Considerations Prior to Joining a Non-profit Board of Directors

I’ve had the honor of serving on several non-profit boards, and I am very happy that I am involved.  I feel that it adds to the balance of my life as its own entity, but filters into both my professional and personal life. My motivation was two fold. Primarily, I wanted to be an example of stewardship to my daughter. The other was to be impactful in my community.

Considering the experience I have had as a Board member, I believe there are four steps to consider before engaging in a relationship with an organization.
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  1. Understand the mission and goals, and truly be passionate about it.  I have come to the realization that the boards that I have dedicated a lot of my time are causes that are close to my heart. I can identify these quickly: empowering females, fairness to everyone, and encouraging education especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
  2. Understand the “state” of the organization.   
    1. FinanciallyIf there are funding issues, budget constraints, and/ or a capital campaign when onboarding, this can be a bigger challenge versus a financially robust organization that has just completed a campaign.
    2. Leadership: Considering that I will be dedicating my time and resources typically on a volunteer basis, I want to surround myself with people that give positive energy and can inspire me.  It is imperative that I feel a connection with the President/ CEO or Exectutive Director and the other board members.
    3. Strategy: The organization should have a strategic plan that they are executing.  It should be clear to explain and have metrics that can be met.  I have found that it’s a red flag when longstanding organizations justify their actions with “We’ve always done it this way.”
  3. Understand the organizations expectations and the criteria for their prospects.  Typically, the nominating committee has reviewed the demographics of the current board members and have identified gaps and/or successes that they want to enhance. There is a reason they want you on their board.
    1. Give or get: One of the responsibilities I’ve always encountered is a fiduciary responsibility (anywhere from $2000-$10,000 per year). If I cannot directly donate the dollars, I’m expected to find others to financially support the organization (friends, family, business associates).
    2. Development expectations: There may be an expectation to bring ideas and innovation to the organization to help them grow.  This can also include involving your network, your industry, or your professional affiliations.
    3. Time commitment:  There are Board meetings and committee meetings, and there is usually an expectation of attending a majority of them.  In addition, there are also events to attend and possibly committee assignments.
  4. Understand your capabilities. With all of this being said, it is important to consider your motivation and your contribution.
    1. Financials: I believe it is important to realistically evaluate the financial commitment. It should be an amount that will not stress you out in order to keep the board seat.
    2. Time: Adding an extracurricular activity does include a time commitment, and it should align without interfering with current work or personal commitments.
    3. Network: As a Board member, you will be representing the organization to your network.  You also have the opportunity to inspire others to get more involved. Will that network support you and the organization?
    4. “Secret sauce”: As a prospect, to solidify your seat at the table, you should identify what makes you an excellent fit.  There should be something compelling that draws them to you, and sets you apart.

Invitation: Being active in your community is a very rewarding experience.  It is an opportunity to learn more about those in the community who are helping others. It is also good for your soul. Are you giving enough to your community and how can your talents and resources better your community?   

Celebrate Good Times C’mon! – My 25th High School Reunion

 

Conant High School 25th reunion Allison Goodman Spaitis & Karen Eng

Conant High School 25th reunion
Allison Goodman Spaitis & Karen Eng

 

Is it truly a milestone when you’re invited to your 25th high school reunion?  I’m not convinced it’s a milestone, but more of a celebration of life amongst my peers – many of whom I’ve grown up with since the second grade.  Obviously, I felt different compared to my 10 year reunion and I can clearly state why.  I was at a different stage in my life – newly engaged and a few years out of graduate school.  At the 25th year high school reunion, we are in our early 40s, have been working for a couple decades, and (lightly or heavily) seasoned in marriage, family, and children.  Here are a few things that I took away from the evening that I believe are true across the board whether you’re attending a reunion or not:

  1. Be proud of yourself, but tone down the bragging.  It seemed like most of my classmates were comfortable sharing what was going on in their lives.  Whether a professional or stay at home mom or a combination, it didn’t matter.  Their eyes lit up when they were talking about their children and/or their satisfaction with their career choice.  It made for such a great evening with no “one upping” each other.
  2. Enjoy talking about the past, but be optimistic that the best is still to come.  There were a couple of stories about high school, but they were good memories that made the group smile.  Memories are great, but if you are stuck in high school, it limits the possibilities of what the world can offer.
  3. Be genuinely happy for your friends, acquaintances, peers, classmates, family versus compare yourself to them or be jealous.  It was a genuine pleasure to listen to what my high school friends were currently doing.    It was inspiring to hear what made them happy, and seriously, I felt everyone was SO nice.
  4. Eliminate the variables so you have the confidence to talk to whomever you interact with.  Since you haven’t seen some people in awhile, of course, you want to look good.  I would think that new haircuts, new makeup, and new fashion will make you self conscious.  I recommend wearing that outfit that matches the venue and that you feel great in.
  5. Keep in touch with everyone to keep updated on their lives.  Facebook has been an excellent tool to keep in touch.  A quick flip through your news feed (or if you’re lucky like I am, you have an amazing coordinator who sets up a reunion page), and you have some great prep conversation when you get to the venue.  Quick tip: just reveal baseline information so you don’t cross the line of Facebook stalking.

In addition, I connected with a few more friends after the reunion which made the evening even more worth while.  Although I can’t recall how much I enjoyed high school, I truly appreciated an evening with no cliques, no obsession about popularity, and no gossiping.

Invitation: Can we incorporate these mantras in our everyday life?

 

Birthday gift to myself

bday2013It’s interesting how people celebrate their birthdays each year.  My nine year old was super excited, and relishes being a year older.  Our office manager simply says that we can’t celebrate her birthday.  And on Facebook, I feel so popular with over 70 of my friends wishing me a happy birthday.

Since I was 21 years old, I have a birthday ritual.  I wake up before everyone, and read the letter I wrote to myself 10 years ago.  It’s quite exciting seeing the letter and unsealing it.   The format of my letter never changes.  It is broken into three parts.  The first is a synopsis of the past year that includes highlights of my professional career, my personal life, and my relationships with my family and friends.  The second part is setting some goals for the next year.    And the final section is what I look forward to the most.  It is my younger self predicting what I am like ten years later and asking questions to my older self.

The most difficult part of the 10-year letter is waiting for the first time you can open your letter.

My priorities have changed through the years, and quite frankly, the issues that were pressing at the time, I typically don’t remember ten years later.  A lot of the predictions that I have made have come true.  I believe this is because your behaviors may change over the years, but beliefs rarely do.

Invitation:  Consider writing a birthday letter to yourself as a way to document your memories and inspire your future self.