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Mae Saul

Serving on a Non-Profit Board

by Mae Saul Friday, May 5, 2017

As part of the final year of the MBA, Arts Administration students, along with other interested MBAs and students from schools across campus, take a board leadership course to gain hands-on experience working with non-profit boards. The course is designed to give students the opportunity to see the other side of the organization-board relationship - by participating as a non-voting member on a local non-profit board. Students are placed in pairs and assigned a board according to career interests and previous experience and are given the opportunity to select a board committee on which to serve as well. For the past nine months, I’ve served on the Board of Directors for the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) with a fellow Bolzie where I attended Board meetings, learned from a board mentor, and sat on the Facilities Committee.

As part of the coursework for the class, each team is required to create a project for their board based on the needs of each individual organization. Over the course of the first semester, it became clear that our board project should focus on board fundraising. Fundraising is a fundamental responsibility of all non-profit boards and the MYC was looking for new ways to add to existing efforts and further engage its board in fundraising activities. Exploring board fundraising was a really great topic for our project since MYC already had a strong and engaged board and was ready to become even more involved in their organization’s development efforts.  A fundraising project was a perfect way for us to give MYC a set of tools to use as they continue to expand their fundraising role and think strategically about future fundraising efforts.  

This project gave me the opportunity to dive into the fundraising responsibilities of non-profit boards and learn about effective ways to engage board members in an organization’s development efforts. I was able to interview multiple fundraising professionals in the Madison area and connect with fundraising consultants to get a bigger picture of how other organizations conduct fundraising: from annual fundraising, to large capital campaigning and how they develop, leverage, and utilize their boards in every type of fundraising effort. I learned that board participation is not the same at all organizations, but that there are strategic ways that an organization can set itself and its board up for success and foster a strong climate of giving within its board of directors. This is crucial for annual fundraising success and can help boards prepare themselves for any larger efforts that arise in the future.

I am excited to think about the ways in which I can put this project to use in my own work both as an arts administrator and a board member throughout my career. I definitely learned a lot from MYC this year and can’t wait to dive back in and work with a board at my next organization.