DANVERS — Karen Keating Ansara of Essex, a mother of four adopted children, knows firsthand the need for strong nonprofit organizations.

After witnessing poverty in South America through the adoption process, Ansara and her husband, Jim, became committed to ending poverty overseas through local platforms.

Now co-founder and board member of three non-profit organizations, The Ansara Family Fund, New England International Donors, and The Haiti Fund, Ansara wants to become a better leader herself.

She has a place to turn.

While more than 2,500 nonprofit organizations employ almost 45,000 people on Cape Ann and the North Shore, providing a valuable part of the economy and much needed resources for residents going through tough times, trustees need time to focus on their dedication to their organization and renew energy to do their jobs better, according to Julie Bishop, vice president of grants and services for the Essex County Community Foundation.

And the ECCF, a Danvers-based organization, works to educate and develop local nonprofit groups.

"If the board is strengthened, everything an organization does will be stronger," said Bishop.

To address such issues, the ECCF will hold its third annual Essex County Institute for Trustees training conference on Saturday, March 24. Designed for trustees like Ansara, the meeting help leaders become better board members for their organizations. Ansara will be the keynote speaker.

"I'm going to talk about passion and what motivates people to service," said Ansara. "I'm also attending the event. As a new board member myself, I really need to learn."

A day-long forum of workshops and discussions, the Institute will be held at the Pingree School in South Hamilton. Members must register online at http://www.eccf.org; the cost is $65 per person, which includes resource materials and meals.

"The Community Foundation helps non-profits thrive," said Dave Welbourn, 63, of Wenham, president and CEO of ECCF. "The purpose of this conference is to help non-profit organizations better govern themselves, make wiser choices, and get more enjoyment out of what they do."

Nonprofit trustees oversee an organization's administration, by managing its assets, and implementing mission and vision. Members are given the responsibilities as a public trust — hence the name "trustee" — to see the purpose of an organization come to fruition.

One of Ansara's tasks as a board member for The Haiti Fund, for example, is to determine where grants can have the most impact, and the board is responsible for the construction of the only national teaching hospital there while also providing aid for additional relief and reconstruction efforts.

"As a new board member, I need to learn about my legal and fiduciary responsibilities," said Ansara. "As chair of the steering committee, I need to understand how to most effectively partner with staff and manage that relationship."

During the conference, seminars are directed for boards with a range of experience, according to the ECCF web site. The "101 Workshop" track targets the needs and concerns of new trustees. For those starting out, ECCF provides a tutorial for first-time members, workshops that review fiduciary and legal issues, strategy, financial management, fundraising, and how to enlist new organization leaders.

"It's a rewarding experience to channel generosity with others in thoughtful and strategic ways," said Ansara. "I hope they (participants and board members) walk away with a new vision of what they can accomplish."

Kate Goodsale is a Gordon College News Service Fellow.