This Insights was contributed by John Meehl, member of the Cape Fear Literacy Council Board of Directors.
I am sometimes asked why, in retirement, I would spend valuable and unpaid time serving on the board of a nonprofit organization. I was asked the same question when I was working full-time not that long ago.
In reality, there are two main reasons to serve on nonprofit boards.
First and foremost, I think everyone naturally longs to be of service to his or her community. We all have worthy causes we are passionate about, and to whom we contribute both time and money.
But where we can really leverage our specific talents is through board membership. Normally, small nonprofits have tight budgets and lean staffs and therefore can unlikely afford many staff members that are experienced in niches, such as business, finance, outreach marketing, fundraising, event organization or the law.
These worthy nonprofit organizations are not only required by law to have boards made up of members that are not employees of the organization (called “independent trustees or directors”) but also could not “manage” without outside expert help from the various professions represented on their board. In short, there would be no cause if there were not folks from the community ready to bring their expertise, as well as their passion.
Second - and this is often overlooked - there is something in it for those who are board members. Although they are not paid for their time and talents, there are great psychic rewards for the members who help organizations that are serving the community. It’s a great feeling to make a difference. Most want to.
What better way to help than to lead a worthy effort by volunteering to provide your expertise on a nonprofit board? Even if you have no specific expertise, you can still add passion, hustle or organizational skills. It is very rewarding. Find a cause you care about and volunteer to join its board. It’s a win-win for everyone.
To learn more about joining a nonprofit board, you may want to consider trainings by Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO). QENO partners with the Cape Fear Area United Way and WILMA magazine to provide “Get on Board!” workshops to train potential board members and match their skills with local nonprofits’ needs. QENO also provides a three-part training on Responsible Board Governance.
John Meehl has been an area resident since 2002. He is the retired Headmaster of Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, where he served 10 years. He is currently on the Board of The Cape Fear Literacy Council, as well as The Hill School of Wilmington, a school for learning-difference students in grades 1-8.
Yasmin Tomkinson came to the Cape Fear Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor in 2002. It was a great experience, and she was very pleased to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and enjoys working with adult learners and the volunteers who help them reach their goals. Yasmin studied Education and American History at Vassar College and got an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Boston University. She worked for education-focused non-profits in rural Utah, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston before moving to Wilmington.
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