How To: Find Board Members

To become a non-profit, the IRS requires that your organization has some form of governing body. Most of the time, that governing body is a board of directors. The “Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards” listed by BoardSource are:

  • Determine the organization’s mission and purposes
  • Select the executive staff through an appropriate process
  • Provide ongoing support and guidance for the executive; review his/her performance
  • Ensure effective organizational planning
  • Ensure adequate resources
  • Manage resources effectively (the buck stops with them, ultimately)
  • Determine and monitor the organization’s programs and services
  • Enhance the organization’s public image
  • Serve as a court of appeal for unresolved issues or complaints
  • Assess its own performance

The most important thing to remember when creating a board or looking for new members is to utilize your network. The three main categories of networks are people you know (1st circle), your first circle’s network (2nd circle), and people you don’t know who are passionate about similar causes (3rd circle).

1st Circle

  • Dedicated volunteers – Communicate the fact that you’re recruiting board members through your newsletter, word of mouth, emails and social media
  • Donors
  • Friends and Family
  • Organizational partners

2nd Circle

  • If you already have a board, ask your current board and staff for nominations or recommendations
  • Ask members in your 1st degree circle if they are aware of anyone who would be interested
  • Reach out to those beyond your nonprofit, like youth, or people in business or from other organizations
  • Make sure that communications going out to the first circle are easily shared with people outside of your direct network.

3rd Circle

  • Contact new organizations and volunteer centers that teach people how to be effective board members and then match them with nonprofits who need them
  • Use board or volunteer recruitment web sites like BoardNetUSABoardSource, and VolunteerMatch.

Happy searching, and good luck!

It’s Out of My Hands

In the past week my organization has been dealt a blow. We usually travel to X in the Fall, but there has been a serious outbreak of disease in the area. Usually organizations like the WHO or Doctors Without Borders have a timeline for containment, but in this case, no timeline exists. The disease is extremely contagious, even when symptoms aren’t showing, and can be caught through bodily fluids, including sweat. There is no cure, and also tends to have a 50-60% death rate.

Unless it gets under control, it looks like it we would be unable to go. I know I have no control over the situation. There is nothing within my power that will improve the situation.

I feel helpless and frustrated.

Having to sit and wait and watch is making my skin itch; knowing that there is nothing I can do makes me physically ache. A part of me wants to say screw the consequences and go any way.

But what good am I if I get sick? Or if I die? Death isn’t a 100% guarantee, but it’s a high enough risk to not logically risk my life to ease my impulsive desires.

Valuing my life over my organization is actually a relatively new concept for me. I know that my life and my health trump going into dangerous areas, but there is still a tiny piece of me that hasn’t been convinced. What if I completely cover myself 24/7?  What if I don’t touch anyone? Isn’t it worth the risk?

Logically it’s a resounding no, but my emotions and feelings twist it into a lukewarm maybe. I don’t want to die a martyr. I don’t want to die period. But the idea of not going feels like a huge cop-out, even if the risks extremely outweigh the benefits of going.

I wish I could regale you with some grand revelation about self-worth vs. sacrifice, but the truth is I think I’ll always have a small part of me that would throw caution to the wind despite my best interests. I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people who can knock sense into me and remind me that I know that certain risks don’t benefit me or my non-profit.

And who knows, maybe the situation will be contained, and it’ll be safe to go.

How To: Make Cold Calls

There are many reasons to make cold calls, but this will focus on the need to introduce you and your organization before blindly emailing or mailing a partnership or funding proposal.

Before you make the call, make sure you have a plan of what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it. Whether you have a script in your head or written down, it’s important to include these things in your call:

1.  Show and Tell

Who are you as an organization. A well crafted and personalized elevator pitch would give who you are calling an understanding of what your organization does.

2. How does your organization connect with who you are calling?

Whether you are asking for money or a partnership, organizations and people want to know why you think that your non-profit and their organization would be a great match.

3. Have a reason to call

Whether it be strictly an introduction, a meeting or a chance to talk, you want to have a reason for the call that is outside of the proposal. Companies, organizations, and people in general like to have a ‘face with a name’, so offering a chance to meet up makes the proposal more personalized.

5. What do you specifically need? How can they provide that?

6. Ask to send them a proposal or materials.

People unfortunately can have short memories. They might think your organization is a great candidate for funding or partnership, but there are many distractions that can arise that will put your non-profit out of their mind. Sending materials will reinforce the conversation that you have had.

Good luck!

Trust Me, I Know What I’m Doing

I have been job hunting for a while, but I’ve only recently gotten called in for interviews. I’ve noticed that while people are impressed that I co-founded my own non-profit, my organization is appearing to be a double-edged sword.

I always get asked if I am going to continue my work with my organization. Yes, I am very loyal to my non-profit, but if you are paying me, I know where my priorities lie. I’m not going to spend my time at your office working on my non-profit, and then have to explain why my work for the office isn’t finished. I rock at time management, and I am used to doing non-profit emails at weird hours of the night. I went to graduate school, had two-part time jobs, and managed my non-profit. It may get a little crazy, but I do know how to handle it.

Also, I’ve been asked multiple times about what writing skills I possess. With my non-profit I’ve had to learn how to write everything from proposals to tweets to brochures to donor letters. This is probably going to sound arrogant, but if there is a type of writing that an organization needs, I’ve probably written at least 20 versions of it.

My favorite question is how I would deal with working underneath a person since I’ve  been my own boss within my organization. First off, I’ve had other jobs, and I certainly wasn’t not the head of the companies. Also, between board members, constituents, and my co-founder, there is a lot of people I have to answer to. It would be great if I sat on a throne and listened to only my thoughts… but even when I’m my own boss I have to report to and be accountable to multiple people.

There is a plethora of reasons why I’m lucky to have created my organization. One of these reasons is how I’ve been able to learn so many skills that are applicable inside and out of the non-profit sector. I’ve written grants, built websites, managed shipping logistics, coordinated volunteers, and so much more. I’ve had to report to people, and have people report to me.

I know what I’m doing, and it’s frustrating that I’m having difficulty ‘selling’ my skills to other people.  I know it’s a part of life. but having to constantly convince others you’re qualified for a job you already do is beyond frustrating.

Hopefully, as I continue the interviewing process, I will become more equipped to ‘show off’  my skills in a way that is appealing to companies and other non-profits. I know I’m awesome, I know my organization is awesome, I just need to get other people to see what I can bring to the table.

Help ALL of the People…?? Don’t Burn Yourself Out

I tend to over think things a lot. I won’t go into detail about my neurosis (you’re welcome), but one of my struggles within the non-profit sector is making sure that I don’t stretch myself too thin and burn out.

For example: In most states, the state that I live in is working toward marriage equality. I have tried getting involved and volunteering for the cause (actually have attempted to get involved in multiple states), but I never feel motivated to follow through and put all of myself into it. My head says DO IT while the rest of me resists. This dichotomy makes me feel extremely guilty – how can I not feel motivated to participate in winning my basic civil rights?

I would think that those who work in the non-profit sector outside of the LGBT* arena would  also feel guilty if they are not actively working toward their rights.  Should we feel guilty? Definitely not. We are more than just our orientation, and we have many different passions. There is no need to get burned out because we feel like we should be spending our energy on multiple issues. I’m not Super Man, and just because I am a lesbian does not mean I have to be an activist. If you want to delve 100% into education, water development, homelessness or anything else – you should! If you want to commit yourself to just queer issues – do it!

LGBT* rights are obviously extremely important, and participation is essential. But we need people who are fully dedicated to the work involved, not people who feel like they need  to participate to keep their gay card.

To be our best selves, we need to follow our hearts. We are educators, humanitarians, aid workers and volunteers. We are a complex group of individuals who are passionate about a plethora of issues. We are all working towards a common good – and weighing good deeds against each other gets us no where.

Finding the Good in Gay

Who is a good person? How do we learn what makes up a good person?

As I was writing last week’s blogI couldn’t help but think about my own Catholic education. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. Now while I’m not a practicing Catholic, there were lessons like “do unto others as you would have done to you…” that have shaped my judgement and ethos. But looking back, all of the role models that were presented to me (i.e. Mother Teresa, St. Francis, etc) were from several hundred years ago and/or very very Catholic.

Which makes sense, I’m aware. Going to a Catholic school would tip the scale in that direction.

But thinking through this, I am finally understanding why I have had a hard time reconciling my lesbian identity with my humanitarian one. I never learned about Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin. Understanding Stonewall was through own research whilst in college. (I know this history is lacking across the board… but I can only speak to my experience).

My Catholic school experience tended to lean towards gay invisibility instead of prejudice. If no one talked about gays, then gays didn’t have to exist or be dealt with. I know that this policy is definitely a lot better than blatant, constant bullying and homophobic remarks; I wonder what if my the idea of who was good was expanded to LGBT* people?

Would acknowledging gay individuals who reflect Catholic teachings would be detrimental to the church? Why is it so difficult for some people to think that LGBT* and humanitarian identities can coincide?

I know that this isn’t just a Catholic school problem. There are 77 countries in the world that criminalize homosexuality. How can LGBT* feel empowered to do good in their micro and macro communities if there are told that who they are is criminal? How can someone see themselves as good-doer if one of their main identities is ostracized by their government and society?

When coming to terms with my own sexuality, there were times when I tapped into my one latent institutionalized homophobia, doubting that I could make a difference or be a good person because I am attracted to girls. Since I am a lesbian, does that mean even if I do good, being gay cancels it all out?

Obviously no. (Most of my Catholic guilt has been eliminated, thank the universe). But there are many LGBT* people who are told that aren’t good people, and don’t have to support to breakaway from their homophobic surroundings.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where a queer kid could say they wanted to be the next Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride, or any of the amazing *LGBT that have shape history?

Wouldn’t it be better to just teach children that being a good person can mean many things, and that they sexuality doesn’t have to influence their moral compass, but it is a part of them that is good?