Posted by: aviloewenstein | May 9, 2012

Behind the scenes at the WfW Board Planning Weekend

Water for Waslala board members and Villanova student leaders

Water for Waslala board members and Villanova student leaders

By Avi Loewenstein, Director of Strategic Initiatives

Our Board of Directors is comprised of nine young professionals located throughout the country.  Because we don’t have any full-time American staff, we like to call ourselves a “working board” – we are in the trenches, taking on unglamorous tasks from maintaining our website, writing our annual report, filing our tax returns to contacting donors.

We spend a lot of time communicating as a group, typically via phone conferences and email. However, our calls and emails are usually to discuss the nitty gritty, and we concluded that we didn’t spend enough time discussing “big picture” items, such as our vision for what our organization will be, and whether we’re on the right track towards attaining our short and long term goals. We also rarely get to see each other in person.

As a result, we decided a few years ago to start an annual in-person “Planning Weekend” to discuss the overall direction and vision for Water for Waslala. The day before our (wet) Walk for Water just a few weeks ago, we held our 2nd annual Planning Weekend.

With coffee and donuts in hand, we started a long day of discussing where we are as an organization, where we want to be, and how to get there.

Among many different topics, we talked about our technologies, and whether we should continue to focus on gravity fed water systems, focus alternatively on household filtration technology, or some combination of the two. We challenged each other on our approach to fundraising, and on whether our donor strategies have been effective. We took a hard look at our pace of providing clean water to Waslala, and discussed whether our current fundraising goals were sufficient to maintain the pace of growth.

We didn’t always have answers, nor did we always agree. Each of us came away with ideas, challenges, different ways of thinking about problems, and a long to-do list. But we also came away with a sense of optimism. Like all organizations, we have our challenges, but we are committed, and we believe we have the talent and ingenuity to see that all Waslalans will someday have clean water.

For me, personally, it was reinvigorating to see the commitment and passion of my fellow board members. We all lead tremendously busy lives – for example, Matt is an MBA student at MIT, Nora is a PhD student at Temple, Jerica is an auditor at Ernst & Young, and the list goes on. Yet we all find time from our busy schedules to devote time and attention to making Water for Waslala everything it can be. This shared passion is what will propel our organization forward, and gives me the motivation to come home from a long day at the office and do a few hours of work for Waslala.

The Planning Weekend was another step in seeing our goal of bringing all Waslalan’s clean water a reality.

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