Monday, October 19, 2015

The Limelight Fund – Mission and Board Selection

Note: The following is the assignment for my class in Board Government and Management of Volunteers at Concordia University. The people are real, but the organization is not. None of the listed are of my acquaintance.

Writing in the Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership Management,  David Renz speaks of a whole board development cycle, which starts off from the most basic level of defining the work and designing the board, to recruiting and selecting members, to building member capacity, building the team, ensuring focus, engaging in the work, conducting effective meetings, and ensuring accountability. Renz emphasizes that this is a cycle where any of these points might be an entry point to the cycle, the most obvious is in defining the work of the organization (Renz  p. 153).
This paper will present an organization, and the board I have chosen to run that organization, along with a justification of the people chosen as well as their potential interactions.

The Organization
            I have long been interested in the performing arts. Though the closest I ever got to being on stage was an invitation to try out for Oklahoma by the show choir director, the tryouts overlapped the practice times for my football team. I decided not to even ask my football coach if I could miss practice so that I could try out. I think I missed something I could have enjoyed. I hope that others will not miss the chance. This is why I am pleased to announce the formation of a new organization that will help give young people the opportunity to develop themselves on the stage. The Limelight Fund has been seeded by a very generous anonymous grant that will aid the organization. What the Limelight Fund will do is give grants to deserving theater companies and aid the grant recipient companies in all aspects of operations from space rental and insurance to marketing the work. The hope is to fund the arts outside the upscale, urban centers that are traditionally associated with the stage. The Limelight Fund will target the growth of companies in nontraditional areas where perhaps the only opportunities to act and direct and write have been for the school stage, if even that was an option. We will help the youth by providing opportunities so that the arts can flourish and be a viable career choice. There is no reason why the talented youth of Peoria and Davenport and Englewood cannot stay around and help their own communities grow. Though located in Chicago, the plan is for the Limelight Fund to grow into a national organization. I have curated a team to work for me to help me find, identify, and nurture the right companies.
            All of this leads to the mission statement, which is the guiding light of the organization: The Limelight Fund grows the arts to grow the community.

The Board
Robert Falls, Artistic Director - Goodman Theatre
Martha Lavey Artistic Director - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Leslie Buxbaum Danzig co-founder - 500 Clown
George Zoghbi Chief Operating Officer of U.S. commercial business - Kraft Heinz
Tony Parasida Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Administration -The Boeing Company
Danielle M. Winkle, CPA  Director - Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams, Ltd.
Joe Adams Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer - McGladrey LLP
Rich Stoddart CEO, North America - Leo Burnett Company
Justin Massa Director of Business Strategy - IDEO and Founder - Food Genius
Lynne Kiesling Associate Professor of Instruction in Economics- Northwestern University.

Board Background
            The first member of the board is Robert Falls. Falls has long been active in the Chicago theater scene. Receiving his BFA in directing and playwriting from the University of Illinois, he came to Chicago to work. He was first the Artistic Director for the Wisdom Bridge Theatre Company from 1977 to 1985, and from there he moved to his current position as the Artistic Director at the Goodman Theatre. During his tenure at the Goodman, it has been nationally recognized by various publications as one of best theater companies in the nation (“Robert Falls”).  He is a white male, age 61, and a native of the central Illinois Town of Ashland.
            The second member of the board is Martha Lavey. Martha has also been a long-time fixture of the Chicago theater scene. She ascended to her current position as the Artistic Director of the Steppenwolf Theatre in 1995. Though she is stepping down from her post at the end of the year, her connections in the arts will remain valuable. She received doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University after receiving her bachelor from the same university in 1979 (“Martha Lavey”). She was born in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas in 1957 and is a white female.
            The next member of the board is Leslie Buxbaum Danzig. Danzig is the co-founder of the 500 Clowns Theater Company, also located in Chicago. The 500 Clowns and its associated teachings are considered more avant-garde than the more traditional plays staged by companies like Steppenwolf and the Goldman. The approach is summed up on their website: the basic elements of 500 Clown Theater by taking emotional and physical risks through play. “Our belief is that physical action is a language everyone shares, and we have developed fun ways to work together and individually with risk that helps move participants from passive observers to active participants.  By introducing ourselves to our risk threshold we can mine it for value both on and offstage.” (“Training”). Danzig has long been working in theater, moving from New York to Chicago in 1996 before co-founding the 500 Clowns with her partner (“Leslie’s History). Danzig graduated from Brown in 1990 with her bachelor’s in women’s studies, and received a Doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern in 2007. Danzig has also taught at the University of Chicago under the auspices of the Theater and Performance Studies program, as well as in North western’s MFA Directing program (“Program Staff”).  She is a white female.
            The next member of the board is George Zoghbi, age 49. George has recently been elevated to the head of the U.S. Commercial Business at The Kraft Heinz Company. Before that, he has served in the preceding company’s leadership moving up quickly since he joined the firm in 2007. Prior to entering employment with the company he now works with, he worked with several other food companies. He hold several credentials, including a Diploma of Business (Marketing), as well as a Master’s of Enterprise from the University of Melbourne, as well as completing completed an Accelerated Development Program at MC London Business School in the United Kingdom (“Executive Profile”). Zoghbi is a native Australian of Arab descent.
            The next member is Tony Parasida has served at Boeing for thirty-seven years. In his current role, “He oversees leadership development, training, employee relations, compensation, benefits, diversity initiatives, privacy and corporate administration. He also leads Boeing’s Global Corporate Citizenship organization and the Shared Services Group, which is responsible for providing common infrastructure and services to Boeing businesses.” His training includes a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in engineering management from Drexel University. (“Executive Biography”). He also serves on several boards. Parasida is 59-year-old white male.
            The sixth member of the board is Danielle M. Winkle, CPA. Winkle is a director at ORBA, one of the Chicago area’s top accounting firms according to Crain’s and a consistent performer in the Chicago Tribune’s annual 100 best companies to work for survey. She has been with ORBA since 1984 and was made director in 1994. Her biography on her website cites “Clients frequently rely on Danielle for her expertise. Her work in the field is sought after and she often leads seminars on accounting and internal control procedures for clients and community organizations.” She received her B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Aside from her work with The Limelight Fund, she is also on the finance committee for the Chicago foundation for women (“People”). Winkle is a middle-aged white female.
            The seventh member of the board is Joe Adams. Joe is the CEO of McGladery, another large accounting firm centered in Chicago. McGladrey sells itself as “a leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services focused on the middle market. We guide our clients through complex business challenges by understanding their needs and bringing together the right team to address them.” He has been the CEO since 2011, helping grow the company through mergers and acquisitions. Prior to that, he has been in other leadership positions in the company, leading growth of the great lakes region tenfold in the 13 years he was in charge of the region. Joe is a white male who received both his BA and MBA from DePaul University, with the Master’s coming in 1979 (“Profiles”).
            The eight member of the board is Rich Stoddart. Rich is the CEO, Leo Burnett North America, one of the nation’s leading advertising firms. He is glowingly praised on the company web site: “Under his leadership, business has grown, management has flourished, EFFIE Awards for effective advertising have piled up and the agency was named one of Advertising Age’s Agencies to Watch and twice recognized by Advertising Age as a Best Place to Work” (“About Us”). Rich graduated with a BA from Dartmouth in 1985 with a major in history. He joined Leo Burnett right out of school and worked for them for eleven years. Then he took a detour working with a rival agency and then working for Ford as the Director of Marketing Communication until his return to Leo Burnett in 2005 (“Rich Stoddart”). He is a white male.
            The ninth member of the board is Justin Massa. Justin is part of Chicago’s growing startup scene, founding Food Genius, a company that made an app that worked as an analytics too for restaurants. It was highly praised, as Justin describes “Food Genius was part of Excelerate Labs (now TechStars Chicago) class of 2011, the first-ever Startup-in-Residence at IDEO, the first graduate from 1871, and a recipient of a 2012 Chicago Innovation Award. In 2014, we were named to Entrepreneur Magazine's list of "100 Brilliant Companies".” (“Justin Massa”). Justin has an interesting background, working as a programmer at other venues, but also putting his time in at the community working as a teacher at the Chicago Public Schools. He has a BA from Loyola-Chicago granted in 2001 and a Master’s in Teaching from the National-Louis University in 2004. Massa is a male of Hispanic descent.
            Rounding out the board is Lynne Kiesling. Kiesling is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Economics at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she is also a Faculty Affiliate in the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth. She is also the author or co-author of many academic journal articles, book chapters, policy studies, and public interest comments, most of which analyze electricity policy and market design issues relating to regulation and technological change. Her specialty is industrial organization, regulatory policy and market design in the electricity industry. She examines the interaction of market design and innovation in the development of retail markets, products and services and the economics of “smart grid” technologies. Before coming to Northwestern, Lynn had positions as an Assistant Professor, College of William and Mary, Manager, Price Waterhouse/PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Director of Economic Policy, Reason Foundation, and Research Scholar, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science at George Mason University. She holds a BA from Miami University in 1987 and a PhD from Northwestern in 1993 (“Bio”). She is a white female.

Context and Justification
I have had this assignment in the back of my mind for weeks now. My first struggle was thinking about the form of organization I would even want to make. I needed the organization and its mission before I could even think about the board-make up because in my mind everything is driven by the mission, from the day-to-day activities to the makeup of the board.
I then had to think about the structure of the assignment. If I were really starting the Limelight Fund, what kinds of people would I need? When talking about this assignment with my boss, a middle-aged white female, she joked that the board would be all rich white men. A secondary concern of mine was diversity in terms of demographics. If I were making a real board, I would want a multiplicity of voices.
When I was thinking of the structure, I started with an archetype in mind. At one point, I had thought about structuring this paper like a fantasy novel where each board member has some key quality that makes them a member of a team that will ultimately come together to slay the dragon. There are no dragons in the nonprofit world, but many small issues that can come together to look like a dragon if you do not have the tools to address them.
            In the end, what I was choosing for were certain sets of skills. I had an outline drawn that said three from arts, two from operations of big corporations, two from finance or accounting firms, two from advertising or marketing, and one economist. The layout of the board reflects this. I wanted more than one person from each of the main operations so that there was not just one voice.
Falls and Lavey both come from the big, established theater scene in Chicago. Having them on the board would be invaluable because of their knowledge of the arts scene, as well as the connections they have built through a career working in Chicago Theater. However, I felt that I could not just have them; I needed someone from the more off beat scene to be a counterpoint on the board. That is why I chose Danzig. She has experience both in New York and in Chicago and is well educated, but she knows the struggle of the small storefront theater troop, since she founded one herself. 500 Clowns does not have a space of their own, so Danzig has had to work in partnership with more established theaters and civic organizations to get her work staged. That knowledge is a valuable tool for the board of the Limelight Fund.
The next two counterpoints are George Zoghbi and Tony Parasida. I was focused on finding some people from the bigger companies in the area, so I went to the organization charts of a couple to pull the names of workers higher up in the businesses who would also have organizational experience that could be helpful for the organization. I also thought that perhaps these positions would also be the rainmakers for the fundraisers, as though the Limelight Fund has been seeded with a very generous gift, making sure the organization remains an ongoing concern remains a goal.
The next set I was looking at was for people with accounting backgrounds. Though we have not fully fleshed out the work of the board in specific, we will need a finance committee. I chose the Director from ORBA because I personally have experience with the firm and I have good feelings about it as an organization, as do outside observers. The CEO of McGladrey is important, as they are a top five Chicago accounting firm as per Crain’s, and the CEO is local.
The last three are a more interesting group. My original outline was to have two people with direct advertising or marketing experience. The head of Leo Burnett will help there. I also thought that we would need people with experience in start-ups and entrepreneurship. The people we will serve through the Limelight Fund are going to be in organizations in transition. Our money can help, but we also want to offer the expertise that we have, not just from the employees of the fund, but to also to use the board as consultants, as Peter Drucker suggest in his book Managing the Nonprofit Organization (p. 173). This is why I went looking for someone with start-up experience under this heading since starting a new business successfully involves a lot of marketing. Finally, I wanted an economist on the board that would allow the board to have a perspective of what was going on in an economic context at a higher level, and Kiesling fits the bill and her research interest is applicable to the needs of the Limelight Fund.

A Note on Diversity
As I said, my boss had joked that the board would all be old rich white men. I was deliberately trying to make a board that was more diverse to represent a plurality of views. My outline was defined by section, but allowing more than one person in each of my buckets. I also know that people at the level I was looking at have many various transferrable skills. You may not just be an operations maven, but you could have skills in marketing and finance. Moving up the ladder should give you context for all those things.
What I found though that looking for both certain sets of qualifications and desired skills and diversity in terms of race and gender is incredibly hard to do. There have been sorting at every level where for whatever large systemic reason that is outside the scope of this paper that leaves women and minorities behind. I ended up with a board that is comprised of eight white people with a Hispanic and an Arab. Gender-wise it is a little more balanced, with four women and six men. Even I am not pleased with that result, since it is reflective of my own biases but also as society’s as a whole.


“About US” (2015). Leo Burnett. Retrieved from
Drucker, P. (1990). Managing the Nonprofit Organization. New York: Harper Collins
“Martha Lavey” (2015) Steppenwolf. Retrieved From
“Leslie’s History” (2015) 500 Clowns.  Retrieved from
“People” (2015) ORBA.. Retrieved from
“Leslie Buxbaum Danzig” (2015) Linkedin. Retrieved from
“Justin Massa” (2015) Linkedin. Retrieved from
Kiesling, L. (2015). “Bio”. Retrieved From
Renz, D .(2010). "Leadership, Governance, and the Work of the Board". The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, (2010), 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.  125-156.
“Rick Stoddard” (2015) Linkedin. Retrieved from
 “Robert Falls” (n.d.) Wikipedia. Retrieved from
 “Teaching and Training” (2015) 500 Clowns. Retrieved From
 “Tony Parasidia” (2015) Boeing. Retrieved from