One key to the success of Family Promise of Bergen County is its volunteers’ professional talents. No one better personifies that than Bill Congdon, who’s stepping down after several years on the Executive Board and the Marketing Committee.
As an executive with Hearst Magazines – his last post was publisher of Popular Mechanics — Bill had first-hand experience with the rise of digital media. He used his publishing expertise to help Family Promise update and improve its website and digital offerings – including the one you’re reading.
While FPBC had a print newsletter, it was costly to print and distribute. Moreover, “we didn’t have much of a digital presence – the website was pretty old,’’ he recalls. The Marketing Committee, which he chaired, “was able to give Family Promise a good digital footprint by redesigning the website with a real brand identification. Now there’s a central hub for information.’’
Paul Shackford, president of FPBC, says that because of Bill’s marketing background, he was thrilled he agreed to join the board. “But I had no idea how well he’d take that background and apply it to Family Promise,’’ he says. “I often forward links to our website to friends and others interested in FP — I never did that before.’’ Bill’s redesign also inspired a similar one by Family Promise’s national organization.
Bill’s contributions weren’t all digital; an avid biker, he was a stalwart participant and fundraiser in the annual Hike or Bike event.
Bill got involved in Family Promise when his parish, St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Harrington Park, hosted homeless families at the church. He and his wife Suzanne helped set up the rooms and prepared and served dinner.
“I remember the first time, while I was setting up the room, thinking about how these kids were being robbed of being a kid,’’ he says. “And we were helping to keep these families together. That mission is huge. It really motivated me to get more involved.’’
Working with Family Promise was a change from Hearst, from which he retired in 2012.
“Since we have a small professional staff, we need a lot of volunteers. That’s very different from the corporate world, where people are paid to do a job,’’ he says. “With volunteers, they’re giving their time, so you have to respect their time, or they won’t be giving it for very long.’’
He says he particularly likes Family’s Promise’s emphasis on providing homeless families more than shelter: “We want to really empower the families so they can get jobs and apartments and become self-sufficient.’’
Bill is leaving the board because he and Suzanne have moved to Ipswich, Mass., on Boston’s North Shore. He’s teaching digital media and marketing at his alma mater, the University of Connecticut.
He says he’ll miss everyone on the executive board, the marketing committee and the staff. And he’ll miss the job. “It was a lot of work,’’ he says, “but I’ll remember all the fun we had.’’
As Paul Shackford puts it: “Bill had a passion for our families, always looking for ways to help them move to self-sufficiency. And he was the consummate board member — caring, passionate, creative. We could use a dozen Bill Congdons.’’