AmeriCorps Alums Announces New Member Benefit with BoardSource
Today’s guest blog originally appeared on the BoardSource blog, Exceptional Boards and is modified for the AmeriCorps alumni audience. This blog is also part of AmeriCorps Alums’ REALTalk series on race, equity, and AmeriCorps alumni as leaders. Author Andy Davis is an AmeriCorps alum (NCCC, San Diego, 2000-2001) and vice chair of the AmeriCorps Alums National Advisory Board. Andy is also the director of training for BoardSource, a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service. BoardSource and Alums are thrilled to announce a new member benefit to all AmeriCorps alumni, including a 15% discount on BoardSource’s standard organizational membership. Visit www.americorpsalums.org/?BoardSource to learn more.
When AmeriCorps Alums and BoardSource began to discuss a potential partnership over a year ago, I immediately thought it was a great idea. Board service is a chance for alums to continue volunteering in a way that has lasting impact and meaning. As BoardSource’s Director of Training and Vice Chair of the National Advisory Council of AmeriCorps Alums, I’m excited about how this partnership will shine a light on new service opportunities as so many AmeriCorps members graduate from AmeriCorps this summer. BoardSource helps connect thousands of volunteers to board service and leadership training. This partnership with AmeriCorps Alums creates a new member benefit that will make it easier for alumni to find opportunities to serve after AmeriCorps and take advantage of a discounted membership rate with BoardSource for the nonprofits where they work or volunteer.
The first time I learned about a “Board of Directors,” I was 11 years old. My father, the executive director at the homeless shelter in my hometown, was explaining to my grandmother why my family couldn’t make a Sunday lunch — he had a board meeting. She asked what a board did, and he explained that basically, the board was his partner and boss simultaneously. Obviously, there is more nuance than that in the relationship, but it was a good enough explanation for a pre-teen and his elderly grandmother to understand the structure.
Because I grew up around a small nonprofit that relied on volunteers to help it deliver its direct services, I saw both the impact of boards and other volunteers. I grew to respect and admire those individuals who volunteered and, when old enough, started volunteering myself. And almost every single time I completed a volunteer assignment — for a school system, a Boys and Girls Club, a food bank, or on the deck of the USS Missouri, for example — I would wonder, what else can I do? How can I become more involved? How can I impact the future of this organization? I wanted more!
So I joined AmeriCorps NCCC and helped get things done for America — both up front in operations and behind the scenes in back offices. And I’m not the only one. Not by a long shot. Today, there are nearly a million AmeriCorps alums. As a group, a recent survey reveals that alums are more diverse than the U.S. population, predominately between the ages of 21-35, and three out of four of us want to change the world. But how many alums who want to change the world are sitting on the boards of nonprofits with the same goal?
Well, according to BoardSource’s Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices 2015, less than 17 percent of all board members are under the age of 40. When you look at individuals under age 30, the percentage shrinks dramatically to 3 percent. Since most AmeriCorps alumni are within 21-35, it’s highly likely many of them have not yet found opportunities on boards or know what the impact could be by serving on one.
Why is this? Anecdotally, we hear that many younger people don’t know how to join a board or what it means to serve. Nonprofits tell us they don’t know where to find potential younger board members and aren’t sure what skills and interests they can bring to the table. What this says to me is that we aren’t doing enough to find each other, and that we are not communicating the vast array of skills and experience that Gen Xers, GenYers, and young alumni from programs like AmeriCorps bring to the table.
Becoming a nonprofit board member allows alums to demonstrate their continued passion for making a difference through volunteerism. Granted, board service often does not provide the immediate gratification that direct service delivery does, but give it time. As part of a committed team that shares a common passion, you will focus on the nonprofit’s long-term impact. You’ll use your unique skills, talents, and experience to provide oversight, define or refine the organization’s mission, and create a strategic vision and plan that will allow the organization to move forward in an effective yet responsible manner. You’ll be a decision maker and get to put your fingerprint on the legacy of a mission that you care deeply about. And, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your professional skills — in soft ways, such as deliberation and communication, as well as in the hard skills of financial intelligence and fiduciary oversight — and expand your professional network.
The new partnership between BoardSource and AmeriCorps Alums aims to make all of this more attainable. Together, we’re working to help alums understand how they can find the right opportunities for board service, access powerful tools and resources to learn what board service really means and how they can become high-performing board members who are having maximum impact on the organizations where they serve. Any AmeriCorps alum can click here to explore what board service is right for their interests and find a place to serve.
I think back to that conversation my father had with my grandmother often. And, I also recall that he retired from the same organization twice, citing burnout and needing to pass the torch to someone who had the passion he was losing. Here at BoardSource we speak with nonprofit CEOs all the time who cite these same reasons for why they’ve left or want to leave their positions. Being staff at a nonprofit is hard and often thankless work. And, I can think of no better partner than an engaged, passionate and knowledgeable board of directors. Boards that have talented individuals who understand the sector and the incredible amount of hard work that is needed keep nonprofit organizations thriving. Through our partnership with AmeriCorps Alums, alumni working or volunteering at nonprofits, can now explore a discounted membership with BoardSource (click here for full details about the discount and opportunities available through BoardSource membership).
Here at BoardSource, our mission is to create better boards and inspire board service; AmeriCorps Alums’ mission is to support all alumni in becoming engaged citizens and civic leaders. The nonprofit sector is looking to us — those who have already shown that we care about our communities— to step up once again. And this time around, as board leaders, we’ll have the opportunity to impact our communities for generations to come.