Today I completed the Linkages Program, a training and placement program for future board of directors hosted by the United Way of New York. I've worked in the nonprofit sector off and on in my career, and I've been a volunteer at a variety of nonprofits my whole life. I went to the training thinking I knew everything there was to know about how nonprofits operate. I was wrong - from the moment I cracked open my training manual, I discovered that I had a lot to learn when it comes to nonprofit boards.
It's a testament to the United Way, and to my employer who paid for my attendance in the training program, that they recognize that most people, no matter how deeply involved they are in nonprofit work, don't really understand the ins and out of board operations. A weak board makes for a weak organization, and the United Way has stepped in to change that. In 2004, they conducted a study and of the surveyed Executive Directors: 45% planned to retire within 5 years, 57% had no professional development program within their organizations, and 68% ran organizations with no succession plans. New York City's nonprofits, and all of the vital services they provide to so many in this city, were in trouble.
In just 5 short years, the United Way is turning the tide. I was thoroughly impressed with the incredibly high caliber of the people in my class. Passionate, concerned, committed. We are willing to put our resources of time and money on the line to improve New York's nonprofits and the United Way is helping us succeed. We are ready, willing, and able to stand up and be counted.
Call it the Obama effect. Call it people wanting to find fulfillment in a time when so many feel down-trodden by the state of the economy. Call it the responsibility that comes with being extremely fortunate in a time when so many others face misfortune. I call it hope.