19 Aug WOMEN IN TRANSITION: THERE IS A PLACE FOR YOU IN THE NONPROFIT ARENA
WOMEN IN TRANSITION: THERE IS A PLACE FOR YOU IN THE NONPROFIT ARENA
By Stephanie Lawrence
With the transition to parenthood I learned that as much thought and effort we put into crafting a roadmap for ourselves, unexpected events happen that take us off course, and we can struggle to regain our footing. As a 20-something I earned my MPA degree and charted a career for myself in nonprofit management. I expected that when I had children I would continue to pursue an upward career trajectory with increasing leadership responsibilities. But in my 30’s I faced an unexpected struggle with infertility that resulted in the gift of a triplet pregnancy. I surprised myself by finding it too difficult to leave my three preemies in the care of others and thus made a choice to step out of the workforce, breaking away from my long-determined plans.
After a decade of full-time caregiving I was eager to resume my nonprofit management career and strategically pieced together pro bono projects, professional development classes, and networking efforts. I wanted to rejoin the leadership track but struggled in my job search. Timing is everything, and I fortunately received an unexpected invitation to step onto a nonprofit board that recruited me because of my fundraising skills. The board role allowed me to deepen my professional expertise and networks while freshening my resume. This leadership experience propelled me forward and within a year I had secured an executive director position.
To those currently undertaking a nonprofit career relaunch, I urge you to engage in board service, a leadership opportunity where you drive the decision. Your time, talent and ability to give or raise treasure is desperately needed by nonprofits. Recognize that this is your opportunity to take the lead in establishing a connection. Be diligent and selective when searching for your nonprofit match. Before saying “yes” to service, analyze the financial status and sustainability of the organization and the health and management practices of the board.
How best to do this? Consider these key indicators:
- What is the size of the current board? It should ideally be 7+ members.
- Does the board meet regularly? Select a board that meets 6-12 times a year to ensure that members are actively engaged and presented with current information to perform required legal, financial and fundraising oversight.
- Is there a board member job description? Ensure that board leadership sets clear expectations of directors’ roles and responsibilities.
- Does the organization’s revenue exceed expenses, and does it have at least three months of operating funds in reserve in case of emergency? Nonprofit tax returns are public and can be accessed at www.guidestar.org.
- Does the organization have a current strategic plan with specific programmatic and financial goals? A nonprofit should have a clear roadmap complete with timeline and established evaluation metrics.
- Does the organization have a board recruitment matrix? This is a critical tool for a nonprofit to ensure that its leadership brings the necessary range of skills and demographics to the table.
Don’t sit on the sidelines, there is a place for you now in the nonprofit leadership arena. Commit to board service and have an immediate role in making positive social change while advancing your career.
Passionate about women’s leadership initiatives, nonprofit capacity building and philanthropy, Stephanie Lawrence provides advising services, strategies, and sector insight to women looking to transition into the nonprofit arena after a career pause. She is the founder of Cause After A Pause (causeafterapause.com), and has served as the founder and chair of the Community Endowment of Lexington, a grantmaking fund of the Foundation for MetroWest, as well as the Executive Director of Neighbor Brigade, a Massachusetts-headquartered nonprofit that establishes and mobilizes community-based networks of volunteers.
JOIN STEPHANIE FOR A WORKSHOP & NETWORKING
WOMEN ON NONPROFIT BOARDS
Sept. 17th; 5:30-7:30pm
Hilton Garden Inn, Pittsfield
Learn the personal & professional benefits of Board service, how to choose the right nonprofit, Board responsibilities, best practices & more. REGISTER ONLINE AT THIS LINK>>