For the final part of this three part blog on Board Fellows Programmes, we speak with a student who is taking part in the programme. As we saw in part 1 and part 2, Board Fellows Programmes are a growing trend in MBAs across the US where students are placed as non-voting board members for not for profits and charities.
Sarah Boulden is an MBA student at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado in the US. Since January 2011, she has been a non-voting member of the board of Voices for Children CASA (Court Appointment Special Advocates) a nonprofit based in Boulder, Colorado. Sarah is part of Leeds Business School’s Board Fellow Program, which places students in nonprofits across the city, including the Boulder History Museum and the YMCA of Boulder Valley. I recently had the chance to speak with Sarah about the programme.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the organisation you are working with.
I am a JD/MBA student. Since January 2011, I have been a non-voting member of the board of Voices for Children CASA, which provides investigation, advocacy, monitoring and direct service to child victims of abuse and neglect. The organisation helps to find safe and permanent homes for these children.
2. What kind of work you are doing on the board?
My Board Fellows project was to develop a strategic marketing plan for the organisation. I used skills I learned during my time at CU Boulder in the Leeds MBA program as well as past experience to develop this plan. I presented it to the board at the end of the summer, and we are beginning to implement it. The board at VFC CASA is unique compared to many nonprofits, in that it is a “working board.” All board members are very active, not only in deciding on big picture plans for the organisation, but also helping with the implementation of its programs.
3. Why did you get involved in the board fellows project?
As a JD/MBA student, this nonprofit was a great fit, because I got to see both legal and business issues within the organisation. Although I have worked with nonprofits in the past, I had never sat on a nonprofit board before. The Board Fellow Program allows students like me to learn how nonprofits operate while also adding value to the organisation throughout a year-long project.
4. What you are learning?
In addition to working on and beginning to implement a marketing plan, I also helped kick-start a new volunteer program and helped plan the organisation’s first-ever golf tournament fundraiser. Serving on committees has allowed me to make a significant impact on the organisation as well as allowed me to get to know board members, who are also strong community leaders, on an individual basis.
5. Any tips for students interested in joining the Program in the future?
Working with a mentor is really a key part of the programme. I met with both the head of the marketing committee and the President of the Board about once every other month. I also met with the Executive Director monthly, so I got a good feel for how the board and staff interacted, and I learned a lot from them. My time on the board officially ends in December 2011, but I plan to continue volunteering at Voices For Children CASA.