Clayton County Foundation for the Future receives grant to support volunteer boards

A grant will fund the creation of a new tool to help volunteers grow as leaders and strengthen the work of volunteer boards in rural communities. 

“This project will provide guidance to nonprofit and community leaders in the form of a board training as well as a printed and digital guide with helpful solutions to common issues and ideas for supporting, equipping, and cultivating strong board members,” said Emily Sadewasser, coordinator for the Clayton County Foundation for the Future, which will develop the guide and organize the training thanks to an $1,120 grant from the Iowa Council of Foundations.

The theme of the project is in keeping with the Foundation’s long history of supporting strong nonprofits and communities in Clayton County, work that is all the more critical today. From chambers of commerce to historical societies, nonprofits face more challenges than ever amid the pandemic. Building strong leadership is crucial to these organizations achieving their goals and navigating difficult times. The new guide aims to help nonprofit boards be engaged and excited about their work, strengthening their organizations and thus the communities they serve. With resources stretched thin, leaders will be able to reference this guide quickly and easily to learn about no- or low-cost steps they can take to strengthen their boards. 

The Foundation will also offer a high-quality Board Boot Camp training workshop through its partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. The same training was offered to Clayton County nonprofits in 2019 and over 30 representatives from libraries, arts organizations, substance abuse services, local government, economic development groups, schools, and museums attended. “With such a positive response, we would like to be able to offer this opportunity again so that even more organizations from Clayton County can benefit,” Sadewasser said.

The project was inspired by the work of Susan Howlett, author of Boards on Fire, who led a session during the recent Iowa Council of Foundations’ Connect Community Foundations Conference. The Clayton County Foundation will share a copy of the book with those interested in delving deeper into the topic. The new guide will include strategies for building relationships with board members, making meetings worthwhile, creating systems to support board members, and cultivating model board members. It will complement another guide for boards welcoming and engaging newcomers that Sadewasser created for the Foundation in 2018.

The Foundation will implement the new strategies in its own operations, as well. “The pandemic has affected how our Foundation advisory committee meets and engages, so many of the ideas from Susan Howlett will be helpful in reenergizing the members for the mission,” Sadewasser said. “As leaders in our communities, they’ll be able to take what they’ve learned to other organizations where they’re involved.”

For more information and to access any of the Foundation’s tools and resources, contact Sadewasser at or call 563-880-6044.