Board Fellows Programmes Part 3 – 5 questions for Sarah Boulden Board Fellow from Leeds School of Business

(This blog is part 3 of a three part series looking Board Fellows Programmes. Click here to read part 1 and part 2.)

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.

Board Fellows Programmes Part 2 – 5 questions for Becky Johns, MBA 2012 and coordinator of the programme at Leeds School of Business

(This blog is part 2 of a three part series looking Board Fellows Programmes. Click here to read part 1.)

 In part 1 of this 3 part series on Board Fellows Programmes we looked at a growing trend of placing MBA students as non-voting board members of not for profits and charities across the US. In part 2 we look at one particular programme and how Net Impact is promoting these programmes nationally and internationally.

Many Board Fellows Programmes across the US are student initiated and most of these are started by student members of the Net Impact club, an international network of students dedicated to sustainable business. A few years ago, Net Impact launched their Board Fellows Programme, providing support for local clubs in the form of guide books and dedicated conference calls. Boston University School of Management Board Fellows Programme, BU on Board, was started by their Net Impact club in 2010 and works with a range of non-profits, including Cambridge Childcare Resource Center, Aids Action Committee of Massachusetts and Medicine Wheel Production. Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado also recently started their programme, and I had the chance to speak with Becky Johns (MBA 2012) who is leading the programme.

1. How long has the Board Fellows Programme been going on at Leeds

Tyler Hammer and Emily Stanley, both MBA students, founded the Leeds Board Fellows Program during the spring of 2010. The first class of Fellows started in January 2011 and is just finishing their term this December.  We are finalising matches for the 2012 class this coming week.

2. How many students do you place each year?

We have 10 MBA students who completed the 2011 Leeds Board Fellows Program. Our goal for future years is not necessarily making more matches, but ensuring that we make quality matches between students and nonprofits.

3. Do you find it easy to get not-for-profits engaged in the programme?

We were fortunate enough to align ourselves with an organisation called the Nonprofit Cultivation Center, which was founded by a Leeds MBA alum, Amy Rosenblum, to support nonprofits in Boulder County. Our connection with Amy and the Nonprofit Cultivation Center lent legitimacy to our new program when we reached out to local organisations, so it has not been difficult to get nonprofit engagement.

4. Who manages the programme at Leeds?

The two individuals who started the program, Tyler and Emily, graduated this past May. I took over the program with another classmate this year, and we have three students from the class of 2013 preparing to take over for next year. The Program has two professor mentors and support from the Nonprofit Cultivation Center.

5. Any tips for other schools thinking of putting in place a similar programme?

The Leeds Board Fellows Program is a national programme that is part of Net Impact. For schools that already have a Net Impact chapter, setting up a board fellows program is relatively easy. Net Impact provides templates, national conference calls, general guidance and resources.

The Net Impact Board Fellows Programme Manual provides sample letters, application forms and other resources for Net Impact clubs interested in starting a programme on campus. Although board fellows are currently found primarily on US campuses, materials and support are available for interested international clubs.


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