2013 Excellence in Board Leadership Finalists

2013 Excellence in Board Leadership Award Winner: The AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Inc.

AIDSfoundationThe AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Inc. (AFWM) provides support to regional residents with AIDS who are in need of financial, social, and emotional help. It sponsors the AIDS kNOw More Project to combat stigma and raise awareness among youth. When Ann Gillard became President of the Board, AFWM had just hired its first full-time employee, there was no consistent effort to raise money beyond two large annual events, the Board of Trustees had not seen consistent financials in years, and there was no strategic plan. Under Ann’s leadership of the Board, she established specific benchmarks for long- and short-term goals, and partnered with the Executive Director and the Trustees. Her Vision to Action Plan birthed the Living Positive support group for HIV positive men and monthly educational sessions. It also expanded the Emergency Financial Assistance program to be accessible in Spanish and helped the AIDS kNOw More Project double its engagements. It has resulted in increased development efforts including two successful new events and higher grant funding. As President, Ann created a job description for the Executive Director and Trustees, created and implemented AFWM’s first strategic plan, established procedures for consistent financial reporting, and spearheaded the establishment of the first annual budget in five years. Ann remains on the Executive Committee subsequent to the end of her term due to her impact.

Nativity School of Worcester

The Nativity School of Worcester is a Jesuit middle school founded in 2003 to provide a quality, all-scholarship education to underserved boys of all faiths. There are currently 56 boys enrolled, and the 86 graduates are supported through their Graduate Support Program through high school and college. Dr. Charles Weiss founded Nativity School of Worcester and became Chair of the Board of Trustees in 2006. He has overseen the hiring of two executive directors and four principals. His presence as a constant in the school’s leadership has helped it become a strong academic institution, and his familiarity with the nonprofit world and experiences serving and leading many nonprofit boards has helped him be a mentor for the executive directors. He is currently the co-chair of the school’s first-ever capital campaign. Under his leadership, the school has seen great success. Over 90% of the school’s graduates are enrolled in school, 93% have graduated or are on track to graduate in four years from high school, and 83% of graduates have been accepted into a four-year college. The determination, dedication, and leadership of Dr. Weiss have been vital in Nativity School of Worcester’s success.

Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra


The Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra is a fully professional symphony orchestra that presents live music to inspire, entertain, and engage people of all ages, and provides tuition-free music programs. Before Michael Keys became Board President, the orchestra was facing difficult times. Many organizational systems, software, and office procedures were outdated or non-existent, the orchestra had a financial debt of about $75,000, and there was no strategic plan to improve the situation. Keys became Board President in July 2009 and he cleaned and organized the office, donated personal funds to buy a new donor software system, addressed the financial procedures, developed policies for employees, and developed a plan to create a more professional staff. He also helped run a board challenge fundraising drive to raise additional funds. He worked for the next two years as President and spearheaded a strategic plan, created a board development, and inspired his staff. One year after Keys became Board President, the orchestra met its financial goals and made up for the previous year’s loss, and it continues to experience financial growth each year. Keys’s leadership has been vital to the Phil’s success, and it is now a healthy organization in a position of growth.

Victory Programs

Victory ProgramsVictory Programs operates 17 programs in nine neighborhoods in Boston and Cambridge to help individuals and families facing homelessness, addiction, and other chronic illnesses. Its newest program, the Boston Living Center (BLC) provides nutritional resources and wellness, education, and prevention services to more than 1,300 people living with HIV/AIDS every year. Previously a separate organization, BLC discovered in 2011 that its executive director had embezzled more than $125,000. Victory Programs’ board of directors played a key role in saving the BLC from closing and leaving thousands without food and services. The board was very involved in deciding whether a merger was the best fit, and in 2012, the BLC merged as a program under Victory Programs. Victory Programs’ board of directors went above and beyond to ensure the merger could occur. They held emergency meetings and conference calls, used their contacts to move the process along, and showed commitment to the cause. Their strategic vision saved the BLC from closing. Because of the leadership and vision of Victory Programs’ board of directors, not a single day of services to BLC members was interrupted, all BLC employees were offered jobs with Victory Programs, checks and balances were implemented to prevent fraud from happening again, BLC is stronger than before, and the merger serves as a model for other nonprofits considering similar mergers.