Come January, I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary as a board member of Literacy Unlimited, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing lives through improving adult literacy. This incredible cause is devoted to educating those who do not have the tools to learn to read, by offering dedicated tutors and individual coaching along the way.
Literacy is key for economic progress, as well as individual and community welfare. As Nelson Mandela once said –
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
For this reason, amongst others, I feel both humbled and excited by this opportunity. Not only is this the chance to give back by sharing my knowledge and expertise, but also to gain a new set of skills and learn from those around me. This first anniversary milestone has encouraged me to look back and reflect on my greatest takeaways from this incredibly fulfilling experience.
Foremost, contributing to a Board of Directors takes both time and dedication, especially while juggling a career, family, and everything in between. However, supporting a cause bigger than oneself makes the sacrifices all worth it when push comes to shove. Building social capital provides professional and personal inspiration, and there is no greater feeling than being able to contribute to something so collaborative and meaningful.
Secondly, strategic alignment amongst board members is fundamental in cultivating a culture of philanthropy. Below are a few key points that I have learned throughout my journey as a board member of Literacy Unlimited:
- Grasping a better understanding of the philanthropic landscape and why people choose to give
- Fundraising best practices
- Clarification of board members’ objectives and responsibilities in the organization
- Distinct definitions of all roles of staff and board members
In regard to fundraising, tapping into individual networks is essential. The sheer bandwidth of each of our connections is undeniable. Qualified prospects exist in several of a board member’s circles, whether it be through business relationships, personal, religious/faith community, extra curricular activities, clients, or neighbours.
In addition, I recognize that the diverse backgrounds and rich experiences that our board members bring to the table are a crucial base for making future-oriented decisions. Being a part of the board of Literacy Unlimited, I have been able to contribute and exercise the experiences I gained during my studies, professional life, as well as my personal developments.
As my one year comes to an end, I am grateful for the opportunity of serving as a member of Literacy Unlimited, and for the individuals I have met along the way. Giving back to the nonprofit sector is a major force in our society. In particular, strong, educated and active board members alongside dedicated men and women in other important philanthropic functions aid in the innovation and growth of this sphere. I truly look forward to continuing my work for Literacy Unlimited in the year to come.
Catherine Sumague, MBA