Foundation For Jewish Studies

CONSULTING AREA: Board Development

Sara Watkins is knowledgeable, collaborative, and creative. She is both grounded and inspirational, bringing a wealth of knowledge to the process. Sara does not use boilerplate; instead she tailors her work to meet the particular needs of an organization. She gave us a process that’s in progress to improve the effectiveness of our board of directors.

– Elaine Amir, President, Foundation for Jewish Studies


The Foundation for Jewish Studies is the largest independent provider of Jewish adult education in the Greater Washington area, offering each year more than fifty different occasions to meet with, discuss, and learn from top educators. The Foundation seeks to stimulate engagement with Jewish texts, promote discussion about Jewish culture, life, history, literature and philosophy, and is working to ensure the longevity of the Jewish faith and tradition.

The Foundation for Jewish Studies enrolled in a Sustainable Board Workshop taught by Sara Watkins at the Nonprofit Village, seeking advice on how to evaluate and set new direction for its board of directors.

Key Challenges

Thirty years old, the Foundation needed help learning best practices for board development and recruitment to implement what they had learned.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners met with board and staff members to learn more about the strengths and needs of the organization. Capacity Partners then helped the board develop a self-evaluation survey which was completed by all board members. The survey results were used as the basis for a board retreat in March 2015. During the retreat, board members discussed the size of the board, committee structure, orientation for new members, attracting and recruiting strategies, and evaluation of board effectiveness.


At the conclusion of the self-evaluation, board members reassessed their individual contributions to the board and evaluated their effectiveness as board members. As a result of the retreat, board members decided to recruit potential new members to serve on committees according to the areas of expertise needed by the Foundation. Through service on a committee, both the board and the new committee members could determine if moving onto the full board would be mutually advantageous. In addition to specific expertise, the Foundation is looking for committee members who are passionate about the Foundation’s mission and energized to advance and support it.