Wake County Senior Games (WCSG) is a successful, small nonprofit working to keep people 50 years and older involved in sports, fine arts and performing arts activities. In 2016, 514 seniors participated in its athletic and artistic competitions, and the organization’s aim is to double that number in the near future.
With that in mind, the organization needed to broaden its leadership by recruiting a board of directors with skills in marketing, communications and other such expertise.
That is where its goals meshed with the new board matching program created by Executive Service Corps of the Triangle (ESC) called Build a Better Board. By allowing the nonprofit to identify and enlist people interested in serving on boards in the area, ESC’s new program was just what WCSG needed.
WCSG became one of the first participants to sign up. Within one month of registering on Build a Better Board, WCSG successfully recruited three new members to its board of directors.
“The timing was perfect for us,” said Marilyn Asay, president of the WCSG board. “We needed help, and we needed it like yesterday.”
WCSG knew it could count on ESC as they had recently finished a board development engagement as well. The organization has a long history, but it has been governed by an active board for only three years.
“We struggled at first,” Asay said. To grow, they needed more structured leadership. Fortunately, an ESC consultant signed on as a WCSG volunteer, which led WCSG to seek ESC’s consulting help. The work started with three ESC consultants helping the organization’s leadership to identify their needs to improve board governance procedures. The group then worked on how to improve board recruiting, and ESC guided WCSG’s board in rewriting their bylaws.
The agency’s mission, as stated in the newly revised bylaws, is to “promote and support the health and well-being of Wake County seniors through the establishment, implementation and evaluation of the annual Wake County Senior Games, consisting of artistic and athletic competition.” WCSG stages more than 30 events for residents, and the competitions are held in March and April each year. Most participants are in their 60s and 70s, with some in their 80s and even one who was 97.
The WCSG event is the second largest of 53 across North Carolina. It grew out of senior programs at the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, which sponsored the first games in April 1982. The program incorporated in 1990 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Funding and governance in the early years came from area government agencies. The nonprofit status allowed fundraising beyond government support from corporate sponsors and individual donors and eventually led to the creation of an active board of directors.
The budget now is a little over $17,000. About a third of that comes from contributors, and the rest comes from entry fees, which are minimal. It costs $15 to register for three events and a dollar or two more to add other events.
WCSG now has 17 board members, 13 at large and four from local municipalities’ senior and recreation agencies. Now, Asay said, the improved and expanded board has a new goal. “We want to double or triple the number of participants in the games.”
“There have been very important, tangible results from our work with ESC,” Asay said. “We have been really pleased with the progress and the support of ESC.”