Graduate School & GCC Partnership Helps Non-Profits

GCCUntil recently, when local non-profit organizations wanted training for their staff and board members, they had to hire a consultant or travel to find training programs. Thanks to a partnership between Greenfield Community College and Marlboro’s Graduate and Professional Studies, such training is now available in Greenfield at GCC. Workshops in GCC Community Education’s Non-profit Management Series are taught by staff from Marlboro College’s School for Graduate and Professional Studies and have drawn participants from a wide range of non-profits from throughout the area. One of those organizations is Greenfield-based Just Roots, an organization that seeks to increase access to healthy, local food.

Last fall, at a meeting of the Just Roots Board of Directors, board members discussed how they could continue the transition from a working to a governance board. Board member Ari Pliskin, who had taken courses in non-profit management at GCC and Marlboro College, suggested contracting with Marlboro College to work with the board. They considered that option and wanted to be as cost effective as possible. Another board member, Ted Watt, looking at a copy of GCC’s Lifelong Learning guide said, “GCC has a whole series about non-profit management taught by Marlboro College staff, including a workshop on Best Practices for Boards. Why don’t we all go?”

“We went,” said Just Roots Board President Wisty Rorabacher, “and the quality of our work went up a notch or two or three. The day after the workshop, I was in three meetings related to different aspects of Just Roots. At each meeting, my perspective was much more in line with being a responsible board member, seeing the big picture. What we learned isn’t just academically powerful, it is functionally powerful. I don’t want someone to tell me just theory about something. I need help right now, I’m in the trenches. That workshop provided the help I needed.”

Ariel Brooks, Director of Non-Degree Programs at Marlboro College said, “The fall 2013 series drew a diverse group of students who shared their experiences and learned a lot from each other. Both GCC and Marlboro College seek to provide their communities with what they want and need. This program supports non-profit organizations that serve our communities. While educational institutions often are protective of their programs, GCC and Marlboro College are cooperating to offer programs that meet our communities’ needs.”

Bob Barba, GCC’s Dean for Community Education agrees. Barba said, “The collaboration with Marlboro College is a great example of two kinds of colleges from two different states working together to offer quality, affordable education in a professional area for which we have lots of demand. The partnership helps foster the growth of a group like Just Roots, which is doing truly transformative work in the community. This is what we strive for—that great blend of personal enrichment, professional and workforce development, and community engagement that make up the three-part mission of Community Education.”

Ari Pliskin, member of the Just Roots Board of Directors and Development Director of Stone Soup Café, was so impressed with what he learned taking courses through the GCC/Marlboro partnership that he completed Marlboro’s Certificate in Non-profit Management. He said, “Overall, Marlboro helped me move from working hard jumping from one opportunity to the next and putting out daily fires towards strategically coordinating my actions and those of others towards building a sustainable organization for the Stone Soup Café. It helped me move forward by working smarter instead of just working harder. I have more confidence developing, critiquing, and reviewing budgets, a stronger sense of what the board role should be, a better sense of developing marketing and fundraising campaigns, and greater confidence supervising volunteers and staff.”

by Mary McClintock, GCC, ’82