It's common knowledge that millions of dollars are invested each year in executive leadership development, corporate training programs, seminars and conferences. Yet, one of the greatest tools for developing the next generation of community leaders may be found by serving as a volunteer with one of many nonprofits.
Many corporations are encouraging their high potential talent to engage in a community-based organization and serve in a leadership position on a nonprofit board, not only for altruistic reasons, but to develop the skills that will ultimately help their employees reach their leadership potential.
Through my years in the nonprofit world - and in working with volunteers at all levels, I can offer these recommendations in helping your own young employees give back to our community:
1. Encourage young members of our community to take on challenges and get involved in opportunities that foster their own growth and development.
2. Provide and promote opportunities that inspire employees to engage in something they are passionate about, giving their time, talent and treasure.
3. Support initiatives that both provide your employees opportunities to use their skills and deepen their knowledge about our community.
4. Recognize individuals frequently for their contributions and philanthropic efforts.
5. In the words of John Quincy Adams, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." Be the person who inspires others to give back.
Serving on nonprofit boards provide "real-time and real-world" experience in strategic and financial leadership, participation in envisioning the organization's potential, practical skill building in working with teams, and valuable networking opportunities. Learning to work in a collaborative environment and develop ways to measure success in creating social change enhances problem solving and decision-making abilities in all settings. Board leaders enhance both their leadership and management skills, gain a greater understanding of and connection to the community and have the opportunity to make a significant difference in a cause that they believe in.
Whether a homeless shelter, a literacy organization or a neighborhood center, nonprofits are our community’s vehicles for addressing civic needs and solving community problems. They are also a laboratory for civic leadership, innovation and community building. We know that the more we can connect our talented professionals into the civic life of our community, the more likely it is that they will build their careers and raise their families here in Indianapolis. Their skills and expertise, ideas and aspirations are what this city needs to continue its growth into the future.
So how do members of the next generation of community volunteers find the right civic "fit?" There are many valuable efforts to develop civic leaders in Indianapolis. But one opportunity to experience the vast diversity and richness of central Indiana’s nonprofit community takes place on October 1 from 4:00 to 6:30 pm at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Get on Board, an event hosted by Lacy Leadership Association, will showcase over 100 nonprofit organizations in an expo-type setting. Free to the public and open to all, this event seeks to introduce opportunities to serve on nonprofit boards and in volunteer leadership positions to all those who care about our city.
I encourage you to invite your colleagues and your employees to explore the nonprofit world of Indianapolis and begin engaging your corporate talent in the leadership learning of nonprofit board service. We hope that we are making it easier for them through events such as Get on Board. Join us! Engage! Give back!
Ruthie Purcell-Jones is serving as the Interim Executive Director for Lacy Leadership Association.
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