Blue Skies Ahead for Local Nonprofit

I spent a Saturday in February with a small, active nonprofit board with a passion for the outdoors and children. Blue Sky Fund is focused on transforming the lives of urban youth through outdoor education and experiences, and it is run by one of my favorite Richmonders, Lawson Wijesooriya. Lawson and I met several years ago as teammates at a Greater Richmond Challenge event, and we've stayed connected since.

Lawson asked me to spend some time with the board of the Blue Sky Fund during their annual retreat, and between us we hammered out an ambitious three-hour agenda – part board building, part brainstorming and part planning, our objective was to provide the team with some real traction as they dove into 2010.

Funny thing – as I often find with organizations – is that they didn't actually need me in the room.

That's probably an overstatement. I often find that the most powerful function I can play when organizations bring me into the room is provide focus, ensure everyone has a voice, and to mirror back the conversation in a way that helps people see a common path ahead of them.

The Blue Sky Fund board was no exception. To the one, they were clear on how they wanted to function as a board and on how their organization made a difference in Richmond's East End. They had set lofty goals in 2009, and were justifiably proud to have knocked them out of the proverbial park. They were ready to line up 2010 and knock it down, as well.

After some quick teambuilding fun, and a serious discussion about ways in which nonprofits can transition from hands-on, tactically minded boards to more strategic boards, we broke into two groups. One was focused on exploring ways in which Blue Sky Fund could build awareness in the community about its work, while the second group concentrated on beginning to build a process around the organization's successful fundraising initiatives.

If you're interested in seeing what sort of difference Blue Sky Fund makes, check out the annual Church Hill Games on May 1.