Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are You Board Yet?

Continuing on my theme of meeting with people who are passionate about what they do, yesterday I had the opportunity to have coffee with Neel Hajra of the Nonprofit Enterprise at Work. Let me tell you, Neel is excited about what he's doing. So excited, in fact, that I almost couldn't keep up with my notetaking! Note to self: Look into MP3 player with recording capabilities. In the interest of full disclosure, I did do some work for NEW a number of years ago. The "Nonprofit Directory" that I helped build is still available on the main page of the NEW website.

Neel is the Chief Operating Officer for NEW, which means he's basically in charge of the day to day operations of the organization. Within the last year or so, this has meant doing a thorough re-examination of NEW's role in the nonprofit community and how they could be more effective in that role. To that end, they are dropping a number of their offerings which, while popular, were already covered or would be covered by other institutions. They did this so they could focus on what they see as their core services: The NEW Center facilities, Resource Connect (an online database of nonprofit resources), shared services (infrastructure and backroom sharing for NP's), and their crown jewel, BoardConnect®.

This last offering sounds like an amazing opportunity to me. With it, for a nominal fee, NEW provides training to individuals who are interested in serving on the board of a nonprofit organization. Then, it acts as a matching service, trying to hook up these individuals with organizations which can use their skills.

I can hear the excuses already: I don't have the time. Don't you have to have lots of experience? What do I have to offer?

As to the first, well, it's up to you to make the time. Most of us dedicate a certain amount of time to causes which are close to our hearts. This is just another way of doing that. As to the other two, Neel told me that this is exactly what the matching process is designed to help with. Almost everyone has something to give. Maybe you have an extended network of professionals you can call upon. Maybe you have skills as a negotiator, financial analyst, or an accountant. Maybe you are just passionate about a cause and are willing to put in the time and effort to help in whatever capacity you can. Whatever you can contribute, BoardConnect will try to match you with an organization who truly needs your help.

Tell me, what have been your experiences with being on a Board? Would you do it again?

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