The “Bottom Line Boards” session on Friday, March 14 was the most recent session of Social Venture Partners Boulder County’s BOARDS WITH BRAINS series. This session covered topics around how to thrive in your role as a nonprofit board member. Trainer Caryn Capriccioso, co-founder and principal of interSector Partners, L3C (a Longmont firm specializing in nonprofit consulting), covered topics ranging from the legal aspects of board membership, to how to find sustained passion in your role.
Caryn began with an overview of the nonprofit sector. She pointed out that nonprofits cover a wide range of issues and come in many shapes and sizes, but that together they form a single sector, vital to the economy (for more information, see The National Center for Charitable Statistics). Nonprofits and their boards range from small and simple, to large and complex, and the first step to being an awesome board member is determining what kind of board and what kind of organization is going to be the best fit for you.
Board member commitments and responsibilities are different for every organization, but there are certain responsibilities that any nonprofit board member can expect to encounter. For example, one of the board’s most important and most difficult jobs is supporting the nonprofit’s executive director. It is very important that the executive director be able to count on the nonprofit’s board for help and advice when it is needed, but an overbearing board can leave an executive director feeling like she or he is being micromanaged. Finding the right balance will help to foster a positive and productive relationship between the board and the executive director.
Fundraising is another important task that all board members will encounter. Board members should support one another in feeling comfortable and confident both when it comes to raising money and when it comes to taking “no” for an answer. Most people struggle with – or even dread – fundraising but it is vital to the continued success of any nonprofit. Other board member responsibilities are listed in BoardSource.com’s “Top Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards.”
Passion for the nonprofit and its mission, as well as the use of that passion to inspire action in others, is something every board member should have. One easy way to convey your passion to others is to use the word we rather than they when discussing the nonprofit. As a board member, you are a vital member of the team and you want the world to know that you’re proud to be associated with the nonprofit and its accomplishments.
Also, try to work together internally as a board to address conflicts and issues and avoid harming public perception of the nonprofit by keeping board conversations confidential. Find ways to stand out as a board member. You’ll feel more invested in your board if you’re bringing new ideas to the table, or finding ways to go above and beyond your duties as a board member.
Remember that your service as a nonprofit board member is critical to helping the nonprofit achieve its mission. The better you and your board work together as a team, the more effective your nonprofit will be at achieving its goals and making Boulder County a better place.
If you’re interested in serving on a nonprofit board, there are many ways to explore the available opportunities. Continue learning about board membership and meet other board members by attending SVP Boulder County BOARDS WITH BRAINS sessions. Also, check out online resources such as BoardSource, Blue Avocado, and Colorado Nonprofit Association, and look for educational sessions for board members in Denver offered through Metro Volunteers.
If there are local nonprofits that pique your interest, contact them directly by asking first to speak with their Executive Director and second with a member of the Board. And, get to know local nonprofits by seeking out volunteer opportunities through Volunteer Connection at Foothills United Way, or Metro Volunteers Front Range Volunteer Opportunities.
About Caryn Capriccioso
Caryn Capriccioso, MNM, Principal Partner interSector Partners, L3C
Caryn’s 25 years of experience has focused on board governance, organizational development, fundraising, strategic and business planning, social enterprise and earned income strategies and building cross-sector partnerships. Caryn’s approach focuses on meeting individuals and organizations where they are and honoring their past while simultaneously challenging them toward strategic and sustainable futures. She has extensive experience working with Colorado nonprofits as a consultant, employee and board member. Her work with boards of directors ranges from training on legal duties and roles/responsibilities to developing recruitment plans and from analyzing board composition to developing orientation processes.
Her experience includes: director of women’s services at the YWCA of Greater Lansing where she founded her first social enterprise in 1991; owner of grantwriting firm, Your Write Hand; executive director of the Boulder Parks and Recreation Foundation (now PLAY Boulder); director of planning services and social enterprise at JVA Consulting; and community liaison positions with the city of Boulder.
Caryn is co-founder/principal of interSector Partners, L3C, the country’s 39th L3C. She holds a master of nonprofit management from Regis University, is a co-founder of the Colorado Nonprofit Social Enterprise Exchange and a co-founder/director of Impact Hub Boulder, and is past-chair of Social Venture Partners Boulder County. She speaks regularly at local, state and national conferences on topics of convergence, emerging business structures and social enterprise/entrepreneurship.