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A Guide to Nonprofit Board Service

January 2, 2019

As Oregon Heritage gears up for our 2019 Heritage Summit on the Culture of Board Engagement, we reached out to the Oregon Department of Justice to learn more about their Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon.

nonprofit-board-serviceSusan Bower, Assistant Attorney General in the Charitable Activities Section of the DOJ, shared that over 21,000 charitable organizations are registered with the Oregon DOJ, and the majority of nonprofits in Oregon (68%) have less than $100,000 in annual revenue. While Oregon nonprofits vary in size, structure and mission, there are a number of principles that apply to all nonprofits. The Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon is a free resource to assist nonprofit board members in performing their roles as directors. Read our Q & A with Susan to learn more.

Q. What is the goal of the Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon?

A. The Department wants charitable organizations to be well-run so that they are successful and contribute to our society. The board is ultimately responsibility for managing charities. Through the Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon, the Department strives to educate boards about their roles, rights, and responsibilities so that they can implement good governance practices, understand and comply with applicable laws, and improve their chances of success.

Q. What is the role of the Attorney General’s Office in overseeing nonprofits in Oregon?

A. The Attorney General has broad supervisory rights and responsibilities over charities, charitable fiduciaries, and charitable assets. In general, the Attorney General’s role is to protect the public’s interest in charitable assets. There are numerous statutes specifically referencing her authority, such as the Charitable Trust and Corporation Act, ORS 128.610 – 128.759, Charitable Solicitation Act, ORS 128.801 to 128.898, but the underpinnings of her authority stem from long-established common law principles that the Attorney General is in the best position to protect the public’s interest in charities.

Q. Based on what comes through your office, what is the top piece of advice you would give a new nonprofit board member?

A. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many times new board members feel intimidated or embarrassed by their lack of knowledge and are reluctant to ask questions. But one of the fundamental principles of board governance is that board directors must actively participate in and make informed, even if not perfect, decisions. We find that many boards never undergo any formal board training and are often unaware of their various roles and responsibilities or are acting under misinformation. Ask for clarification of budgets, programs, and policies if they are not made clear or no information is given. Be sure you have reviewed your organization’s Articles and Bylaws and financial information. Become informed so that you can meaningfully participate in decisions.

Mark your calendar for the 2019 Heritage Summit “The Culture of Board Engagement” that will take place in Medford April 25-26, 2019. 

Springfield Museum’s CAP Experience

December 20, 2018

Written by: Madeline McGraw, Curator, Springfield Museum

Springfield Museum_opt

The Springfield Museum is housed in a substation built in 1911.

When I joined the Springfield Museum in May, I knew very little about the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program. I knew that it was created by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) through an agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and that it supports conservation assessments of museum collections and buildings. I also assumed that it would be a confusing, time-consuming program with little relevance to a small museum like the one I was now in charge of. What could a program like this offer us, other than more headaches?

CAP assessors ventured out onto the museum roof to check its condition.

Luckily for me, my predecessor had applied for entrance into the program as one of her final tasks, and the Springfield Museum was chosen to be part of the 2018 CAP class. Steering the Museum through the program would be my first duty as Curator!

I quickly learned that my earlier assumptions about the program were wrong. Often, programs and grants are tailored to larger institutions with big budgets and multiple staff members, and smaller museums end up struggling to remember why they applied in the first place. The CAP program is the opposite: while institutions of any size will benefit from joining, the program is specifically created for small and mid-sized institutions. CAP staffers were very understanding when we missed deadlines or had questions about paperwork, and helped us locate assessors who would work with our needs.

Here are some tips for navigating the CAP program as a small museum:

  • Don’t try to “tidy up” before your site visit. The assessors want to see your museum the way it is, grime and all! Your assessors are not visiting to shame you, but to help you find constructive solutions.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up if an assessor has a suggestion that would be difficult for your institution to implement. A frank discussion could lead to a more manageable solution to the problem.
  • Use the CAP program as a way to talk to your community about your museum’s conservation needs-you might find local support for implementing the assessor’s findings.

Six months later, the Springfield Museum now has a professional report filled with priorities that we can take to our City Council and use as evidence in grant applications, and two assessors that we can turn to when we  have concerns. No headaches here!

*The Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program provides small and mid-sized museums with partial funding toward a general conservation assessment. The assessment is a study of all of the institution’s collections, buildings, and building systems, as well as its policies and procedures relating to collections care. Participants who complete the program receive an assessment report with prioritized recommendations to improve collections care. CAP is often a first step for small institutions that wish to improve the condition of their collections.

Colorful Coburg

December 6, 2018

Coburg-Coloring-Book-front cover reducedCoburg, Oregon continues to hold its place in the heart of the South Willamette Valley despite its proximity to the Eugene area. In large part this can be attributed to its small-town appeal including Coburg’s National Historic District of vintage style homes with architecture dating back to the 1800s. Coburg’s agrarian flair has been established through cultivated connections to surrounding farming communities, long stretches of country roads and backdrop of the Coburg Hills. The well -preserved homes of varying styles include cottages, barns and bungalows which recall over 150 years of Coburg history. Coburg residents’ value their small-town charm and are fervent to sustain preservation of these assets. During 2017 the community completed its Visioning project with Rural Development Initiatives identifying historic character as a substantial priority to retain and build upon in the years to come.

Coburg’s Heritage Committee continues to play an important role in advancing projects that aim to inspire community involvement.  One such project was Coburg Community Historic Art Contest which culminated in Coburg’s first Art Show this past May. The art show displayed depictions of historic structures in Coburg as a means to spotlight local artists and historic buildings. Other projects including an updated Historic Walking Tour Brochure and Colorful Coburg Coloring Book. The Colorful Coburg Coloring book printed through 2018 Certified Local Government (CLG) Grant funds includes depictions of historic homes and architecture included in our Coburg Historic Walking Tour Brochure. Through a partnership with local business owner and active community member Terry Dawson, the Coburg Coloring Book was reproduced from a previous edition dating back to the 1980s.  The Coloring Book will be available throughout the holiday season to engage more youth interest in historic preservation. Through these projects, we wish to promote creative expression for future generations as we maintain and enrich ties to our past.

Written by: Emma Vallillo, Community Development Project Manager, RARE AmeriCorps Member for City of Coburg

Annual Reports: To Do or Not to Do?

November 15, 2018

Does your organization do an annual report? There are many reasons to do an annual report and also many ways to do it. The important thing is to know why you are doing it because it does take time and effort so it should be something that is strategically leveraged among your stakeholder groups and put to good use.

Some of the reasons to do an annual report include:

  • Shows the impact your organization has in a community
  • Makes the case for donations
  • Thanks staff, volunteers, members, supporters, and partners
  • Highlights the annual accomplishments in one place
  • Serves as a good communication tool when advocating for your organization in the community and with local, county, and state elected officials (see the Cultural Advocacy Coalition for more information on advocacy)
  • Emphasizes transparency of your organization and builds trust with the community you serve

Some of the information to consider including in your annual report:

  • Mission Statement and any organization vision statement
  • Goals achieved and steps taken to achieve them
  • A letter from the Director or Board President
  • A list of board members and staff
  • A list of members
  • Visitor numbers and various levels of breaking that information down such as geographic reach

  • Financial information such as a breakdown of how money was spent and the different types of revenue that was generated
  • Highlight a successful project and/or partnership
  • Highlight 2-5 accomplishments
  • Include any awards the organization received
  • Feature a volunteer of the year
  • Tell the story of a community member’s engagement with the organization
  • Number of volunteers and total number of volunteer hours

There are a variety of ways to do an annual report depending on time, money, technology, and capacity of the organization. Here are some formats organizations can use to report to stakeholders the accomplishments of the organization:

For more information, check out these resources:

If your organization does an annual report, feel free to tell us about it in the comments and include a link if it is available online so others can check it out!

An Ounce of Prevention…

November 8, 2018

Written by Anna Goodwin, Collections Manager at Maryhill Museum of Art

Maryhill fire image

Milepost 90 Fire near Maryhill Museum of Art in the Columbia River Gorge, 2018

Every museum should have an up-to-date emergency preparedness plan. The importance of this is especially relevant given the recent museum fire close to home in Aberdeen, Washington, as well as abroad at the National Museum of Brazil. Here at Maryhill Museum of Art, we recently revisited our plan and made some significant changes.

Working with a risk assessor, we determined that our plan was cumbersome and lacking critical information for managing human assets during a crisis. This led us to create a new document which we named our Emergencies Resource Guide. This guide is a concise, easily accessible book that personnel use to familiarize themselves with our procedures in advance, and draw upon quickly in an emergency situation. It is laminated and bound, and has tabs for each emergency.



From the beginning, it was clear that having a fresh, outside perspective was critical. Previously, our plan focused heavily on our collections, and less on staff and visitors. We also needed to add several new emergency procedures, including: Lost Child/Parent, Lock Down/Out, Active Shooter, and Armed Person. This whole process involved a multitude of revisions among key staff, and a review with our regular emergency duty officers. We also sent the plan to our local Sheriff’s office for feedback. Once a final draft was compiled, we presented it to our staff at the annual orientation.

We learned several lessons during this process.  Most importantly, a plan should be something that will be carried out by the assigned staff. If the procedure is unrealistic or if a staff person is uncomfortable with performing the duties, adjustments must be made. It is also essential to review the plan regularly. Our plan had not been updated in almost ten years when we revised it in 2015, and we still had many more changes with the latest iteration. Another critical detail is to ensure that all of the equipment needed is accessible, such as flashlights and clean-up kits.

Ultimately, this process allowed us to examine closely our procedures for addressing emergencies. By doing so, we were better able to equip our staff to respond in an emergency situation, and feel confident in that. Though we cannot predict when a crisis may occur or what the conditions will be, having a plan sets an institution up for timely and effective management of a situation. And it provides invaluable peace of mind, so we can continue to protect our most valued cultural treasures.

From Monthly “Chats” to Productive Board Meetings at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

October 22, 2018


Written by: Carolyn Purcell, Executive Director, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

I am blessed to have a board president whose career in the Forest Service honed his skills as a well-seasoned administrator.  Under his management, board meetings have moved from a two and a half hour “chat” once a month, to a focused and productive 45-minute meeting.  The difference is astounding.

Unlike most non-profit boards, our organization has 23 board members.  Though it is unusual for all of them to make all the monthly meetings, there is usually a turnout of 15 to 18 people.  The agenda, minutes from the previous meeting, financial statements, and a written directors report are all distributed via email (and snail mail for a few less tech savvy) about 5 days in advance of the meeting.  But even with this meeting plan, the key is how the meeting is run.

The board chair is responsible for keeping everyone focused and turning everyone back to the matter at hand when the conversation begins to veer towards a rabbit hole.  He is masterful in identifying side issues and assigning subcommittee work to be addressed outside of the monthly meeting.  This subcommittee work can often be accomplished via email in between meetings, with a report brought back to the full board at the next monthly meeting.

If you read this and think, “well of course,” then you probably have not experienced the droning two and half hour board meeting where little is accomplished.  I have learned so much from seeing how to run a meeting efficiently and encourage others to find their own master of the board meeting. It is a true talent that will save time and help you get back to the meaningful work of meeting your mission.

Here are an additional seven tips for running an effective nonprofit board meetings.

Mark your calendar for the 2019 Heritage Summit “The Culture of Board Engagement” that will take place in Medford April 25-26, 2019. 



The Oregon Archives Crawl

October 9, 2018

Written by Anne LeVant Prahl, Curator of Collection, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

What are you doing for American Archives Month this October? Every year about 500 Oregonians choose to spend some time getting to know their local archivist. Since 2010, a collaboration of institutions has presented the Oregon Archives Crawl. History buffs, students, and heritage tourists spend the day “crawling” between the three host institutions, visiting tables staffed with archivists from around the area.

Dreamed up by an optimistic group of Oregon archivists, the Archives Crawl organizes more than 30 participating archives into three, easy to reach destinations. Participants stroll from one venue to another, visiting hosted tables where heritage collections are displayed. They talk to archivists about their missions, programs, and collections. “Passports” are available at each site to help guide visitors through the 30 or more organizations represented.

Group at Archives CrawlThe power of the Archives Crawl is its ability to draw new faces each year.  Archives events are usually aimed at the people who are already engaged with our institutions; the Oregon Archives Crawl works to introduce new audiences as well as the patrons and supporters who come out to support the archives they love. Each year, informal polls of visitors consistently report that about 30% of the “crawlers” have never visited an archives or special collections before. That is irreplaceable outreach for a usually invisible profession.

The Oregon Archives Crawl is an annual feat of coordination achieved through the collaboration of colleagues. It is rare to see the kind of energy and enthusiasm required to bring this event to the public. At the end of the Crawl, the coordinators and presenters retire to a nearby pub to compare stories, visit more casually with “crawlers,” and start making plans for next year’s Crawl.

Details for the Oregon Archives Crawl

October is Oregon Archaeology Month!

September 26, 2018

Each year we celebrate Oregon Archaeology with a poster highlighting a current event or celebration in the world of Archaeology.  This year the committee has chosen to highlight a collaborative research project between PSU student, Tia Cody, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

44026 Archaeology 2018 Calendar of Events_Page_2

Hidden in the Willamette Valley are hundreds of Kalapuyan mounds. These low-lying earthen features have long been considered culturally significant to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. We still have much to learn about why and how pre-contact people created these sites. The first step in understanding and protecting the mounds is identifying where they are. Many of them have a low profile, were disturbed during the historic period, or are overgrown, making identification difficult using traditional field methods. Adding to these difficulties is that much of the Willamette Valley is privately
owned, limiting access.

Portland State University graduate student Tia Cody and her advisor Dr. Shelby Anderson have partnered with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to create a predictive model to locate these features across the Calapooia River watershed using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data. LiDAR uses aircraft-mounted lasers to scan the surface to create 3-D models.

With permission from private landowners, likely site locations are then visited to “ground truth” the model’s predictions. Cody has already confirmed the presence of several mound sites. LiDAR technology can change our approach to archaeology in the Pacific Northwest, where dense forest growth, uneven terrain, and access are major obstacles in identifying sites. By viewing archaeology on the landscape level, we can also better understand how sites are related. More importantly, this research demonstrates the possibilities that occur when universities, tribes, and the community collaborate to learn more about the past.

The calendar of events associated with the poster provides additional opportunities to learn about archaeology in Oregon in the coming months.

For more information, to participate, or if you or your organization are interested in receiving copies of the poster or calendar please contact Jamie French (

Written by: Oregon Archaeology Poster Committee

Hear in the Gorge & Car-Free Travel – Changing the Way You Experience the Columbia River Gorge

August 29, 2018

Blach Hotel-Credit Blach Hotel

Photo courtesy of Balch Hotel

Dufur, Oregon, is a tiny town steeped in history and located approximately 100 miles east of Portland. Dufur was a stop along the Oregon Trail, specifically the Barlow Road, which took westward traveling pioneers over the shoulder of Mt. Hood. Today, Dufur is off the main transportation routes. It’s just enough out of the way to feel away without being impossible to reach.

In Dufur, the 1907 three-story brick Balch Hotel is a fine place to stay a few nights. Dufur and Balch Hotel co-owner, Josiah Dean, are featured in an audio Postcard for the Hear in the Gorge podcast. Eposide #4 of the podcast, by producer Sarah Fox, is an Oregon Trail Roadtrip. The hotel is also a destination for a car-free travel experience highlighting Oregon’s heritage resources, including sites from other Hear in the Gorge episodes. Heidi Beierle, champion of bicycle-heritage tourism, made the journey from Portland to Dufur car-free and reviewed the trip during her stay at the Balch.

Bike in Gorge-Credit Heidi Beierle

Photo courtesy of Heidi Beierle

The Oregon Trail Roadtrip episode, along with a forthcoming Hear in the Gorge episode spotlighting Latino experiences, are being developed with Oregon Heritage grant funds. The podcast illuminates untold stories in the Gorge and encourages residents and visitors to hear, see, and experience this place in new ways. The car-free experiences created for the Gorge with Travel Oregon and Oregon Heritage funding likewise provide people with an opportunity to encounter the region’s heritage in new and different ways.

With summer winding down, it is an ideal time to tune into Hear in the Gorge and explore Oregon’s many heritage resources car-free. Trips initiated in Portland can use a variety of public and private transportation options to reach heritage sites, including two National Historic Landmark sites. Listen to Woody Guthrie while riding the Columbia Gorge Express to Cascade Locks and learn about Bonneville Dam, one of America’s most unusual National Historic Landmarks.

Written by Heidi Beierle, Enroute Transport & Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance


A New Way to Experience the State Capitol

August 15, 2018

captiol 1There is a new way to experience a visit to the Oregon State Capitol. Through a 360-degree virtual tour, visitors are now able to explore the Capitol through the internet, without leaving the comforts of home. For those visiting the Capitol in person, the virtual tour can be accessed to enhance their experience.

Captitol 2Visitors can discover the House and Senate Chambers, Governor’s Ceremonial Office and the State Capitol State Park. Or, be transported up to the observation deck to take in in the amazing views of historic downtown Salem, the Willamette Valley and beyond. The tour also allows the visitor to get an up close look at the Oregon Pioneer statue. Red buttons throughout the virtual tour include both audio and video. The menu includes an option for sharing the experience with family and friends by clicking a button.  Additional interior and exterior photographs, information in a PDF format and related videos are also featured in the menu section.

Capitol 4The vision is to provide additional access to the building through the tour experience. One goal in the near future is to offer the audio segments in other languages.

Link to the tour by texting the word Oregon to 24587. It’s also available on the website at

This project was made possible through the Capitol History Gateway, a project of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation.

Written by: Stacy Nalley, Public Outreach Coordinator at Oregon State Capitol