Event caters to potential nonprofit board membersWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo’s upcoming Board Fair event promises to match community-minded talent with interested nonprofits in order to fill vacant board seats.
People interested in becoming a board member at a local nonprofit will want to attend Board Fair: Engage, Inspire & Involve. The free event runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at The Toledo Club, 235 14th St. Sponsors are Columbia Gas of Ohio and The Andersons.
Event organizers are trying to meet the need for strong leadership in the nonprofit community while providing participants with a way to harness personal development. Many of the attendees have never served on a board before and need to learn the steps necessary to becoming a board member, said organizer Sara Swisher of EPIC Toledo.
To help the young professionals, Julie Payeff of The Andersons will present “Millennials and Boomers in the Board Room.” The 20-minute pres-entation will be given at 6 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Light appetizers and a cash bar will also be provided.
Swisher said 44 nonprofits plan to participate and she expects 200 attendees.
Board Fair got its start when Mike Anderson, chairman and CEO of The Andersons, approached Chris Kozak of Columbia Gas of Ohio with a problem: Only a small pool of people were being tapped for boards in the community.
Kozak in turn contacted EPIC Toledo, Leadership Toledo and 20 Under 40. After many conversations, Board Fair was born.
In its first year in 2013, 150 people showed up and 29 nonprofits participated — organizers had to turn some away.
“The goal and mission is to put interested individuals together with organizations who are looking for help,” Kozak said.
“It’s a pretty unique collaboration with EPIC Toledo, with 20 Under 40 and Leadership Toledo. Those organizations are nurturing and recognizing the next generation of leaders and we try to get everyone in the same room and say, ‘Here are some resources.’”
People will have the opportunity to explain what they do and what they have to offer. The hope is that individuals will have an interest in an organization or issue and be able to bring their interests and talents to a nonprofit.
Kozak is on several boards himself, including the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m very fortunate in doing what I do,” Kozak said. “I think it’s a way to build the community. I have two children in Northwest Ohio and I hope that they have opportunities. It’s the right thing to do when you’re at a certain stage of your career.”
Andy Hudak, a financial adviser with Transamerica Financial Advisors, attended Board Fair last year because he wanted to be connected to like-minded individuals.
“I did not know what to expect when I went to the Board Fair,” Hudak said. “I had no idea; I took my sister. We just met so many cool people. You get out of it what you put into it and it was a really good experience.”
Hudak subsequently joined the board of Ballet Theatre of Toledo. He’s also on the board of Northpointe Academy and Wildwood Environmental Academy, two charter schools.
He said the benefits of serving on a board are many, from learning about the business, the community and personal interaction, to becoming connected with sincere people that you would never meet elsewhere.
“All our advisers that come and work with us, I tell them to find a cause you’re passionate about that you can really grab onto and find an organization that serves. Board service really only takes a few hours a month out of your schedule at most, and it’s well worth the time so I highly recommend it,” he said.
Hudak will attend this year’s Board Fair as a recruiter for the boards he serves. He said he’ll look for individuals who want to serve the community, connect with others and bear some of the responsibility for the success of the organization.
EPIC Toledo member Amanda Coyle recently graduated from law school and passed the bar. She has always lived in Sylvania and wanted to give back to her community. Board Fair offered her a step in that direction last year.
She said the process was actually “a little stressful” with so many non-profits represented, but in the end she chose Family Service of Northwest Ohio, an organization that works to empower families through counseling and violence intervention.
Coyle was a natural fit with her family court experience, said Carol Smith, the executive office manager for Family Service of Northwest Ohio. Smith also attended the first Board Fair and said she met a crop of talented young professionals who were deeply committed to giving back.
“I was amazed at the people there who were truly interested in finding a niche in the nonprofit world,” she said.
Smith said the process of filling board seats is fraught with difficulties. Finding people who are genuinely interested in a nonprofit’s mission is hard, she said. Family Service of Northwest Ohio can take up to 18 board members and currently has 13 seats filled. Board members serve two or three year terms and are associated with the nonprofit an average of six years.
Smith hopes to see the same level of excitement and interest at this year’s Board Fair as she found at the last. Her organization is looking for engaged talent who are “dedicated to our mission, have leadership qualities and can bring a certain amount of expertise or guidance. It’s a volunteer board. If someone comes in and they’re engaged in our mission and stand behind us and get involved in our fundraising and activities, it’s golden.”
The mission of Family House is to keep families together during a difficult time — when they are homeless, said Executive Director Renee Palacios.
Family House does not do any marketing, but instead attends events like Board Fair to find the next generation of philanthropists who can continue the Family House mission.
Family House is currently full with 36 families, or 107 people, 70 of whom are children.
Last year, the organization found one board member and two ambassadors at Board Fair and this year is looking to discover more leaders who can take the reins of the organization.
“We can’t do Family House by ourself; we need help fundraising, in-kind donations and actually leadership of our organization,” Palacios said. “We need to share our mission, that we are out there and that we do amazing work.”