Many young Chicagoans join junior boards for a myriad of reasons. It could be that you’re new to the city and trying to meet new people, you’re finally stable at work and now ready to tap back into your passion for giving back or just curious as to what goes on in a junior board. Regardless of your reasoning, before you make the commitment to join, there are 5 questions you should ask. One thing to keep in mind is that not all auxiliary/associate/junior boards are created equal. A few of them, operating under the leadership of a larger NP organization, usually have the finance, resources and staff to dedicate a liaison to the junior board while some do not.
Organizations including the Chicago Public Library Foundation, Goodman Theatre, Art Institute of Chicago to name a few, see the value in establishing an auxiliary/junior/associate board for young professionals in the age range of 23-40. Some NPs will accept you with open arms by just simply filling out an application form, while some make you go through a informational/application process akin to college sorority/fraternity rush (such as my unfortunate experience with NMH auxiliary board). The one thing to emphasize is that you should not just get involved with non-profit boards to boost your résumé or to attend fun parties; the majority of the work is in connecting with the community served and raising funds to help sustain the cause/organization.
That being said, before you join a non-profit organization’s board, here are 5 things to consider and ask.
- What is your board’s diversity profile? In 2016, if a non-profit board is not committed to diversity amongst their members, its very problematic. In covering many events and happenings on Chicago’s non profit scene, I am well aware of those that are not committed to diversity but we’ll refrain from naming names. Diversity is not just in the form of different races that make up a board, but also in sexual orientation, skill set and professional backgrounds. If diversity is something that’s important to you, especially if the organization serves a diverse population, you must ask. If they can’t give a succint answer, choose wisely.
- Ask an exec board member of the board, if you were made leader of the organization, what would you do better? Their answer can give you insights as to what that person feels is lacking, can be done better or is great about the organization.
- What type of commitment is required? Some organizations do not require a financial give-get commitment, while some do. Some organizations task their junior board members to simply act as ambassadors with fundraising. Be aware of the financial commitments or membership dues and fundraising requirements up front. If it’s an organization you are whole heartedly passionate about but due to your current financial situation might not be able to commit to it at the moment, stay involved and volunteer or speak with a staff liaison, closed mouths don’t get fed.
- How does the junior/auxiliary/associate board interact with the larger board and the BODs? When you give your time and resources to an organization, the feeling that you are making a difference is what drives you to solicit donations from your network and employer but if we’re being honest, the opportunity to help you or a fellow member’s professional aspirations often times presents itself. Being able to meet someone serving on the larger board that once was in your position, so to speak, is a benefit. The larger board is not obligated to interact with the junior board members but those that do make the effort, as seen at Lincoln Park Zoo and Chicago Public Library fundraisers, is a reflection of their commitment to the next gen.
- What is the time commitment? how often does the board meet? Some boards meet monthly, quarterly or twice a year. If you are the type that travels every week for work, a board that meets monthly might not be best suited for you. Know what the organization requires of its membership to make sure your schedule and other commitments can handle it.
Once you’ve noted these, its time to get involved. Chicago Cares will host the fall edition of “Find Your Cause” on Oct. 18 where non profit organizations will have representatives vying for your altruistic interest. It’s a great way to hear about different causes, meet new people and tap into your philanthropic passion. Find Your Cause brings together more than 300 Chicago young professionals who are interested in getting involved in their communities through service. Attendees will learn firsthand about volunteer and auxiliary/executive board positions from more than 50 community-based organizations. An opportunity for community-minded individuals to network while gaining an understanding of how they can lend their energy, creativity, and leadership to deserving nonprofits. Attendee tickets include light appetizers, drinks, and music. Buy your tickets here.
photo credits: Alexander Gouletas; TKL; Daniel Delgado