Bring Your Passion to a Nonprofit Board

Just looking at my LinkedIn connections, I see a lot of people listing their desire to join a nonprofit board of directors. Serving on a nonprofit Board is a great way to give back to your community. I joined the Board for Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) nearly 2 years ago and have loved every minute of it.

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Each of us has personal and professional reasons for joining a Board. For some it’s a way to give back. For others it’s a great way to develop leadership skills in a way that supports a great cause. Understanding your motivations not only helps you find the right organization to support, but allows you to be a more effective Board leader.

My journey to ELK’s Board is rooted in an understanding of my personal values. I grew up in a rural area of the Midwest with very limited access to resources, both financial and educational. I did not have an extensive awareness of the myriad of opportunities available to me outside of my small community until I got to college. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity at a higher education that opened whole new worlds to me. Sadly, there are so many who do not get this opportunity. To this day, this drives my passion for education access, especially for those who face the most obstacles.

Growing up rural also allowed me to have a deep appreciation for the natural world. My parents were amazing at emphasizing a respect for the environment as the broader home in which we live. Much of this led to my undergraduate studies focusing on the sciences, specifically environmental studies.

Fast-forward to 3 years ago, my career has evolved to be more business focused, but I have never lost that connection with my passion for education and the environment. Furthermore, my personal success led me to a strong desire to give back to my community. This desire to give back got me exploring how I could best do this. I had spent time volunteering at food banks and working with Habitat for Humanity, which were great experiences, but something was missing. After some soul searching, I realized that I was looking for something that tied back to those passions of education and the natural world. I also realized that my success in the business world could be an asset to an organization focusing in these areas.

Enter Environmental Learning for Kids. ELK is an inclusive non-profit organization that develops inspired and responsible leaders through science education and outdoor experiences for underserved, urban youth ages 5-25. I knew immediately that their mission merged with my passions. Furthermore, they were looking for Board members to help advance that mission. This convergence of mission and passion makes my role on the Board more than just a job or resume builder. It allows me to put true personal energy into an organization that I love, which makes me a stronger Board member.

So, as you explore joining a nonprofit Board, I urge you to consider what you are most passionate about, and how that meshes with the organization you might be considering. It’s also a great way to feed a personal passion that may not be addressed in your 9 to 5 job.

Shameless plug: ELK is always looking for great people, with a common passion, to join our Board. If you are interested, please drop me a note. I would love to talk to you about an organization that I am passionate about.

About the author: Heath

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