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Dallas Regional Chamber Young Professionals “Get On Board” event features CFT’s Monica Egert Smith

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Dallas Regional Chamber Young Professionals “Get On Board” event features CFT’s Monica Egert Smith

Panel features nonprofit leaders discussing board service

The Dallas Regional Chamber Young Professionals (DRC YP) recently hosted area young professionals for a panel discussion featuring nonprofit leaders as part of their “Get On Board” initiative. The DRC YP provides young professionals the opportunity to grow leadership skills, serve the Dallas community, network with peers, and engage with political, civic, and business leaders. The “Get On Board” program is designed to educate young professionals on the nuances of sitting on a nonprofit board, while also helping to place them on notable nonprofit boards in the Dallas region.


The panel centered around what it takes to get on a board, what is expected once you join, and included many insights the panelists have learned through their own board service experiences.

Communities Foundation of Texas’chief relationship officer, Monica Egert Smith, kicked off the event and then moderated the panel. She overviewed the work of Communities Foundation of Texas, highlighting how CFT is a hub for philanthropy and community convener with the primary focus of working with individuals, families, companies and nonprofits to make giving easy, effective, and enjoyable.


Monica also shared with the room of young professionals that measuring the impact and outcomes of the charitable dollars you invest is extremely important as there’s always going to be countless deserving causes that need your support. Young professionals are encouraged to use the NorthTexasGivingDay.org website, to explore and learn more about area nonprofits they might not be familiar with or to support nonprofits that they already have an affinity for. Anyone can be a philanthropist through North Texas Giving Day, and the website is available year-round.

Monica highlighted the importance of identifying personal values when embarking on how to decide where to focus your time, talent and treasure to support nonprofits. By identifying the values that motivate you, you can have a “north star” to help guide your efforts in selecting nonprofits to serve and support. Monica facilitated an individual and group exercise to help prioritize the values that motivate the attendees. It was fascinating to hear the many different values that guide each of us in the room and how those can translate to board service.

The panel of nonprofit leaders included:

  • Dan Waldman, chair of the nominating and governance committee for the Dallas Theater Center
    • The Dallas Theater Center’s mission is to engage, entertain and inspire a diverse community by creating experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking and living
  • Stacy Malcolmson, president and CEO of the Senior Source
    • The Senior Source’s mission is to enhance the overall quality of life and empower all older adults in greater Dallas to thrive
  • Natalie Boyle, founder and CEO of Mommies in Need
    • Mommies in Need’s mission is to provide childcare, community, and compassion to parents going through cancer treatment and other major health crises
  • John DeFillipo, executive director of the John Bunker Sands Wetlands Center
    • The Center’s mission is to educate the public and provide research opportunities in the areas of water reuse, quality, and supply; wildlife conservation; and wetland systems


Below are some of the key takeaways from the panel:

What makes an ideal board member?

1. Being engaged! It is so important to find an organization that matches your passions. You’re busy, this is volunteer work, and it often includes meetings, homework, fundraising to help support the organization and more. Alignment with something you are passionate about is key to staying engaged.

2. You need to take time to really understand and educate yourself about the differences between a board member and a staff member. Board members are often the ones ensuring staff are advancing the mission at a high level but need to remember not to get into the weeds on everything.

– Dan Waldman of Dallas Theater Center

Why are you interested in having younger board members join your board?

At the Senior Source, we’re focused on how we can serve both our most frail and most active seniors, how we can treat people with dignity by giving them opportunities to interact with our community. Young professionals bring a fresh lens and younger perspective. They have grandparents and can think about how best to help and engage our seniors. They can also manage calendars better, have less technology challenges, and can help encourage board and staff to use technology to the best of our abilities to serve our seniors. Younger board members can continue to help us “be where the seniors are going to be” especially on the digital front.

– Stacy Malcolmson of the Senior Source

How do the needs of board members of newer nonprofits differ from established nonprofits?

Mommies In Need is a 4.5 year old organization. We were very much a working board in the beginning. We had no staff. Now, we are trying to add more members to focus more on governance and mission. We currently have a smaller board and each board member contributes their individual expertise, we’re a very interactive board. For example, in 2020 we will be opening a childcare drop in center on the Parkland Hospital campus. This partnership originated through one of our board members! It’s important as a board member to be willing to share your social capital. We don’t have a required monetary amount that board members need to give annually, and instead encourage board members to share our mission with others.

– Natalie Boyle of Mommies In Need

Can you tell us more about the process of serving on a board?

It really does differ from organization to organization. At Dallas Theater Center, we nominate a class every year. We have 60 – 70 people on our board, which is often typical for an arts organization. The majority of what we do is related to fundraising, so we need a lot of people to accomplish that. We go through an annual recruitment process. We try to keep our eye on building a pipeline of people in community that could join the board in the future. We look at what gaps we have in relation to our 5 year strategic plan and try to recruit accordingly. We are focusing on attracting more diversity, which also includes diversity in age. We are rethinking how we market our programs as more young people move to the city and to downtown. We’re very much interested in how we can attract them to the theater and get them engaged, which we’ll certainly need guidance and help from young professionals to achieve.

– Dan Waldman of Dallas Theater Center

Dan also encouraged young professionals to identify their passions and how those might apply to board service. Once you’ve identified boards you might be interested in, do some research and reach out to a few board members, perhaps through Linkedin or email. Most nonprofits list their board members on their website. Ask them what they personally like about the organization and ask some questions to get inside information about the process of joining as well as the roles of the board.

Fundraising is often not in everyone’s comfort zone. Are there ways for young professionals to serve if they don’t have a lot of capacity to give and don’t love to ask for money?

Of course! If you are passionate, you are telling your friends about the cause. It comes naturally. Once you invite others to attend events, it becomes easier to ask once people are engaged. Try starting with: “Won’t you join me in doing this?” or “Let’s get a table together and support this cause together.” If people see your passion, they will often share your passion. It can take a long time to get there, so be patient.

Another thing that young people can bring to the table is corporate support. You work for companies that have philanthropic priorities and passions. Make an introduction for the nonprofit to your CEO or the head of community philanthropy. You can help make the company connection – it’s as simple as making that introduction, and the nonprofit can take it from there!

There are also ample ways to support crowdsourced fundraising, especially through North Texas Giving Day. You and your peers can make FUNdraising pages to help support the causes you care about and encourage your friends and colleagues to give with you!

– Stacy Malcolmson of the Senior Source

Dan Waldman encouraged young professionals joining boards with fundraising goals to have a conversation with the board regarding what support the board can provide in helping to reach those goals. For example, the Dallas Theater Center has a patron perks program that starts at $50/year that they’d love more young professionals to support and get involved. If you can help start relationships with someone young, that’s important. There are lots of different and creative ways to meet board fundraising requirements.

It was also noted that even if you can only give a little, it’s vital to boards to have 100% board participation in giving, especially as funders often look for this on grant applications.

Any other tips?

Finding the “right” board is a two-way conversation. The person considering joining should ask a lot of clarifying questions.  – Natalie Boyle of Mommies In Need

When thinking about a board, you know why you are interested. Do you know why the organization is interested in you and what you bring to the table? Get that clarity on the front end or your board experience may end up being less fulfilling. – Dan Waldman of Dallas Theater Center

Jump in! Roll up your sleeves, get engaged, smile, and introduce yourself to your fellow board members. Just taking these steps will go a long way to kick off a great life experience in serving on your first board. – John DeFillipo, executive director of the John Bunker Sands Wetlands Center

Treat board positions as seriously as you would treat a job. Think about how it will benefit you both professionally and personally. What skills do you plan to gain? How will this help you grow? When interviewing for a board position, come prepared, just as you would for a job interview. – Stacy Malcolmson of the Senior Source

Make sure you know if you are joining a working board or a governing board and what the anticipated time commitments are.  – John DeFillipo, executive director of the John Bunker Sands Wetlands Center

In closing, the panel discussed that as a board member, you serve as an advocate of the organization. Your goals are to raise awareness, be a fundraiser and a friend-raiser, share your social capital and relationships, review financials, set strategy, and assess the work of the CEO or executive director. These things are all part of the expectation package as a board member. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a new board member, you provide a lot of value because of your fresh perspective. Challenge things, push back a little, and don’t be afraid to jump in or raise your hand regardless of how long you’ve been involved!

Thanks to each of the panelists for their insights!


Nicole Paquette
Nicole Paquette
Senior Director, Communications, Public Relations, and External Affairs

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