Ready to Serve: Preparing for the Board Room

You’re not entirely new to the workplace, but you’re not a veteran in your sector either. You’ve been establishing yourself in your field, and taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. And now, you’re thinking about sharing your experience and energy as a member of a board. But you don’t have experience, or the first idea of how to go about this. Do they come to me? Do I go to them? What kind of board do I want to serve on? What are their expectations?

BoardThese questions, and many more were answered recently when Connecticut Community Foundation and Waterbury Chamber of Commerce partnered to host Ready to Serve: Preparing for the Board Room, a workshop facilitated by Sharon Danosky for the benefit of the Waterbury Regional Young Professionals group.

The workshop is designed to introduce more young people to the possibility of board service, and what it means to serve. Deep-dive discussion around the roles and responsibilities of board members and best practices lays the groundwork of the workshop, with an ultimate goal toward strengthening organizations by building strong board members.

Patrick McKenna, Program Officer at Connecticut Community Foundation, not only helped to organize the workshop, but attended as well. “We were thrilled to get Sharon on board,” said Patrick. “This is something we’ve been trying to line up in our area in terms of collaborating with the chamber – they have potential board members and we have the nonprofits to connect them to.”

“As more young professionals become available, and have interests in joining boards, it’s extremely important to make sure that they’re prepared for this role,” said Sharon. “This is one of my favorite workshops, because there are so many eye-opening pieces of information I can pass on that have a direct and immediate impact on a new board member’s approach — like the fact that it’s just as important for a prospective board member to check out the organization and its board as it is that the board decides whether a prospective board member is a good fit.”

index“One of the most interesting things I learned in this workshop was around ‘creating the boundaries,’ said Patrick. “That there should be an expectation of intentionality behind the process of joining a board or volunteering – it’s about doing the inventory of your skill set, your network, and what you’re passionate about; meeting a leader from an organization, having a conversation to get more on their mission – volunteering a little – really slowly wading into the waters and so you join the board to really contribute to that strategic conversation.”

Mackenzie Marsella, Finance Manager at the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Waterbury Regional Young Professionals group, worked with Patrick to bring the board training to Waterbury. “One of the most refreshing aspects about board meetings I learned, as well as many other Young Professionals in the group learned from the training was that board meetings should not be all about the money,” said Mackenzie. “That really resonated with me, because as a finance manager, my primary role at board meetings has been to present our financials. This takes a bit of weight off my shoulders, knowing that financials are only a part of the big picture.  There also should be discussion about strategy and the impact our organization is making, as well as fundraising – how to bring the money in.”

One of the measures of success for a workshop like this is how those who attended use the knowledge going forward. At the end of the workshop, a question was posed to all attendees:
Can Patrick from Connecticut Community Foundation reach out to you about potentially joining a board and to discuss your interests and a board of your interest?

“Every single person in the room replied YES,” said Mackenzie. “I think that just proves how beneficial this program was and how interested every young professional was when they walked out of the door.”