Kristi Birk, YNPN Secretary and Chair-Elect
As a former teacher and administrator, I thought I knew what a board of directors was. Wasn’t it composed of random people elected in the community that have a say in the policies, procedures and funding for the school district? They show up to a room once a month for two hours, and these men and women dictate the salaries of the school employees- and then they go back to their respective jobs and worry about their districts the following month at the next school board meeting.
Fun fact: that is not how it works.
When I joined the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits (OKCNP) as an employee, one of my responsibilities was “board liaison.” I had no idea what that meant, but I knew I had to learn FAST..
The state of Oklahoma currently has over 19,000 nonprofits and make up more than 1/3 of the labor force. Although nonprofits do not financially have the same impact as the oil and gas industry, nonprofits employ more people in the state.
The board of directors is the legal governing body of a nonprofit and has 4 legal duties: duty of care, duty of obedience, duty of transparency and duty of loyalty. Every nonprofit has a mission, and the board is the public representative in the completion of the mission.
With that knowledge, I realized a board of directors is much more essential to a nonprofit organization than I had originally thought. The majority of the OKCNP board members work in the business sector, and their service on the board is voluntary. They have an interest in the community they are serving and their impact is immeasurable.
I began connecting with each of the board members individually via email and even had lunch with a few of them. They each had their own reasons for choosing the OKCNP board, but the reoccurring theme in each conversation was how much they appreciated what the Center was doing for the nonprofit community as a statewide organization. As I began to digest my new role, I knew board service was for me- but I didn't know how to get involved. I was always involved with sports, music and politics in high school- but this was adulting, so I thought it would not be as easy. I was right, but I was also wrong.
I began looking for boards created for young professionals, or like-minded, energetic people who are passionate about helping others. I came across YNPN of OKC through the OKCNP Membership Coordinator, Sara Jane DelMonte, and she recommended I apply for a position. As I looked into YNPN, I realized I fit the 4 characteristics of a board member for their organization; so, I connected with Carrie Sauer, our president, and BOOM! I am now chair-elect of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network!
As I began my board service, I knew it would be important for me to receive more formal training. I attended the OKCNP's Boot Camp for Boards in August of 2018, which was packed full of information on how to be an essential, effective board member and benefit the nonprofits I am a board member of. I was taught the importance of taking adequate minutes, setting a strategically planned agenda, and how to recruit new board members (among everything else I would need to fulfill my role as a board member).
As the year progressed, I became more involved with YNPN by attending and helping plan events as well as cultivating relationships to build membership within the YNPN of OKC organization. These skills have provided me with opportunities to help in other roles of other organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the Oklahoma Women's Coalition.
The connections I have made because of my board involvement is astonishing- especially since I began my new career in the nonprofit sector of June 2018! If I had to give any advice, it would be:
-PASSION: Make sure you are passionate about the board and its mission. If you do not like cats and join the board of a Cat Coalition, you will be doing a disservice not only to the board but also yourself.
-TIME: If you cannot commit 3-5 hour a week (sometimes more) to the board, you will not be a benefit to your organization and should think about serving on a committee. Dedicated board service is essential to the nonprofit's success
-SKEPTICISM: If you are not willing to ask questions during a board meeting, you should not be on a board. It would be a blast to have every person on the YNPN board be happy and passive, but the organization would ultimately fail (and who would want that)!
I believe everyone has multiple callings. I love the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits but I also love cultivating relationships with like-minded people who are fairly new in the nonprofit community. How could I do both? Through my role as a director on the YNPN board.
And I don't regret my decision to join one bit.
If you are interested in learning more about serving on the YNPN Board of Directors during our next fiscal year, please contact Carly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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