By: Pratish Patel

On Tuesday, February 18, I had the privilege of attending the workshop “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Path to a High-Performing Board,” which was hosted by my very own firm GHJ. I am an Audit Associate at GHJ and have been with the firm for just over a year now. In the past year, I have learned a lot and have had many unique opportunities both impacting my personal and professional life. Of these opportunities, I must say one of the most rewarding ones is having the honor to serve on a local nonprofit Board. As a young professional in my 20s, I have found this experience to be challenging, rewarding and impactful. To be completely honest, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and to be quite frank I am still learning. At Tuesday’s workshop, we discussed various strategies on how to maximize the efforts of our Board members and cultivate a meaningful relationship between the Board and our organization. Here are a few questions that were brought up, followed by my thoughts and takeaways from our discussion that I wanted to share with everyone:

  • What did we really just accomplish in the last 2 hours?I think we can all agree that there is never enough time to discuss everything we want to during our Board meetings. Often times our discussions become tangents relating to conversations that should probably be happening in committee meetings as opposed to Board meetings. Leon Janks, Managing Partner of GHJ, suggested that we place the mission statement, or a summarized version of it, on our agenda at every meeting. This will help keep the meeting on point and keep the Board focused on the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve.
  • You’re the new guy… right?New Board member development is essential for a successful Board. I was lucky enough to have a proper Board orientation with the ED and president of the Board. It truly played an instrumental role in how I comfortable I felt during meetings and interacting with other members. I personally thought that the idea of having a Board buddy or Board mentor would really help shape the dynamics of the Board.
  • Are you a Giver or a Getter? Both? Neither?!Monetary contributions from Board members seem to be a sore subject for most organizations, but it doesn’t have to be. Upfront communication and setting expectations from the get go are the keys to maximizing Board giving. As a young professional, my giving capabilities are limited, but that doesn’t mean I should slack on getting contributions. The panel’s suggestions really focused on the “get” part of give or get. I think often times, we assume that Board members know how to ask for donations, but many times we find that this is not the case at all. Maybe we can do training sessions for our members focusing on how to ask and seek out potential contributions. One idea that came to mind during this discussion, that I hope to be bring back to my Board, will be to ask each member of the Board to think of three individuals or organizations that we can approach for funds that we have not already reached out to. The Board member’s homework from that meeting to the next will be to reach out to those individuals or organizations and report back to the Board. This way, we can hold each other accountable and potentially broaden our fundraising scope.

I believe Peter Drucker said it best, “The only way to predict the future… is to create it.” We must get out there, strive for change, and see our vision through. The room I was in on Tuesday was full of a wealth of knowledge, and I hope and encourage everyone to continue the conversations around how to improve our Boards and ultimately how to improve the communities we serve.