Local nonprofits need more board members with diverse backgrounds | TheUnion.com

Local nonprofits need more board members with diverse backgrounds

Other Voices
Bill Neff

Building a better nonprofit organization starts at the top. A committed-to-the-mission, dedicated and hard-working board of directors is the foundation of a successful nonprofit. Board members govern their organization by determining the direction, focus and fundraising needs. Nevada County has some of the best-possible boards, comprised of community leaders who are committed to their nonprofits and the region's residents.

Local organizations, from the American Association of University Women to the Yuba Watershed Institute, benefit greatly from their board members' experience as business owners, professionals in various fields, elected leaders and regional officials.

We deeply appreciate and enthusiastically applaud their efforts, often behind the scenes with little — or no — recognition for many hours of work. It's a challenging, but also extremely rewarding job.

Just ask a board member. They will beam detailing their organization's accomplishments, and bemoan those missed opportunities, often because of a lack of resources.

And just as dollars can be hard to find, so are local leaders who are willing to voluntarily devote their energy and time to nonprofit organizations — and improving Nevada County.

For example, The Center for Nonprofit Leadership has about 60 member organizations, each with a Board consisting of several directors. Many of these board members serve on multiple organization boards, providing much-needed direction and expertise.

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As much as the community benefits from their commitment, it's also a difficult and sometimes daunting experience serving concurrently on several nonprofit boards, much like holding down a second full-time job.

So, we're asking more community leaders to consider becoming board members for local nonprofits, an effort that would help the region in several ways.

A contingent of new board members would help local nonprofits grow – and likely thrive. More diverse boards, from age to ethnicity, could generate new fundraising efforts, help identify new areas of need and provide fresh ideas on how to solve problems.

In short, new members provide a new perspective on everything from the current direction of a nonprofit to evaluating long-term goals. And new board members may bring in new financial supporters and volunteers to an organization.

Of course, becoming a board member is a bit more complicated than drafting an email or making a phone call. It requires some homework to learn about a nonprofit and its mission, whether it's providing educational opportunities for children or end-of-life health care through hospice.

Just as you would carefully choose a nonprofit before making a donation, potential board members should do the same. Like any successful relationship, the nonprofit and a potential board member must be a good fit, each benefiting from the time together.

Potential board members are encouraged to find nonprofits that meet their passions. They must be ready to ask for dollars (or at least assist in fund development activities), develop clear standards and goals with the executive director and provide management oversight to the organization that provides much-needed services to the region.

Let's be honest, it's hard work. Being a board member in Nevada County is often just as much – and sometimes even more – a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-your-hands-dirty effort than many would imagine. The commitment, dedication and hard work generate results and personal satisfaction.

And, if we are to continue to build a better community, we will need to have first-rate nonprofits led by more diverse, enthusiastic and goal- oriented board members to complement those leaders already giving so much to the area we call home.

Bill Neff is Chairman of The Center for Nonprofit Leadership (http://www.cnlsierra.org).

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