Rita Olson, FCA's new Board Chair, was highlighted in the Westfair Business Journal. Read the story below or click here!
New board leadership installed at Norwalk nonprofit Family & Children’s Agency
Last month, the Norwalk nonprofit Family & Children’s Agency (FCA) announced the appointment of Rita McKenna Olson as chairwoman of its board of directors.
FCA focuses on the social and emotional needs of Fairfield County residents through a variety of services for children and adults that includes educational programs, mental health counseling, foster care and adoption, substance abuse treatment and care outreach for seniors.
Olson, a Darien resident and real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence, is no stranger to nonprofit board membership — she was previously co-chair of Children’s Aid of Darien, an FCA auxiliary for whom she had volunteered since 1996. She has been part of FCA’s board since 2007. For Olson, the FCA’s board operates as a partner to the organization’s executives on multiple endeavors.
“The board of directors offers a lot of guidance to FCA leadership and a lot of advice,” she explained, noting that the board is divided into different committees that focus on distinctive aspects of FCA’s operations, including communications, funding and governance.
Olson pointed out that FCA’s board members come from diverse professional backgrounds, with each member going to their respective field to help raise further awareness of FCA’s work. She added that her work in helping homebuyers find the right property has transitioned into her FCA work in matching board members with different aspects of the organization’s needs.
“That fits very well because not everyone needs the same thing,” she said.
Olson’s elevation to chairing the board comes with the appointment of three new board members: Pastor Elizabeth C. Abel of Cornerstone Community Church in Norwalk, Bill Harris, a former A&E Television Networks senior vice president, and Mary Ann Genuario, health and fitness director at the Wilton Family YMCA. Olson stated this mix ensures a board where all demographics can be represented.
“It is very important for us at this point that our board offers diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said. “We make ourselves visible in the community and we have to be visible not only to our donors, but we have to be visible to the people that need our services.”
For Robert F. Cashel, FCA’s president and CEO, the right board members are “people who are passionate about the kind of work we do here.” He observed that in addition to the board of directors, FCA also operates senior and junior boards of advisers.
“The senior board tend to be folks who have been with us for a long time and may be ready to step down from the amount of work that being a board member requires, although they’re still a great supporter of ours and are still offering their expertise,” he said. “The junior board of advisors are young professionals who are interested in board leadership at some point. They do a little bit more hands-on work and volunteerism, with smaller scale fundraisers. We’ve had a great success with some of our junior board members becoming board members.”
Olson’s board-chairing duties are scheduled for a year, and Cashel noted that average chairing tenure has been a three-year term. Cashel stated that Olson’s ascension to the position was a reflection of her work and dedication to the FCA cause.
“Rita has been on many of our work committees, from development to involvement in major events,” he said. “Given her engagement and involvement, the sense of her leadership capacity and her genuine interest, all of those things came together. What’s really nice is that given the history of the agency and the culture of the board, it often becomes very clear who the next board chair really needs to be — and I would say it is somebody who looks at the big picture in terms of the organization and where we are heading into the future.”
Olson estimated that she devoted 20% of her working schedule to her FCA activities, and she encouraged other business professionals to consider giving a portion of their time to assisting in the leadership aspects of local nonprofits.
“We do this work for our community,” she said. “And I believe the moment that when you participate in board activities, you are a bigger part of the development of our community.”