As of right now, less than two months remain in my tenure as a Heller MBA Board Fellow and the 2023 cohort is actively being recruited from among the ranks of first-year MBAs. In the Board Fellow program, MBA students are matched with nonprofit organizations and sit on their Board of Directors as a non-voting member for 12 months. I had the great fortune of getting matched with Bikes Not Bombs, a youth development organization that uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. I entered this program to get a better understanding of nonprofit governance, to connect with a local organization that does programming in my professional area of interest, to expand my professional network, and to increase my leadership skills. Here are my tips for maximizing this opportunity!
Join a Committee
Both corporate and nonprofit boards organize themselves into relevant subcommittees. Common ones include Finance, Executive, Governance, and Fundraising. At Bikes Not Bombs, I knew early on that I wanted to join the Governance committee. This committee has been focused on board member recruitment, engagement, and succession planning. Prior to coming to Brandeis, I had been involved in the recruitment, onboarding, support, and offboarding of AmeriCorps volunteers and was curious what recruitment looked like for a nonprofit board. Joining a subcommittee helped me get a firsthand insight into this process, while also allowing me to connect with a smaller subgroup of board members who I met with on a monthly basis (as opposed to the other board members, which I saw at our bi-monthly full board meetings).
Volunteer or Help Plan Events
Many nonprofits have annual flagship events that they are known for. These events are usually focused on fundraising and sharing the progress the organization has made that year. Bikes Not Bombs hosts two big fundraisers – the Building Momentum Breakfast and the Bike-A-Thon. For this year’s Bike-A-Thon, I volunteered to help run registration for teams biking in the event. Volunteering was a great way for me to meet key staff in the organization and hear from veteran participants their reflections on what this event means for them and the surrounding Jamaica Plain community.
Have One-on-Ones with Board Members
Each person on the board (unless they are retired) is an active professional. At least 4 people on Bikes Not Bombs board were alumni of Heller’s MBA program! Meeting one-on-one for a virtual coffee chat was a great way to get to know them better, learn more about their career trajectory, and hear about what motivated them to get involved on the board. One of my favorite one-on-ones was when I had the opportunity to talk to Bikes Not Bomb’s capacity building consultant. From this conversation, I learned a lot about what it takes to improve board governance.
As you can see, there are many ways to get involved beyond just attending board meetings. Many of my peers in the Board Fellows program have also taken on special projects related to committee work and many of them have found internships through their connections on the board. Nonprofit boards really appreciate the perspective of younger professionals and many boards are looking to fill certain skill gaps which Heller MBA students come equipped with. I’ve really enjoyed my Board Fellow experience thus far and I look forward to finishing strong!