Featured Client: Connections For Children
In 2021, following a successful experience with ESC’s Executive Directors Leadership Institute (EDLI) program, Jennifer Cowan, the Executive Director of Connections for Children (CFC), sought further support from ESC to increase CFC’s board effectiveness and involvement.
For more than 45 years, Connections for Children (CFC) has played a critical role in the Los Angeles community, building a stronger future for children, families, and communities through quality childcare resources, education, and guidance. Jennifer and CFC’s board have a vision for their future; one in which CFC’s infrastructure would propel the organization to reach more people, increase their impact, and meet the growing needs of parents, children, and caregivers alike.
With support from ESC, Jennifer believes CFC is well-positioned to achieve these goals – even amidst the challenges that have arisen in the last few years. Her participation in EDLI had laid the groundwork for what Jennifer hoped to achieve with her board, and she continued to work with her EDLI coach, Susan Leonard on leadership coaching and board development. Through these engagements, Jennifer was able to maintain her momentum and build towards greater success for her organization.
Jennifer and the CFC board identified two areas for improvement through their work with ESC: board recruitment and board engagement around fundraising. As a first step, Jennifer and Susan educated and empowered the board to help achieve greater diversity, and significantly, CFC was able to recruit three new board members. Then, to help strengthen the board’s structure, they updated their bylaws and charters. They also held a board retreat, something that they had not done in years.
Jennifer is proud of the collaborative work she and the board have taken on and what they have accomplished together. She noted that during this project, Susan’s guidance, insight, and expertise were incredibly helpful for everyone to stay focused on the board development workplan.
“I deeply appreciated that she always reminded me of the progress I made and brought me back to my goals and where I wanted to go.”
Jennifer and her board were making great strides together, improving board effectiveness and involvement in the organization. At the same time, though, Jennifer was dedicating her time and energy to keeping CFC’s services running for the essential workers with children in their community who continued to be affected by COVID-19.
Through the lessons learned in her work with ESC, Jennifer was able to support her board in using their network and resources to seek more funding, which has strengthened CFC’s ability to sustain operations during uncertain times and respond to emerging community needs. In fact, throughout all this, CFC never closed its doors, even for a day – they continued to connect first responders and essential workers with children to childcare services. As childcare providers faced intensifying challenges, CFC was able to offer the necessary support to help keep their doors open. The need to provide childcare resources and guidance continues, and Jennifer says, “with ESC’s support, my resiliency and leadership are strengthened.”
As a leader, Jennifer is always looking to grow and learn with her team. With Susan’s mentorship and encouragement, she feels encouraged to “focus on all the possibilities.” She has learned how to take an idea and realistically envision and execute it. While CFC may feel like they are juggling competing priorities between fundraising, programming, and organizational development, Jennifer is thankful for Susan and ESC helping CFC as they focus on building a resilient organization ready to connect with and help their community in overcoming any challenges that may arise.