One man’s ‘dream team’ for LI not-for-profit board

June 1, 2004

by Mark J. Grossman

The assignment: Put together a Long Island not-for-profit board of directors “All Star Team.” The challenge: Keep the list to just 10 names – no easy task here in a region where high-quality volunteerism is a second job for so many.

So, please don’t view this as an exclusive Top 10 list, but instead, a list of those people who are among Long Island’s most effective not-for-profit board members. It showcases names – some familiar, and some not so familiar – who by way of their diversity of skills and talent, collectively deserve to be named to a “Long Island Not-for-Profit All-Star Team Board of Directors.”

A must-include name for this list is Robert R. McMillan, partner in the law firm of McMillan Rather Bennett & Rigano. Bob founded the highly successful Long Island Housing Partnership, serving as its president since its inception in 1986 until just a few months ago. He has served on a myriad of other boards, including Jerry and Lilo Leeds’ Institute for Student Achievement. Not only does Bob provide a portfolio of national and international government and political contacts, but he knows how to help organizations raise money and increase visibility.

Another board gem is Arthur “Jerry” Kremer of Rivkin Radler & Kremer, and a weekly columnist in this newspaper. Former chairman of the powerful state Assembly Ways & Means Committee, Jerry brings Albany-based political clout to the table, as well as potent fundraising abilities. Hofstra, the Tilles Center, and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting have been beneficiaries of Jerry’s hard work and generosity.

Next on the list is Verizon’s Long Island Director of Consumer Affairs, Judi Schillaci, a dynamo of a woman who cares deeply about the special-needs constituencies that not-for-profits serve. Judi serves on several boards, including Suffolk Crime Stoppers and Cornell Cooperative Extension and brings access to a myriad of financial and programmatic resources provided by the nation’s largest Baby Bell. When you see the signs for the TTY Loan program in your local library, think of Judi – that was the product of her outstanding work.

Thomas K. Cullen, vice president of Long Island-based King Kullen Supermarkets, puts his money – and precious spare time – where his mouth is by serving on the board of the Nature Conservancy and as chair of Little Flower Children’s Services’ fund raising committee. He’s also been an active supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area, a youth agency in his hometown, as well as Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.

When Larry Austin, chairman and CEO of Austin Travel, makes a commitment to a non-profit, they don’t let him go! He’s been a board member at the Long Island Philharmonic for 19 years and on the board of the Long Island Association for 22 years. Known as one of the real “doers” in the Nassau-Suffolk region, Larry also finds time for WLIW-TV, Channel 21, as well as the Cinema Arts Center.

Another busy, top-level business executive who not only lends his name but also his energy is David G. Bonagura, Ernst & Young’s Long Island office managing partner. Those who have witnessed his not-for-profit board work, on organizations such as Catholic Charities and Dowling College, say that he provides Solomon-like advice and counsel to the organizations he supports.

While Northrop-Grumman’s Long Island presence is much smaller than it once was, Community Relations Manager Floyd T. Cisco makes a big impact on the many non-profit boards he serves. Known for his boundless energy and can-do attitude, he has been a force on many boards, including the NAACP, Nassau County Girl Scouts, March of Dimes and the Heckscher Museum, to name just a few.

Go to a meeting of not-for-profit organizations and I guarantee that you’ll meet up with Beatrix G. McKane, partner in the accounting firm of Holtz Rubenstein & Co. Her active service on numerous non-profit boards is legendary. Balancing the books hasn’t been easy for many non-profits impacted by declining government support, so Beatrix and her firm have lent hours upon hours of professional financial expertise to worthy agencies such as the Suffolk Community Council and Hospice of South Shore.

Another woman with an amazing list of affiliations – and accomplishment – is Newsday Public Affairs Manager Sheila Page. She’s gained a wide reputation as an effective mediator and issues arbitrator, helping organizations resolve internal and external issues to bring people together for a common good. The founding president of 100 Black Women of Long Island, Sheila has served on a long list of organizations, including Long Island’s United Way, YMCA of LI, the Salvation Army, as well as SUNY Old Westbury’s College Council and Foundation.

No non-profit board dream team would be complete without former District Court Judge Anne F. Meade, who also served as chair of the state Public Service Commission and as Deputy County Executive under H. Lee Dennison. Anne is widely credited as the architect of today’s human service delivery system in Suffolk. Today, she serves on numerous boards and commissions including the Red Cross, Long Island Cares and the Islip Arts Council, lending a wealth of expertise and insight to these worthy causes.

Ask not-for-profit executive directors what their top three challenges are, and they will probably say, “board development, board development and board development.”

That’s because attracting – and retaining – effective, active and energetic board members must be integral to an agency’s daily mission. Not only do non-profits have to find ways to ensure “value” for these busy people in their voluntary work, but they have to make sure that their board has the right mix of people to help it raise money, cultivate relationships and provide professional expertise.

Mark J. Grossman is president of Holtsville-based Grossman Strategies, a public and government relations consulting firm with a client concentration in not-for-profits, telecommunications and grassroots advocacy.