Hiring the right Executive Director

Years ago, I helped Bethel Community Services Foundation (BCS Foundation) convert from being a supporting foundation to a community foundation. The Foundation serves the people of Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in southwestern Alaska, a place of great open spaces, rivers and lakes.

BCS Foundation has had a single Executive Director since 2004: Jerry Drake, the former business manager of the supporting foundation. He was a natural fit: he was trusted by the board, knew the board's priorities, knew the organization's assets like the back of his hand, has deep roots in the region, and is smarter than most people will ever be.

Jerry and his wife Anna decided to make a huge change in their lives, and moved Outside to start a business. He told his board chair, and the board chair called me that evening. 

Who could manage this community foundation: holding the trust of the board, the donors, and the community?  Who could know the assets--including 14 pieces of real estate and buildings? Who could provide the vision and leadership the foundation needed?

When done well, a transition period allows the organization's board to clarify its priorities. A transition requires the board members to become the face of the organization, and to look at its assets and opportunities with fresh eyes. BCS Foundation board members were going to take the time they needed to find the right fit.

Imagine how excited they were to find that right fit, right there in Bethel: Michelle DeWitt. Michelle has been in Bethel for 16 years, directing Tundra Women's Coalition. She is well respected in the region and around the state, understands the community, and has vision for the potential of the community foundation.

Michelle accepted the position in April, and will begin work in October 2013. The board continues to work the organization's transition, tweaking its asset base, and refreshing its programs.  We are all excited about next steps.