can be a learning curve to ensure you’re working with them in the right way. With Boardable, nonprofit executives can be confident their boards have what they need to make the right decisions, and that they’re staying engaged in the right ways. This, in Elyssa’s opinion, is what makes them such good partners.
“I know that my board members have their own lives and their own commitments. Anything I can do to make being a better board member easier is good for the organization as a whole.”
When it comes to using Boardable to help fulfill the mission of inspiring the girls of Indianapolis, the biggest benefit for Elyssa is efficiency.
“We have program support coordinators who are working to fulfill our daily initiatives, but at an executive level, we’re looking at the strategy and trying to figure out where Girls Inc. is going,” Elyssa explains. “At this level, Boardable allows us to be more efficient in our board meetings, which allows us to get to these more important matters at hand, which affects our model, which affects our growth, which affects our girls.”
Without having to waste time chasing down documents or looking through calendar invites, the Girls Inc. team can spend their time wisely and effectively. Moving forward, Elyssa hopes to introduce additional parts of the Boardable platform to the team, including the agenda builder and real-time polls.
“I can’t wait to explore the functionality of Boardable further in my time at Girls Inc.,” said Elyssa. “But honestly, this has already been a game changer for our board members, and for my team.”
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