Doug Haynes: Board Director at Camp Southern Ground‍

Doug HaynesIn the nonprofit world, board service is akin to a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience that allows you to give back and help your organization succeed. On the other hand, it can feel like a giant time suck, especially if you’re just getting started in this line of work.

However, regardless of which side of the sword you find yourself on at any given time, serving on the board of a nonprofit organization is almost always a good idea for anyone who wants to positively impact the world and build their resume at the same time. And there are few better places to find board service opportunities than with your local youth organization. From day camps to overnight retreats, there are plenty of ways to serve as a board member without committing to long-term obligations or significantly altering your lifestyle. Here are a few tips on getting involved as soon as possible.

Find Your Passion

The best way to find your passion as per Doug Haynes is to explore your interests and see what bubbles to the surface. If you don’t know where to start, think about what made you excited as a kid. What made you lose track of time? What made you unplug from the rest of the world? What made you feel like you made a difference? What made you feel like you found your calling? What do you love to share with others? What do you hope other kids find as inspiring as you do? How do you hope to inspire others?

Narrow Down Your Choices

Once you’ve figured out what you want to be a part of, it’s time to narrow down your options. You can start by getting in touch with your local organizations and seeing what positions are currently open. Talk to the executive director, or if you’re bold, reach out directly to the board president. Do you have to join an existing board? Not. Any youth-focused organization (a YMCA camp, a summer day camp, a church youth group, etc.) always looks for new members. Even if they don’t have an open position right now, they can always create one for you. You get to decide what kind of engagement you want to have.

Commit to the Path of Least Resistance

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably feeling pretty raved about all the different ways you might be able to get involved with your community. There are diverse things you want to do and make a difference with. However, it’s important to remember that not all commitments are created equal. In general, it’s a good idea to prioritize the path of least resistance in terms of finding places to serve. This means steering clear of any commitments likely to cause you more harm than good. For example, suppose you’re starting in the nonprofit world. In that case, it might not be a good idea to join the board of a large organization, like Habitat for Humanity, even if you’re interested in serving there. It’ll take a long time to get up to speed, and you’ll probably have to make a few mistakes.

Estimate Your Time Commitment

Even if you’re super-excited about the opportunity you’ve decided to take, it’s important to ensure it’s realistic for you. At the beginning of every board term, a good rule is to ensure you’re not committing more than 10% of your time. This varies by organization, but most youth associations are looking for board members who can give a few hours per month. This is different than committing to the board full-time, which likely wouldn’t be worth the effort for anyone. Every organization is unique, but if you’re not sure what to expect, it’s a good idea to talk to someone who’s been through the process before. Reach out to a friend who’s already on a board, or ask the executive director or president of the organization you’re considering joining what the typical expectations are.

Take Action

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to put those skills to use. Start by reaching out to your community. Don’t be afraid to cold call or cold email. Almost every organization is looking for new members, and you’ll probably find that most people are very receptive to newcomers. Whatever you do, don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to knock. Go out there and find them. If you’re looking for ways to get involved as a young adult, there are plenty of places to start. From your local YMCA to your church youth group, you can find dozens of organizations looking for new members to serve on their boards.