Steadfast foundation believers, that is to say, CDF Board members and supporters alike, place high value on individual achievement. This is evident in the scholarships and other awards we make possible. So, too, in our daily lives, most of us likely encourage family members, students, clients, colleagues, and even ourselves to strive and persevere, to reach ever upward. This quest for being the ‘best we can be’ seems to be in our collective DNA. And yet, as we well know, individual effort does not necessarily mean one can or should do everything alone. A helping hand, an encouraging word may be just what is needed to succeed in certain endeavors.
Some tasks are just too big or complex for one or even a few persons to handle. A group of people may be called to together to work toward a common goal, a mission, a purpose, a cause. All of us have been members of various kinds of groups throughout our lives: family and friend circles; neighborhoods, towns, schools, churches; workplaces, professions, organizations, foundations; boards, councils, committees; and the list goes on. Members often have a connection with others in their groups, a commonality that binds them together--a shared interest, occupation, talent, or passion. There are likely to be differences as well. Differences among group members can be enriching; they can enhance the group’s work. Or they can become sources of conflict and impede the group’s work. How to ensure the former and minimize the latter? Teamwork seems to be at least part of the answer.
Teamwork is a beautiful thing. You know it when you see it, especially if you experience it in a group that has become a team where everyone pulls together in the same direction. The essence of teamwork is captured in this official dictionary definition: “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” Creativity and innovation often flourish in an environment of group problem-solving. Goals are reached; projects are completed; progress is made. And the payoff is great: the feeling of group accomplishment can be exhilarating. If cooperative teamwork is continued over time, one success can lead to another and then another.
The CDF Board of Trustees exemplifies teamwork at its best. First and foremost, Board members are devoted to the Foundation cause, as stated in its official motto, “Supporting Achievement, Honoring Excellence.” From there, other signs of effective teamwork follow, among them--
a solid work structure with processes and policies in place, for example, a regularly updated set of functional bylaws; a comprehensive development plan that outlines member responsibilities and goals (each person has found a niche); an established routine for meeting dates and agendas, the accurate recording and full Board review of meeting minutes, and other documentation; a self-assessment tool for trustees to evaluate their own performance;
a positive work environment that values and encourages individual participation within the group, fosters the formation of smaller groups to work on specific projects; praises successful efforts and offers suggestions when a different path is called for; facilitates congeniality and colleagueship;
a long (32 years and counting) history of successful fundraising, scholarship- and award-giving accomplishments, whether in lean years or more prosperous ones; learning from the ups and the downs; offering a consistently reliable presence--auction, exhibit table, student poster session--to annual SHAV conference goers; relying on the lessons of past experience to shift gears and move in new, bold directions.
A thriving team and its dictionary-defined teamwork necessarily depend on something that holds these elements together. And that something, of course, is glue. The glue in this context is the people, the Trustees. Ranging in Board experience from several months to 28 years, these committed persons support one another in many ways. They serve as mentors, volunteer helpers, and cheerleaders for each other. They offer suggestions and join their colleagues in lifting heavy loads or exploring new ideas together. In other words, they build the structure, embody the positive environment, and create the history. They are the glue that holds the elements together in a cohesive, effective whole. They make the whole thing work.
And yet, the Board is actually not the whole thing. Not at all! You, our Foundation supporters, make possible everything that the Board does. Without you, there would be no reason for the Board to do its work, no reason for any elements or for the glue to hold them together. Without you, there would be no team. Why? Because, of course, you are an integral part of the team. Thank you for being the most crucial element of all. Your continuing participation has enabled the foundation to become more than the sum of its parts. Your continuing participation completes the team, and then some.
Judy Rassi, Contributor