Last year, I did something I’ve never done before. I joined my first nonprofit board. For those of you who serve on multiple boards, this probably doesn’t sound like momentous news, but for me, this was a BIG step.
I’ve volunteered for years, for different organizations, in various roles and for a variety of events, but the thought of being a board member made my palms sweat and knees knock.
So when I was asked to join the Springfield Education Foundation (SEF) board, I immediately thought: What do I know about serving on a board? Will I be any good at it? How long will it take the rest of the board members to ask, “Where in the world did you find this one?”
All this self-doubt came from not wanting to fail at something that meant a lot to me.
SEF raises money and invests it in ways that support student opportunities and educational programs that strengthen classrooms in the Springfield Public School District.
It holds a special place in my heart, not only because I have two children attending Springfield Public Schools, but because I was impressed by the good work of the Foundation. At my previous job, as a TV news reporter and anchor, I visited classrooms and saw the impact. Students’ faces lit up and learning took on new excitement when students had the opportunity to build and problem-solve with robotic Legos. Struggling readers became engaged when they were presented with books on e-readers—all made possible through the Foundation.
Because of SEF, students are able to reach their potential in new and exciting ways. I helped create a video to show perspective donors the impact they have when they support SEF. Be sure to check it out.
If you are considering joining a board, here are a few pieces of advice:
Find your passion
If you want to serve on a board, ask yourself: Is there an organization that you’ve volunteered for that offers an opportunity to get more involved? Do you donate funds to a cause you’d like to support with your talents? Do you agree with their mission?
Then ask yourself, what can you bring to the table? What skills or strengths do you have that would benefit the organization?
Executive Director Ronnel Curry approached me about serving on the SEF board, because she knew I had what it took—passion for an organization I loved.
If someone recruits you, it’s because they see something in you that can benefit their organization—take it as a compliment if you’re extended an invitation.
Can you commit to giving your time?
This is an important question, because serving on a board requires more time than what it takes to attend meetings. Typically, a board meets monthly, but your position will likely require more. Board members must be willing to regularly review financial statements and meeting materials. They often prepare for and attend committee meetings, in addition to engaging with the community and/or donors.
Board members are also expected to make financial contributions to the organization—ask about your monetary responsibility. It’s important to understand the time and financial commitment before signing on. Also, in order to serve an organization to the best of your ability, it’s important to know how it operates. Be sure to ask these additional questions.
For me, serving on the Springfield Education Foundation Board is a rewarding experience. It’s helped me better understand the full scope of the Foundation’s work and how our mission to engage students can help improve attendance and test scores in years to come, as well as strengthen the district’s graduation rate.
Accepting my first board position was definitely a BIG step for me. But sometimes, taking a big step is what opens the door to an incredible opportunity.