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How do you pick a charitable board to serve on?

Deciding which nonprofits deserve your time is a deeply personal decision


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I decided early in my career that I wanted to carve out time to give back to the community. We have an array of amazing nonprofits in Colorado and I have been fortunate to have been involved in many over the past 27 years. As a result, I often get asked about how I choose the charitable organizations where I dedicate my time and talent. It’s not an easy question to answer, but there are a few things I look for before committing.

Great leadership

CEOs play a key role in the success of many companies, but executive leadership can be even more important for a nonprofit. I look for CEOs and executive directors who possess an authentic passion for the mission as well as the charisma to attract top talent and outstanding board members. These leaders need to raise money, manage staff and answer to sometimes challenging, all-volunteer boards. Doing just one of these tasks correctly can be difficult but mastering all three can take a herculean effort.

Personal connection

It’s my belief that having a personal connection to a nonprofit creates a passion and deeper loyalty for the organization’s mission. In my case, I became involved in Children’s Hospital Colorado after the nurses and doctors saved my son Moses’ life when he suffered a near fatal brain aneurism at the age of seven. Talk about wanting to give back in gratitude.

I have been on the board at the Foundation for over 20 years now and currently serve as chair of the Foundation board. Likewise, my involvement in the Women’s Foundation of Colorado stemmed from my desire to more closely connect with my daughter Caroline, and to find a way to help empower her and other women to reach their full potential. I co-founded the Dads for Daughters giving program at the Foundation, which encourages men to advance and accelerate economic opportunities for Colorado women and their families. 

The ability to make an impact

Nobody wants to serve on a board if they can’t contribute or make a significant difference. Life is too short, and the most successful people are too busy running their own companies or working in a senior management position to waste time on something that doesn’t utilize their skills.

Given my background as an investment advisor, the most natural way to help the nonprofits I was involved in was to chair their investment committees. In many instances, that was a task I could do almost immediately, thanks to my financial industry experience.

As an example, I’ve been happy to lend my expertise to CollegeInvest, the provider of the state’s 529 savings plans. As vice-chair of the organization, I recently accompanied the CEO and another board member on a due diligence trip, where the questions I asked help to determine whether to retain one of the organization’s investment managers.

 

Deciding which nonprofits deserve your time is a deeply personal decision. For me, dynamic leadership, a personal connection and the ability to impact the organization make up my litmus test. If I can check the boxes on all three of those items, then the chances are good that I’ve selected an organization that I will enjoy working for, and one that will benefit from my time.

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Fred Taylor

Fred Taylor is president and co-founder of Northstar Investment Advisors, LLC. The firm specializes in managing personalized investment portfolios for individuals, families, and retirees with a focus on income generation. He is a member of the Colorado Forum and also served as an economic advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter from 2008 to 2010.

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