Frequently Asked Questions about serving on Serendipity’s Board
Please click on the questions below to read the answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
What is the role of the Board at Serendipity Center?
- The board establishes and furthers our mission.
- The board serves as ambassadors in the community, raising awareness and forming new relationships on behalf of Serendipity.
- The board gives and helps raise financial support.
- The board provides fiscal and policy oversight.
- The board plans and implements strategic goals, guiding the evolution of the agency.
What is the structure of Serendipity’s Board?
Serendipity’s By-Laws, last revised in 2019, call for the board to range in size between 10 and 20 members. There are four recognized officers, or leadership roles –Board Chair, Board Vice Chair, Board Secretary, and Board Treasurer. An additional leadership opportunity is that of chairing a Board Committee. Board officer terms are only one year and only renewable once. It is the belief of the board that changes in style and perspective among its leaders best serves its mission. Board members are encouraged to prepare themselves to assume leadership roles, if interested, at some point in their tenure. The By-Laws empower one Standing Acting Committee—the Executive Committee. This committee is comprised of board officers and guides the functioning of the board each year. There are five Standing Advisory Committees – the Finance Committee, the Capital Projects Steering Committee, the Program Advisory Committee, the Donor Advisory Committee, and the Nominating/Equity Committee. Ad Hoc Committees may be formed when needed and, in the past, have tackled Marketing and Events. Each board member is asked to join at least one committee.
What time commitment do board members make?
Ten hours each month is the average time requirement for board members. This amount typically includes board meeting preparation and attendance; committee meeting preparation, attendance, and assignments; and travel time. The full board meets either 8 or 9 times each school year. Regular meetings begin in September, usually with a half-day Annual Meeting which establishes vision and benchmarks for the year. Full meetings do not typically occur in the summer, in December (unless needed), or in June. A tradition has developed that board members participate in a year-end 2 celebration with staff members during which the accomplishments and contributions of that year are recognized. Committees typically meet monthly and for all 12 months of the year.
Does board membership have term limits?
Yes. A term of service as a Serendipity board member is three years in length. It can be renewed twice, before a mandatory break of a minimum of one-year is imposed.
How are board meeting minutes handled?
Minutes of board meetings are taken by the Board Secretary. They are emailed to board members following the meeting and posted on the secure board portal within Serendipity’s website. Minutes of committee meetings are expected to be emailed and posted on the portal as well. Sometimes these are taken by a committee member or the staff member assigned to support the committee.
What are expectations for board members?
Prior to the Annual Meeting in September, board members complete an Individual Work Plan for the upcoming year. Both the Executive Director and the Development Director are happy to meet privately with board members who would like to discuss their commitments and potentially explore new areas of service. The Work Plan details the board member’s committee assignment, annual pledge, and participation in outreach and/or special projects.
What do we consider Serendipity’s greatest accomplishments?
- Over the past 42 years, Serendipity has helped thousands of young people gain skills and overcome trauma. Our students maintain high attendance and demonstrate gains on personal goals.
- In May 2019, Serendipity was named the only private, special education School of Excellence in Oregon by the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
- Serendipity maintains an excellent reputation with our referring school districts for quality services and professionalism.
- Serendipity is responsive and flexible in our ability to meet the changing needs of our students, families, and community.
- Serendipity is the only local, private, accredited therapeutic school.
- As a RE-Education program, Serendipity prioritizes the preparation of young people for successful transition into their communities.
- Serendipity is a former investee with the Social Venture Partners in Portland and of the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon.
- In Spring 2021, the Oregon State legislature awarded $2.8 million in lottery-backed bond revenue to Serendipity’s Believe in Me campus expansion project.
What are the most important projects and challenges being confronted by the organization?
- Securing adequate funding during a time of complex and changing systems for financing both education and mental health services in Oregon. There is a critical need to increase staff compensation levels to deter turn-over.
- Adapting our facilities to meet the current needs of our children and programs. More could be developed in our service delivery model (Transition services, therapeutic services, and the Communications Classroom) if the limitations of our infrastructure and capital resources were removed.
- Growing into the role of thought leader through participation in county and state policy discussions and possibly through contracting for training/coaching services within interested districts.
- Regularly producing measurable outcome reports that reveal impact on present and past students, both for internal continuous improvement and for adding substance to thought leadership.
What is the annual operating budget?
The 2021 – 2022 annual budget predicts revenue of approximately $6,269,150. This year is atypical in that a planned year-end net loss is possible. Enrollment is low following a year of COVID-19 related closure to in-person instruction. The board approved a year to regrow enrollment, using the considerable cash reserves established by a fully forgiven PPP loan and eligibility for Employee Retention Tax Credits to avoid any debt.
Is Serendipity Center in good financial health? Are their clear strategies for the staff and board to sustain and improve financial health?
Serendipity is in good financial health, as indicated by the following:
- Serendipity’s Finance Committee annually reviews fiscal policies, ensuring compliance with new requirements for nonprofits.
- Included in the fiscal policies are procedures to prevent fraud and to ensure transparency.
- Through the work of the Finance Committee, there is regular and on-going oversight of the agency’s financial performance.
- A process of zero-based budgeting is used in the creation of the annual budget.
- The annual independent audit consistently results in an unmodified opinion.
- Serendipity owns all five lots that comprise the campus outright. Current estimated value is around $5.5 million.
• Serendipity’s board has been targeting the growth of a designated rainy-day fund for the past three years.
• Serendipity maintains a $400,000 line of credit with Heritage Bank, which has not been used since its inception.
Is there an annual independent audit?
Yes. The annual audit is completed over the summer, following the close of the fiscal year on June 30th. Board members serving on Serendipity’s Finance Committee serve as an Audit Subcommittee, charged with engaging the independent auditor, reviewing the findings, and ensuring implementation of recommendations. Typically, the auditor presents the audited financial statements and audit letters to the board in October. In addition to the annual independent fiscal audit, Serendipity’s 403(b) Plan has reached a sufficient number of participants to require an annual independent audit of the plan. This audit typically begins its field work in November, with a presentation of findings presented to the Finance Committee in February. (click here to see last three years of fiscal audits)
How does the board evaluate the Executive Director? How does the board handle ED compensation?
Serendipity’s board periodically conducts regular evaluation of the Executive Director. The Board Chair solicits feedback from all board members and then produces the evaluation. Compensation for the Executive Director is included in contracting and handled by the Board Chair. Compensation and benefit surveys that offer comparisons with like-sized local nonprofits are used as guides in the compensation setting process.
Is there Directors’ and Officers’ coverage? How recently has a professional reviewed the risk management policies to evaluate the adequacy of insurance coverage?
Serendipity does provide Management Liability for past, present and future Board and committee members and officers in the amount of $2,000,000. Management Liability includes Directors’ & Officers’ Liability, Employment Practices Liability, Fiduciary Liability, Workplace Violence Liability, Sexual Misconduct Coverage, and Cost of Defense for Wage and Hour Claims. In addition, we provide insurance in the following areas: Property (including Mechanical Breakdown), Earthquake & Flood, Inland Marine, Crime, General Liability, Sexual Abuse, Professional Liability Business Auto (owned, non-owned, and hired), Cyber Liability, Worker’s Compensation, Terrorism, and a $5 million Umbrella policy. The adequacy of our insurance coverage is reviewed annually prior to policy renewal with our broker. Evidence of renewed coverage and current insurance limits are provided annually to all board members.
Has the board adopted a Conflict of Interest policy?
Yes. The Executive Committee has crafted several board policies, which have been adopted by our Board of Directors. Other policies define procedures for recruiting and mentoring new members, electing officers, authorizing committees to make decisions, working with program management and staff, and evaluating and compensating the Executive Director.
Have there been any allegations of financial mismanagement?
What training and mentoring are offered to new board members?
New board members attend a half-day orientation on Serendipity’s campus, during which they meet with the Executive Director, the Board Chair, and other key managers. The purpose is to become well-oriented to the mission, culture, and practices of the organization. New board members are encouraged to visit committee meetings and to complete their annual work plan within three months. Each board member is provided access to a secure board segment of the Serendipity website, which contains the following:
- Serendipity’s mission, core beliefs, and agency history.
- An annual calendar of meetings and board events.
- Roster and contact information for board members and advisors.
- The annual budget and current financial reports.
- Board meeting agendas, minutes, and monthly Director’s reports.
- Serendipity’s Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.
- Strategic objectives and annual work plans.
- Committee descriptions.
- Board policies.
- Current insurance summary.
- Program information and brochures.
How is accountability created for board members?
Each board member completes and submits an individual work plan annually. This planning occurs in an individual meeting with the Development Director. Accountability for committees is established through regular reports of progress towards the annual strategic work plan provided to the full board in board meetings.