When I joined Plan A in 2012, I was immediately inspired. The vision, the passion, the purpose, the lady at the helm; it all came together to create this ‘perfect storm’ of greatness. I learned a few lessons quickly: be accountable, be fiscally responsible, have a sense of urgency, always be kind, always be honest and stretch yourself WAY out of your comfort zone. One thing that struck me was the ‘give back to your community’ concept. Before coming to Plan A, I never volunteered or sat on a board. I didn’t even know what a taskforce was. I learned by 2015 that the one thing I needed to give more of was my time to things that mattered the most to me.
I joined the Sudbury Women’s Centre Board of Directors in an official capacity in October of 2015. The entire Board concept was foreign to me and as a newbie, I thought it would be the ideal time to share some of the lessons I’ve already learned along the way.
1. Join a Board for a Reason:
You have to have passion for the cause. If you’re passionate about small business, join a local chamber and sit in on some task forces / committees. If your heart lies with children’s causes, seek out your community for the best opportunities to support. When I was younger, my mother was in an abusive relationship. Our family lived that life and all it entailed for over 10 years. We got out of that situation because she was strong and supported but it continued to haunt us for years after. Organizations like the Sudbury Women’s Centre really speak to me because I’ve known the woman who needs help and doesn’t know where to go. I’ve worn the shoes of the child who’s afraid and feeling 100% helpless. My goal in joining this Board is to shout its name from the rooftops. I want every woman and child to know that there is a place for her to go if they’re ever in need or living in fear. When you join a Board or seek out a way to help an organization in general, you will give more of yourself if you understand the reason behind all of the work that’s required.
2. Boards are Work:
Meetings, conversations, emails, minutes, reviewing of documents, fundraising, fund development, application reviews, board governance… all of it takes time. If you’ve checked off number one and are indeed passionate about the cause/organization, you’ve won half the battle. When you attend meetings you’re committing to taking time away from everything else. When you consider a fundraising event a lot of your time can get swallowed up. You need to be willing to make the time required by the organization. Otherwise, let someone else step up to the plate or simply volunteer to a project or specific cause rather than attempt to fill the role of a Board member.
3. If You’re Unsure, Do Some Research:
Get involved in the organization before joining the board. Unless you already know the group well, do your homework. Making a major, multiyear volunteer commitment deserves at least as much research as buying a car or hiring a contractor to renovate your kitchen. If you are not already a donor, become one. Do some online research. Attend special events. After you know more about the organization, you’ll be in a much better position to decide whether you’d be interested in joining the board.
Ghandi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” My experience thus far has been a positive one and something I would encourage anyone with passion, time and understanding to consider.