When speaking with Make-A-Wish Alabama’s President and CEO, Tracy Smith and Sarah Stumpf, Director of Administration, one is immediately taken by their passion, enthusiasm, and world-class professionalism. They aren’t just competent and good at their work; they are fierce, powerful advocates for the Foundation’s mission of providing life-changing “wishes” for children with critical illnesses.
“With so many of these children, all they hear is ‘No,’” Sarah says. “’You can’t do this. You can’t go to school because you’re in treatment. You can’t go outside because you’re medically fragile.’ Many of them live in the hospital for weeks, months, and sometimes years, going through their treatment. And so we’re a breath of fresh air because we say, ‘Yes, you can. What do you want to do? What do you want to be? What do you want to have?’ We give them something to look forward to.”
Supporting Tracy, Sarah, and the staff’s work is the chapter’s 12-member Board of Directors, which is comprised of business owners, C-suite executives, and other community volunteers from a diverse range of industries and backgrounds. While the majority of board members are located in or near Birmingham, the board represents the entirety of the state of Alabama.
When describing the process of preparing for the bimonthly board meetings before implementing OnBoard, Tracy and Sarah use words such as “clunky” and “manual.”
- In between meetings, the board’s work was conducted almost entirely via email. This slowed Sarah’s work with board members and the leadership team, making the gathering of reports and creating board packets complicated and time-consuming. Board packets were bulky, large documents with inconsistent page-numbering and no table of contents. File sizes would often be too big to send through email, so more time would need to be spent breaking them down into smaller attachments and re-sent.
- With board members leading busy lives outside their work with the Foundation, email proved notoriously difficult to track “A lot of board members would say ‘I didn’t get that email.’ Or they would get it, but then they’d lose it. Or they’d lose the link to a conference call,” Tracy recalls. “It was all very messy and sloppy.”
- Votes were also conducted via email, an inefficient process that required multiple resending, tabulation in a separate spreadsheet, and manually documenting the results in several places.
“Two board members specifically reached out to me and said, ‘This is too much,’” Sarah recalls. “There was no one place I could point to and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to discuss and here’s the place where you can go access it.’ I was manually trying to keep the board packet short, but then I would have to attach three addendums. It was a lot.”
But we can’t do any of that if she’s having to spend three hours a day building a board packet or going back and forth with board members on email.”
Before OnBoard, it sometimes took up to 12 hours to create and distribute board materials. Using the Board Book Builder, it takes far less time.
The Solution for Less Manual Board Book Preparation
As the Director of Administration, Sarah is the consummate professional who tirelessly works “behind the curtain” and serves as the focal point for creating and distributing board materials. Before OnBoard, she was sometimes spending up to 12 hours juggling various apps and platforms to get the job done.
“Pulling everything together was a very manual process,” Sarah says. “You’d have a Word document that you would have to put into PDF format, convert an Excel spreadsheet into a PDF, and then merge it all together into one giant PDF. From there, you’d have to change all the headers and footers. There would be last-minute changes like a document we forgot to add, and that meant last-minute changes to the page numbers. Then we’d send it all out over email at 11:00 the night before the board meeting.”
Now, Sarah is able to use OnBoard’s Board Book Builder to put together the board books in far less time. Sarah gathers the documents but now uploads everything into OnBoard with a simple drag-and-drop. An agenda is built on the fly with a table of contents and automatic page numbering. Most importantly, she can easily make changes at any time, and all the changes are kept in sync so the version everyone is looking at is always current and up-to-date.
“The pre-read is so easy and accessible now,” Sarah says. “Once we create the book, board members can go in there and review the information. Once we actually meet, they have already seen the information they need to see. The meeting is now really about constructive conversation on moving the needle.”
The Solution for a More Efficient, Transparent Voting Process
In April 2020, Tracy applied for a loan through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on behalf of Make-A-Wish Alabama’s 15 staff members. Designed to help businesses and nonprofits keep their workforces employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the PPP loan was a crucial lifeline for the organization.
OnBoard played a significant role during this critical time.
To sign off on the loan application, the board was required to conduct a vote on it. Before OnBoard, this was the process (which Tracy described as “clunky”):
- A vote would be sent out to all board members via email or phone.
- To cast their vote, board members would reply back in email or give a verbal response over the phone.
- Sarah would then create an Excel spreadsheet and manually tabulate the results.
- Results were delayed because emails were sometimes lost.
- The minutes would then have to be amended to document the vote.
Using OnBoard’s built-in voting functionality, Tracy and Sarah were able to conduct the vote faster and with greater efficiency and transparency (which Tracy described as “magic”).
- The vote would be sent out to all board members using OnBoard’s voting tool.
- Board members would receive a notification and cast their vote with one click.
- The results were automatically tabulated in real-time
- OnBoard then generated a report of the results.
- The report was saved with the meeting minutes and the PPP’s required documentation stack with just a few clicks.
“The vote was user friendly for the board, and very efficient for us on the back end,” Tracy says. “The board was very impressed they could vote on their phone or laptop, and we were delighted that the results were tabulated in real-time. It really elevated the professionalism and sophistication of our organization.”
“The board was very impressed they could vote on their phone or laptop, and we were delighted that the results were tabulated in real-time. It really elevated the professionalism and sophistication of our organization.”
Alabama is one of 61 federated chapters of Make-A-Wish America, and the entire state is considered part of its territory. Replacing earlier, more “clunky” solutions with OnBoard has helped Tracy, Sarah, and the chapter not only survive, but thrive – even during a pandemic.
- Email has been eliminated for most communications and document sharing.
- Creating the board packet is now streamlined, less stressful, and less costly.
- Board packets are less bulky and feature both page numbers and a table of contents that stay in sync.
- Votes are conducted faster and with greater transparency.
All of this increased efficiency is of tremendous value. But did it lead to an increase in wishes?
“I would definitely say yes,” Tracy answers. ”Sarah is our director of administration and that encompasses so much – HR, operations, finances, board management. The reality is we need three Sarahs. OnBoard has been critical because while it makes all of us more efficient, it especially makes her more efficient. She and I now have more time to have strategic conversations. We can go to our revenue department with trends and opportunities that we’re seeing to grant more wishes. But we can’t do any of that if she’s having to spend three hours a day building a board packet or going back and forth with board members on email.”