Interview with Gary Levante, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility at Berkshire Bank
Board Member: America’s Charities, Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. City of Pittsfield Community Development Board.
Choosing the right board: What are the three most important considerations?
When choosing to serve on a nonprofit’s board, there are three critical considerations for all individuals: Passion, Fit and Commitment.
Passion: You need to ensure you have the passion to do the work and that the organization’s mission aligns with your beliefs. Do your research, talk to the executive director, board members and look at their financials on Guidestar. Make sure the organization’s work energizes and inspires you to take action.
Fit: Make sure you have the expertise as well as skills to contribute meaningfully to the work. Ensure it’s aligned with both your personal and professional goals.
Commitment: Ask yourself if you have the time to take on the responsibilities of being an engaged board member. Can you be an active participant in board meetings, sub-committees and fundraising activities? If the answer is no, you would be doing yourself and the organization a disservice by accepting a board
The benefits of serving: What makes it worth it?
I’ve always found that I learn just as much from board participation as I give. The networking, skills development and the opportunity to take the lead on initiatives I may not otherwise have had the opportunity to do during my day job has helped me be a better, more inclusive leader. Board service is also one of the best ways for an individual to contribute their unique skills to affect positive change in the community.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were joining a nonprofit board?
When I joined my first board, I wish I had a better understanding of the important role a board member plays for a nonprofit organization. They are responsible for ensuring accountability, compliance, financial health and impact. That’s not something most nonprofits have the expertise or capacity to train new board members on and as a result, most individuals that join their first board are woefully unprepared. This presents a big opportunity for the private sector to step in and offer training to ensure the employees they’re providing to serve on an
organization’s board have a basic understanding of how nonprofits function as well as responsibilities that come with board service. More prepared board members produce stronger and more effective nonprofits.