Board Officers Share Experiences in CNE Series
By Susie Polnaszek, Community Foundation for Monterey County Program Officer, Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
I am inspired by the dedication and community-focus of the nonprofit board leaders I meet through the CNE’s monthly Board Officers’ Roundtable Series. They come from all parts of Monterey County and spend their time and energy supporting youth and libraries, seniors and visual art and everything in between. I spoke with two of them about their board service.
Learn All You Can from Others
For Steven Deering, Vice Chair of the Girls Inc. of the Central Coast board, it all started when he served on the PTA while his daughters were in elementary school. That led to his involvement on the boards of Bobby Sox and Little League while his kids were playing.
Some 25 years later, his commitment to serving on nonprofit boards continues. Girls Inc. of the Central Coast offers programs that focus on girls’ leadership and self-empowerment.
Steve believes that serving on boards of youth organizations is worthwhile because “young people can take advantage of programs and opportunities they may not otherwise have been capable of; their success stories make it very worthwhile.”
It’s not always easy, of course, like when board members need to ask for money. Everything takes money to make it happen. You have to be able to hear the word NO a lot and accept it.”
Steve advises other board members to “learn all you can from those who came before you. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when someone else has done that for you. Ask questions and learn from the advice of others.” – Steve Deering, Board Officers’ Roundtable Participant & Vice Chair, Girls Inc. of the Central Coast
Do Your Homework
Mary Eileen Kiniry is one of five founding members of the Gathering for Women Monterey, a pilot-project turned nonprofit organization that incorporated in 2015. Gathering for Women Monterey offers a refuge for homeless women on the Monterey Peninsula. She notes that flexibility, adaptability and a sense of humor are key qualities for board members.
Mary Eileen draws inspiration from a “community who believes that homelessness on the Monterey Peninsula can be significantly diminished if not eliminated in the not too distant future.”
As a board, the group faces the challenge of “keeping this issue present to the larger community when so many other worthwhile issues compete for resources and the attention of city, county and state legislators.”
To be an effective board member, Mary Eileen echoes Steve’s advice.
“Your value to the board will be best utilized by open and frank discussions.” – Mary Eileen Kiniry, Board Officers’ Roundtable Participant & Founding Member, Gathering for Women Monterey
“As a new board member, you need to do your homework so you can truly understand the mission, values and goals [of your nonprofit],” Kiniry says. “If there are issues you don’t fully understand, ask questions of more senior board members or the board president.”