Since the Board Fellowship Program was initiated in 2003, it has placed over 450 students on the governing boards of 175 outstanding nonprofit organizations in Southeast Michigan.
During the program graduate students from the schools of business, public policy, and social work, along with limited number of graduate students from other U-M schools, serve as non-voting board members of local nonprofits for an academic year. Board Fellows work closely with the board and executive staff, attend board meetings, serve on committees, and learn about the issues facing the organization.
In addition, Board Fellows are expected to complete a board-level project, which may involve strategic planning, marketing, or finance.
“The Board Fellows program has been a great opportunity. Our Board Fellow Program projects, and the students who have been involved, have increased our capacity as an organization, and the University of Michigan students gain valuable experience working with Ann Arbor SPARK on advancing the region’s economy.”
– Paul Krutko, president and CEO, Ann Arbor SPARK
Becoming a Nonprofit Partner
The Center for Social Impact partners with nonprofits to develop a mutually beneficial experience for both nonprofits and graduate students. Participating students bring a wealth of expertise in project management, social justice, business systems, policy analysis, and strategic planning. As a result, organizations gain a new perspective and input into board decisions, as well as knowledge and skills in a project to benefit the organization. Students gain a meaningful opportunity to learn about and participate in the board governance of a nonprofit and integrate tools learned in the classroom with hands on experience.
Critical elements for a board fellowship require the nonprofit leadership to:
- Select a board mentor who will be engaged with the fellow throughout the program
- Provide a member of the board and staff who will serve as the Board Fellow’s primary contacts and mentors
- Provide access to information and support to help the Board Fellow complete a substantial piece of the project by mid-December, and the rest of the project by mid-April.
- Provide a formal orientation to the organization’s work and expectations for board members
- Work with the Board Fellow to finalize a project plan
- Keep the Board Fellow informed about organizational developments
- Communicate consistently and provide feedback about the progress of the Board Fellow’s project
- Complete mid-year and final evaluations
- Conduct a final wrap-up meeting with the Board Fellow
There are many factors we examine in considering nonprofit partners for the Board Fellowship Program. Our selection criteria includes, but is not limited to:
- Quality of leadership in the organization and assurance our students will have appropriate support and mentorship from a Board Mentor, board members, and executive staff
- Challenging board-level projects
- Frequency and location of board meetings
We match students with organizations based on the student’s skills and interests and the nonprofit’s needs. Before placements are finalized, each nonprofit organization has the opportunity to review and approve the match.
- June 30: Nonprofit applications are due
- July 11-22: Individual calls with nonprofits to confirm placement
- July 29: Participating Nonprofits confirmed
- Sep. 15: Student Applications due
- Sep. 28-30: Nonprofit partners will be asked to interview final candidates
- Oct. 5: Board Fellowship placements will be announced
- Oct. 14: Orientation & Training (tentative date)
- Mid-October to end of April: Students will serve on boards
View a complete list of sites where Board Fellows have successfully completed fellowships.