Headquartered in Alexandria, VA, the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) was founded in 2001 by a group of grassroots medical providers and organizers who recognized that health care was not being provided at a local level to the working poor, uninsured and underinsured in our country in a way that was cost effective, accessible and affordable. Free and Charitable Clinics are safety-net health care organizations that utilize a volunteer/staff model to provide a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals.

What does winning this award mean for you and your organization?

[It means] recognition for the work that the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC), our members and Board does daily to ensure that the medically underserved have access to affordable quality health care. Both humbling and exciting, this honor highlights our dedication to our vision of being a national voice promoting quality health care for all to our funders, members, volunteers and patients. The award also signifies that our quest to build a healthy America one person at a time is one that truly resonates with those outside of our field.

What have you learned through the application process for the Board Leadership Award?

Through the application process for the Board Leadership Award, we have learned how to tell the organization’s story in a way that is compelling, effective and powerful. We have learned the importance of how to review and evaluate the work of the Board and its dedication to the mission of the organization and staff development, which allows for sustainability and growth. This application and interview process has also allowed the Board the opportunity to remember the hard work, and victories that the Board has accomplished together. This process has also allowed the Board to identify areas where there is even more need for Board leadership and identify ways in which the organization can continue to honor our mission, vision and those we serve. Through this application process, the Board has been able to celebrate the past and plan for the future.

What advice would you offer for other organizations/board members striving for excellence in board leadership?

The advice that the NAFC would offer to other organizations/Board leaders that are striving for Board excellence would be to encourage them to follow the C.A.R.E. (Collaborate, Assess, Research, Execute) Principle. It is through collaboration that the Board is able to discuss openly and honestly policies, procedures, opportunities and strategies in a collegial and professional manner. By assessing outcomes and outputs of the organization’s programs and Board engagement, there is the opportunity to identify areas for improvement, and to celebrate areas of excellence. Researching best practices, potential partners, funders, staff members and opportunities allows for honest conversation based on facts and principles. Executing the best practices that have been researched, approved policies and procedures allows Boards to apply these methodologies in real-time to advance the mission and vision of the organization.