Board Academy 2020 Review


The Center for Nonprofit Excellence is pleased to announce nineteen graduates of our Board Academy 2020. Board Academy gives community members from all sectors the opportunity to learn the value and responsibilities of board service. Connecting community-minded individuals to board service, and building knowledge of how to be a high impact board, is one of the many ways CNE equips and serves our nonprofit sector.

A stated goal of the Board Academy since the start has been to widen the path to Board Service. This year, more than half of our graduates entered Board Academy with no previous board experience. We also are pleased to share that twenty one percent of our 2020 graduates are members of traditionally underrepresented groups.

Because of the generosity of our sponsors, we were also able to meet financial needs that have been historical barriers to participation. This year, we added a childcare supplement to the our usual offer for scholarship assistance. In 2020, we issued $3,400 in scholarships and $200 in childcare supplements, completely fulfilling all requests.

Due to the disruption of COVID-19, we also had to create a new and unique approach to completing the Board Academy curriculum. Board Academy started with 7 in-person sessions (including one full-day workshop) with 19 hours of instruction prior to pivoting to 5 online sessions. Together online and in-person, Board Academy participants received a total of 26 hours of instruction.

I really appreciated the in-person aspects for networking, but my foremost goal was a desire for the knowledge base of how to effectively serve on a board. I did feel I gained this even with the logistic hardships of the pandemic. I found the group exercises to be very powerful. [After completing Board Academy] I feel much better prepared to consider joining a board now. I wasn’t sure what even to ask back when attempting to determine if I was a good fit. Also, I am more confident about how to research and engage with organizations.

2020 BA Grad

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Since its inception, CNE intended Board Academy as a means to broaden the path to board service. CNE issued 32 offers to applicants. Of those, nearly 33% went to members of traditionally underrepresented groups. Again, 21% of our graduates were from these groups (e.g. Black, Latinx, LGBTQ. ) In keeping with our effort to expand board service to a larger audience, 52% of participants had little to no board experience when they entered the program. This number has been rising in recent years.

New this year, Board Academy included a workshop series called Difficult Conversations. Facilitated by CNE staff and staff from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, these sessions are designed to help participants hone the skills needed to engage meaningfully on tough topics, especially in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I appreciated the difficult conversations courses as well. That added an element I had not necessarily considered. I enjoyed hearing from the group about their experiences as well as the experiences of the speakers. This helped illustrate the concepts we were discussing.

BA 2020 Grad

Also new this year, we began collecting demographic data, alongside our end-of-session evaluations, to disaggregate data to see if, and how, responses to the Board Academy were impacted by factors such as race, gender, and sexuality. Given the relatively small number of participants, we are unable to publicly report any of the disaggregated data.

COVID-19 and Board Academy Online

Due to the changes brought about by COVID-19, CNE’s office closed March 11th and staff began working from home. Radically responsive, the staff made an immediate decision to pivot Board Academy to an online format only losing one session from the schedule.

When we made the move online, we recognized the in-person value of of our Board Academy would be compromised. With over a decade in developing and fine-tuning a curriculum in-person, the pivot to online was new territory for many of our trainers.  As a result of our desire to create something of value in a new format, we made a conscious and transparent decision to modify the remaining content for the virtual classroom.

Out of consideration for the changing landscape, CNE offered participants options for their continued study. Participants could choose to continue with the program and receive a small refund, withdraw from the program and receive a larger refund, or defer to the follow year and complete the program in 2021. With twenty of our twenty-one original participants (one had dropped for personal reasons), all but one of our students opted to remain in the revised virtual program to completion.

Thank you so much for your efforts in making Board Academy a valuable experience. Even with the switch to virtual, the presentations were well done and informative. Looking forward to the next time our group can gather.

Sara Drebes, BA 2020


We made two additional changes to the Board Academy as a result of the online format: First, sessions were adapted to shorter time frames. Second, due to the delicate nature of the topic, one of the Difficult Conversations sessions was eliminated at the request of the trainer. Neither changed seemed to negatively impact the program’s value.

Overall, results from the evaluations indicate Board Academy maintained a high-quality  for participants. In particular, staff worked to ensure the final day retained many of the interactive elements that have made the last session such a valuable capstone for the program. Significantly, evaluations for individual sessions in 2020 do not reveal a marked difference between in-person (held before March 12) and online workshops (held after March 12). Participant evaluations revealed a strong program in spite of the changes due to COVID-19.

Participant feedback continues to show a strong appreciation for Board Academy. On average, participants rated their overall satisfaction with Board Academy at 96%. The participants also rated their learning of knowledge and skills relevant to board service at 95%. Comparing those averages to the previous three years, we see that overall satisfaction remained the same relative to 2019 while learning dropped a mild 3% from the previous. year.

Thanks to our sponsors and those who generously support Board Academy, our community welcomed nineteen graduates this year who are more likely now to choose board service as a way to give back to their communities. CNE firmly believes that by removing the mystery around board service, and by equipping community members with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to be high impact board members, we ensure stronger, healthier, more effective nonprofits. That’s a win for us all. Congratulations to our graduates and thank you to all our sponsors, trainers and the staff who made it possible!

2020 CNE Board Fellow

BA 2020 graduate Valerie Washington will be joining the CNE board as the newest addition to the Board Fellows program. Valerie currently works for the Haven as a case manager for the rapid rehousing program.  She also works as a GED instructor for the TJACE program with PVCC.  Before working in nonprofits, she worked in consumer banking and for a company that worked with employee-owned businesses.  While in college at Christopher Newport University (CNU), she was an Americorps Bonner Scholar.  She assisted the NATASHA House, a temporary shelter for women and children, with their Seed2Table program. She graduated from CNU with a BA in Economics.  Her current community affiliations are Virginia Organizing, the Charlottesville Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, and Vinegar Hill Toastmasters. When she is not working, or volunteering, she likes to read, visit the comic book store, and go skating. Valerie currently lives in her hometown of Charlottesville with her son Malcolm and dog Coco.

2020 BA Grads

Amy Allamong, Habitat for Humanity (staff)

Renee Brown, CFA Institute (staff)

Sara Drebes, Culpeper Chamber of Commerce (committee member)

Daniel Fairley, 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, Inc. Chapter (president), University of Virginia Equity Center (pipeline program chair), Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry (board member)

Maya Ghaemmaghami, Martha Jefferson Foundation (former board member)

Daniel Griffith, UVA Health System (staff)

Beth Horton, UVA (faculty); Westminster Child Care Center (co-chair)

Tommy Kinstle, Crutchfield (staff); Boys and Girls Club (volunteer), Big Brothers Big Sisters (volunteer)

Edgar Lara, Sin Barreras/Without Borders (board member/director of community engagement)

Leah Lindauer, CFA Institute (staff)

Todd Parks, PVCC (faculty)

Barbara Petitt, CFA Institute (staff)

Peter Quagliaroli, St. Anne’s-Belfield School (head of upper school)

Betsy Rice, Hanzmont Wiebel (staff)

Steven Ruddell, Silverchair (staff); Trinity Presbyterian Church (elder)

Elizabeth Russell, Thomas Jefferson Foundation (staff); AHIP (board member), Historic Preservation Committee for Albemarle County (board member), Preservation Piedmont (board member)

Katie VanSciver, CFA Insitute (staff)

Valerie Washington, TJACE@PVCC (faculty); Virginia Organizing (volunteer)

Andrew Wiseman, Silverchair (staff)

Looking Forward

CNE staff are rethinking the format and structure of Board Academy in light of the ongoing global pandemic, and based on our experience transitioning the program to 100% online. We see a strong role for Board Academy in CNE future programming. However, we expect to delay Board Academy 2021 by about six months to better gauge the viability of returning to an in-person format and to better plan for the contingency that Board Academy 2021 will take place fully online. We know that effective board service will always be in demand, and we are committed to continuing to play a central role in meeting that demand in Charlottesville and across Central Virginia.

I appreciate all the tools and information shared, and the fact that it was an opportunity to continue to keep the issues that my nonprofit needs most to the front of my mind was important. I imagine it would do the same for any participant regardless of the life phase their nonprofit is in. We can all take something away from most, if not all classes, and it’s also a weekly reminder of all those ideas that we had before. Personally, I feel I’ve been pushing to make progress with the nonprofit I’m most involved in and being in Board Academy has a lot to do with it… I haven’t just let the initiative fade.

2020 BA Grad