In the world of nonprofits, connection is critical. Caring, while extremely important, is only part of the path to success.
So, if you are on a nonprofit board, are you on the right board for you?
There is a new nonprofit organization in Fort Worth that can help determine that. BoardBuild is designed to help other nonprofit groups find the right people for the right boards of directors.
BoardBuild trains leaders to serve on nonprofit boards and then matches them to the boards best suited for them. They implement self-paced training, along with an algorithm-based matching system to align personal skills and interests with the needs of nonprofit organizations.
“Many companies and professions expect key leaders to serve on nonprofit boards, but few equip their leaders to know what to do once they get on a board,” said Pam Cannell, president and CEO of BoardBuild. “Recent studies have shown that positive social impact correlates with higher job satisfaction. BoardBuild partners with companies to train employees to serve on boards, and then places them on boards that align with company-wide CSR strategies.”
BoardBuild was founded in 2018 as a collaborative partnership between United Way Tarrant County and Leadership Fort Worth.
As part of its mission BoardBuild’s seeks to strengthen North Texas nonprofit boards by connecting them with diverse emerging and established leaders, creating boards that better represent the overall population. Nationally, according to Board Source, the average nonprofit board is 78.6% white, 53% male, and 83.1% over 40 years old – all considerably higher than that of the overall population.
The way Cannell and the folks at BoardBuild see it, this is a critical problem. They ask the question: If nonprofits are here to serve the people and drive change, can boards with such a lack of diversity truly build stronger communities?
“The two questions nonprofits ask us most frequently are ‘How can I get my board engaged,’ and ‘how can we attract younger members to our board?’ These are both excellent questions that, if addressed, will drive organizational performance,” Cannell said. “BoardBuild can help with both. By clarifying board member roles and responsibilities through our online training, as well as utilizing our pipeline of trained, diverse candidates, nonprofits can increase capacity.”
Yet, as Cannell noted, nonprofit boards have been resistant to change, often preferring the status quo over innovation. While not throwing a proverbial blanket over all nonprofit boards, she said far too many fall into this description.
“The social sector has a rich history of innovation, including the creation of HeadStart, Pell Grants, the development of the 911 system, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. However, nonprofits traditionally are resource-starved, placing technology and providing for those that understand technology at a lower priority,” she said. “BoardBuild is a technology-driven change to the old way of sourcing board members through existing networks.”
Cannell said BoardBuild has trained over 350 community leaders to serve on boards since its launch in 2019, and has placed close to 100 of these diverse leaders on local boards.
“These stories of success will help to change an ingrained mindset of board member recruitment,” she said.
With an aging board and a commitment to equity, the Fort Worth Opera reached out to BoardBuild.
“Board work this year has been an absolute delight because of all the great new recruits,” said Ryan Krause, Fort Worth Opera board chairman.
For-profit businesses such as Richardson-based Fossil Group Inc. also can benefit from BoardBuild by using the organization to train employees who want to serve on boards.
‘When it comes to enhancing communities, we aspire to leverage our one-of-a-kind skills to be a significant force for good,” said Kara DeVita, Fossil Group’s senior director-social impact executive director. “We are excited to launch a pilot program with BoardBuild, an innovative organization committed to matching diverse, trained leaders to open nonprofit board and committee positions.”
BoardBuild has also announced the launch of its newest online, on-demand course entitled Governance with Equity: DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) for Nonprofit Boards.
Although BoardBuild is a nonprofit itself, it is also a software solutions startup on a quest to take its platform across the nation. The company notes that as the effects of the pandemic begins to subside, BoardBuild is poised to grow with a national partnership currently in the works.