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Board Member Profile

Interview with Bryan Teets, Board President, Colorado CASAColorado State CASA Board President

Bryan is currently the Vice President / Internal Audit and Compliance for MarkWest Energy Partners in Denver, CO. Bryan has been on the Colorado CASA board since March, 2010, and has offered his email address if anyone has questions and would like to contact him directly.

1. How did you first get involved with the CASA program?

I was looking for opportunities to get involved in my community and was introduced to CASA by two mutual acquaintances who were both board members on separate local CASA programs. They were excited about the work they were doing and the unique mission that CASA has in serving vulnerable children. There was an opportunity to serve at the state board level, so I threw my hat into the ring and was selected to serve on the Colorado CASA State Board.

2. What word would you use to describe your first year on the board?

In a word, “uncertainty.” I use the word uncertainty because at the particular time I joined the state board, there were a number of important key strategic and financial issues being debated, the outcomes of which would prove to significantly alter the strategic direction and structure of the state office and state board.

3. Have there been any major strategic decisions that your board has faced during your tenure?

As I mentioned above, at the time I joined the state board the state organization was faced with some critically important issues. The impetus behind the issues was of course rooted in financial shortfalls. There is nothing like a financial crisis to get an organization to act. It was a difficult time and the decisions the board were forced to make were not easy, but in the end, the crisis allowed the state organization to emerge better aligned organizationally and strategically with its key customers, the local CASA programs. We have since reorganized so that our board now consists of a voting majority of network executive directors with community board members in key roles to ensure that we stay focused on the needs of the network. We have also significantly reduced our operating costs and are now financially sound. These changes have helped to improve our relationships with the local CASA programs and have created a more collaborative environment across the state.

4. If you were recruiting a new board member today, what would you tell them about the work they’ll be doing for this board and program?

At the state level, you will focus primarily on supporting the local programs and meeting their needs. Some state programs may provide direct services to the courts and serve children directly, but in Colorado, we have found that the model that works best for us is to let the local programs provide the direct services and the let the state office focus on meeting the needs of the local CASA programs. The primary role for a community board member at the state office level is to ensure that the state office is impartially supporting the needs of all network programs. While each program may have a CASA sign hanging on the front door, the needs and desired level of support varies with each program.

5. What would you recommend a board member should know/learn prior to beginning?

Make sure you are willing to invest time and effort in your role as a board member. Everything tends to be harder than it initially looks. To truly make an impact, you will need to be willing to invest significant amounts of time and attention to make sure you understand the details and then have the courage to make the really-tough decisions.

Also, make sure you are joining the right CASA organization that fits your personal interests and passion. Serving on a local CASA program level and providing direct services to children and volunteers will be very different from serving at a state board level, where your primary focus will be on serving the needs and interests of local CASA programs.

6. How do you build a relationship between board members so they stay engaged and committed to the board work?

There is nothing like a good old-fashioned crisis to bring board members together. However, in times of relative calm, make sure the board is aligned and focused on specific and relevant initiatives. This year, the Colorado CASA state office is focused on the Fostering Futures initiative and building capability and capacity at the local program level across the state. Celebrate the victories, hang tough in the hard times and maintain a culture of open and honest communication. Also, don’t be afraid to step down or change roles when your focus has changed or level of commitment is waning. The rest of the organization is depending on your full commitment and effort.

7. What resources did you find most helpful when you had questions about board work?

The resources at National CASA are robust and comprehensive. Through our period of change, we relied heavily on support from our National CASA representative and on the invaluable experiences of the local program executive directors and community board members. There are of course other resources available through nonprofit support organizations and state organizations. There is no need to recreate the wheel, there are resources available for just about any need a new board member may run across.

8. What advice would you offer to other CASA board members?

  • Know your stakeholders and stay focused on their needs.
  • Understand your organization’s financial picture and ask tough questions.
  • Be willing to challenge the status quo and make tough decisions.
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