The setup of the organization, or governing body, behind your garden will be vital to ensuring that your garden is structured, funded, and firm in following its mission. The best organization setup will vary for every organization and depends on an assortment of variables like the time and resources available, the number of people involved, and your end goal.
For the Pleasantville Community Garden, our leadership body went through three distinct phases as the organization was developing, which will be described in this chapter. These three organization setups may not directly apply to your organization, but they provide potential ideas with varying sizes and degrees of control that might inspire your organizational setup.
As founders of this community-run donation garden, Devin and his family initially lead the organization. A determined middle-schooler, he helped to create the goals and they decided which problems to tackle.
Devin's mission? To battle hunger in Westchester County with fresh produce. His general plan of action? A community-run donation garden.
Devin had created both mission and plan on paper before he approached his parents for support. David and Margot loved his mission and passion. They immediately joined their son. Together, the three created and ran the organization during its startup phase, pouring in time and energy.
With only three people involved, communication was easy: Tasks were distributed according to the strengths and abilities they knew each other had; yet, each learned every aspect of the organization as they filled in for each other. This PCG setup, however, was draining. First, it was enormously time consuming. Second, the pressure of the project’s success lay on their shoulders. In addition, they recognized the need for input from others in order to make impactful, often difficult, decisions. A simple conversation shifted the scope of the organization and allowed PCG to flourish into what it is today.
Starting A Committee
As they neared the building of the garden, it became apparent that there was more work than one family could handle by themselves. They needed to bring new people into the governing body of the organization. They created a Garden Committee so that the organization would be larger with more novel ideas being introduced. This temporary setup distributed some of the workload in order to get them through the building of the garden. They planned to expand this committee into a Board of Directors with well-defined roles after the garden’s construction.
The Garden Committee was simple in design. The initial family of three brought people on the committee as they needed their skills for various tasks. These committee members had already been involved in the organization and had a set of skills that were needed at the time. The family would periodically meet with the Garden Committee and communicate with individual members to coordinate tasks. The Garden Committee allowed the initial three to divvy up and distribute tasks to others with more experience in their respective fields. These community members were willing to donate a relatively small amount of time to help the project in their specific skilled areas, which ultimately reduced the workload on the shoulders of Devin, David, and Margot. Here are the various jobs filled by Garden Committee members:
Grant Writing. A professional grant writer helped us by finding and applying for grants to help pay for the construction and initial maintenance of the garden.
Garden Design and Planning. A landscape architect helped to plan the physical structure of the garden to maximize growing space while taking aesthetics into account.
Logo Design. A graphic designer made several potential logos that we could choose from for the visual symbol of our organization. Up above on the left is the original logo that a graphic designer made, and our new and improved logo made by the same graphic designer is on the right.
Garden Expertise. An avid gardener with much experience aided in determining which crops to grow based on our climate, space, and sun availability.
Church Connection. As our garden was on the grounds of a church, we wanted the minister of the church to be part of this committee to ensure that the desires of the church were being met.
Board of Directors
The Garden Committee, an amalgamation of devoted volunteers with specific skills, was an effective way distribute work in order to get through the building of the garden. After the building of the garden was complete, the initial family wanted to create a more permanent and organized leadership: the Pleasantville Community Garden Board of Directors. This organization setup would split all of the aspects of the organization into different committees that were headed by different people. This change brought in more opinions, organization, and experience, which gave the Pleasantville Community Garden more direction and permanence.
Our Board of Directors is composed of several committees that form the body of the Board. These Board members utilize their individual expertise to manage a different aspect of the project, vital to the success of the organization. Each board member would serve two-year terms. We wanted people to stay long enough to have an impact on the garden but not so long that they would feel strapped down for longer than they wanted. Here are the committees that comprise our Board of Directors:
Finance & Fundraising. Managing the finances of the PCG including setting the annual budget and determining our fundraising needs for the year, updating finances once a month and ad hoc fundraising needs.
Communications & Marketing. Monthly communications and engagement with our volunteers and prospective volunteers and managing annual events to get new volunteers. Communications two to four times a month, annual events, ad hoc ordering of marketing materials, media relations
Gardens. Manage the planting, growing, harvesting, and maintenance of the garden we built at the church and the two school gardens we partner with in the summer. Managing growing and harvesting volunteers during the growing season (April - Oct.) for the main garden, and summer growing season for school gardens (June - Aug.). Requires some annual planning, but plenty of volunteers to do the work.
Food Distribution. Manage the volunteers and the process for collecting produce from the farmers market and other produce collection locations and events and bringing the produce to our food distribution partners. Weekly emails to drivers, veggie haulers, produce distribution partners; ad hoc training of new volunteers
Groups & Events. Manage special events and groups activities, e.g. Boy & Girl Scouts, Bar/Bat Mitzvah projects. Ad hoc managing of group activities and special events as they come up during the year.
In addition to board members, we named a Board Chairperson who mainly functions to organize and oversee the Board and set up and preside over Board meetings. The Chairperson sends communications to the Board and also leads annual Board seat filling as necessary. The Chairperson communicates with the Board members to create the Board meeting update [6.2] for each meeting. The Chairperson has a three-year term so they can truly direct the organization. Here is a document that describes the responsibilities of the Chairperson [6.3].
Another position, the Executive Director, manages the strategy and vision for the organization, including gardens, collection programs, distribution partners, and consulting. This is a permanent seat and the replacement is chosen by the sitting Executive Director and the Chairperson together.
When the Board was first established, Devin and his father, David, were co-Executive
Directors. This decision was made because they both had the most experience with the project and had many resources at their fingertips. They then appointed the rest of the Board, picking people who had a lot of knowledge, experience, and connections. Selected Board members also had to be dedicated to the project, so to ensure that they would not suddenly drop off from helping.
We slowly built a powerful Board of Directors with devoted volunteers. As Board members take on the aforementioned parts of the organization, they become experts in these aspects. Eventually, these members will train future Board members in their specific area of expertise. In this way, the initial family of three slowly separated themselves from the organization, letting others take over pieces of it. This was a vital step for the continuity of the organization. The Board of Directors is a more sustainable governing body because it does not depend on just a few people for continuity.
Compared to the early organization with just a son, mom, and dad, the Board of Directors can have less fluid communication as there are numerous committees to communicate with and meetings need to be coordinated with many people. It also takes longer for major decisions to be made. However, this setup allows for greater input and opinions, a better organized process for changes, and more structure and sustainability.