1. 2016-17 Board Fellows Gain Insight, Experience

    March 1, 2017

    Overview

    The 2017 Board Fellowship program was one of our biggest and most competitive programs all year.  Students from Ross, Ford, School of Social Work, Public Health, and other programs developed project management and executive skills as board members of nonprofit organizations in Southeast Michigan.

    In addition to attending all board meetings and serving on a board committee, they worked on a board-level project tackling a complex organizational challenge.

    You can see the complete list of 2016-17 Board Fellows, but we interviewed a few of our board fellows here, and we learned a bit more about their personal experiences with the program:


    Samuel Donaldson, MBA ’18

    • Organization: Matrix Human Services – Serving the most vulnerable in Metro Detroit to help them achieve self sufficiency.
    • Location: Detroit, MI

    Describe the project you have worked on with the organization: My project is centered around communication between the board and organization – primarily focusing on Boardpaq, an online dashboard for all materials, scheduling and general communication.

    How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? The board’s mission delivers the social impact and I’m helping them be more effective as an organization, which empowers them to make a larger impact.

    What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? The world belongs to those who show up.

    What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? When forming a future nonprofit board, this will help me to make clear lines of communication, well-defined roles, and term limits.

    Do you have advice for future board fellows? Start strong and take a stab at tangible deliverables early in order to ensure that you have something to show and build on for a successful experience. Listen intently to as many people as you can.


    Samuel Geller, MPP ’17

    • Organization: Nonprofit Enterpise at Work (NEW) – Improving the impact and performance of nonprofits by creating high-quality strategic solutions
    • Location: Ann Arbor, MI

    Describe the project you have worked on with the organization: Our project has been to support the strategic planning process of Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), specifically through evaluating the organization’s current role in the nonprofit community in southeast Michigan. The past few months, Afton and I have gotten to work closely with staff and the board to evaluate economic and political shifts that could impact NEW’s work for the next 5-10 years and think through the operational, and programmatic changes that might be required for NEW to continue to serve its mission. Currently we are working on a SWOT analysis of both internal and external trends in the nonprofit world that should inform the organization’s strategic plan.

    How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? I have provided impact to the range of organizations that NEW serves by working with its staff and board to make sure the organization is nimbler, aware, and prepared to face the upcoming challenges of its clients. I see my research and analysis to inform the strategic direction of the organization as a way to strengthen an organization like NEW, who serves dozens of other nonprofits across the state.

    What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? The biggest takeaway from my board fellowship is the need for nonprofits to constantly survey the landscape of their industry to make sure they are positioned to make their largest impact. The experience working on NEW’s strategic plan reaffirmed the importance of questioning what role you currently play and what role you could play based on the need, capacity and mission.

    What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? My experience with Board Fellows has piqued my interest in serving on a nonprofit board or government commission after graduation. After my Board Fellows experience, I feel I have an obligation to support organizations whose mission I believe in.

    Do you have advice for future board fellows? Don’t be shy – introduce yourself to the board, build relationships and look for opportunities and to contribute to the organization. You will definitely get back what you invest in this experience.


    Mary Mattson, MSW ’17

    • Organization: SOS Community Services – Promoting housing stability and family self-sufficiency through collaboration, care, and respect.
    • Location: Ypsilanti, MI

    Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. Committee Charters for all four board committees, ED Succession Plan, and Strategic Filters for Board decision making.

    How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? These projects have helped in building the capacity of the board, and aided in the fluidity of functions and governance of the board.

    What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? I have learned a considerable amount about board governance and operations. My knowledge and understanding of how a mature board operates has been greatly expanded.

    What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? It is likely that I will be in a management position for a nonprofit and will work with a board of directors. My work as a board fellow has allowed me to gain valuable experience and prepared me for future professional work with boards.

    Do you have advice for future board fellows? Be intentional about building relationships with your board mentor and other board members. There is a wealth of knowledge and experiences to glean from them.


    Maya Sharodi, MBA ’18

    • Organization: SOS Community Services – Promoting housing stability and family self-sufficiency through collaboration, care, and respect.
    • Location: Ypsilanti, MI

    Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. My Board Fellow project is with SOS Community Services, a worthwhile organization that provides housing, food, and children’s services to promote housing stability in Washtenaw County. Over the last few months I have been developing a marketing strategy to diversify SOS’ donor base and increase donor acquisition across segments.

    How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? SOS’ mission is to support the local community by offering services that prevent homelessness. In addition to providing community members with temporary housing, SOS runs a food bank that increases access to affordable, healthy foods and offers children’s programming that support development and learning.  By developing a marketing and communication strategy that will attract new donors, I have been able to deliver social impact by increasing funding for these vital programs.

    What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? Because of the nature of their organizations, most nonprofits have less resources to devote to marketing and strategic planning. Throughout the course of my projects I have learned that while it is important to develop a cohesive marketing strategy that utilizes best practices, it is equally important to develop a realistic implementation plan that factors in the organization’s constraints. I have worked closely with the Development Director to ensure the strategy will be practical, useful, and effective.

    What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? The Board Fellows program has given me insight into how a board operates and develops a strategic vision. As I progress through my post-MBA career, I plan to continue staying engaged with nonprofits in my local community and serve on a nonprofit as a Board member. I hope to apply the knowledge and skills I have gained as a board fellow to support the growth of community organizations.

    Do you have advice for future board fellows? Stay engaged with your board members and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge. Prior to business school, I was working as a technology consultant in the private sector. I knew that I wanted to learn more about strategic planning with nonprofits at business school. While I found classes on nonprofit management useful and engaging, the experience of working alongside a board has been immensely valuable. Take advantage of the experience and knowledge of the members of your board to understand how they deal with challenges and develop a lasting vision.

     


    For a complete listing of the 2016-17 Board Fellows, click here.

    For information on applying to the Board Fellows program, click here.