FAQs

Kellogg Board Fellows

How does the fellow participate on the board? What happens when the board needs to go into executive session?
The exact ways in which the fellow participates on the board is up to the nonprofit, its board of directors and the fellow. Ideally, and in fact most often, the fellow is treated like every other board member (except they are not officially on the board, and therefore, do not vote and are not asked to contribute financially). Board fellows sit at the board table and contribute to discussions. Most, if not all, organizations include board fellows in executive sessions with the expectation that they will observe the same standards of confidentiality as other board members.

Should the fellow participate on a board committee as well?
Absolutely! The primary goal of the Kellogg Board Fellow Program is for each fellow to gain insight into how a board deliberates and makes decisions. Therefore, in organizations where the work of the board is done at the committee level, the fellow should participate on a committee. Most often, the project area comes from the work on which the committee is focusing.

Kellogg Board Fellows

How much time will the fellow put in?
Kellogg Board Fellows are extraordinarily hard workers. The fellowship involves both the experience of serving on a nonprofit board and the completion of two courses on nonprofit board governance. The fellows are also full-time students and most are actively seeking employment. In general, the nonprofit can expect the fellow to commit a similar amount of time to that of an active board member. In terms of the project or projects, the best ones are those the fellow can do to some extent on their own time, rather than being in an office during specific hours each week.

How is the fellow different from a student intern?
The Kellogg Board Fellows Program focuses on the nonprofit board governance experience, rather than the day-to-day workings of a nonprofit organization. In addition, Kellogg students come to their graduate education with several years of work experience in a variety of fields – often major corporations and consulting firms, yet the public and nonprofit sectors too. Regardless of their specific background, fellows hone a number of important management skills—in finance, strategy, accounting, marketing and the like during their coursework at Kellogg. The fellow can be a valuable member of the governance team, bringing expertise and skills to the organization. Unlike an intern, they will not require supervision.

How much time will this take for the nonprofit?
Organizations are required to assign a board mentor to the fellow. The mentor should be a current member of the board, have the time to provide advice and guidance throughout the fellowship, and support the fellow's project work. In addition to the role of the mentor, the CEO will work with the fellow and mentor in identifying a mutually agreeable project. Finally, we ask that both the CEO and the board mentor attend the annual breakfast held in May.

What are the qualities of a good mentor?
A good mentor is someone who has been on the board of directors long enough to have a thorough understanding of the work of the board and has the time to and interest in sharing his/her insights on being an effective board member.

When is the ideal time to identify the project?
Early discussion of the project is key. We recommend identifying a project area in the spring and finalizing the details by fall.

Can you more thoroughly explain what you mean by a project?
The project can be working with a board committee, as other board members do, or it can be a discrete piece of work. While often a fellow will produce a report to summarize his/her work in regards to the project, this not a requirement and may not be necessary given the nature of the project(s). A good project will be one that is important to the board of directors, uses the fellow’s skills and expertise and furthers the work of a board committee or the board as a whole.  Some questions to consider when identifying the project(s) include:

  • Is it important to the board of directors?
  • Will the results be discussed and used by the board?
  • Is it clearly defined, discrete (e.g. has a beginning and an end) and been agreed upon by the mentor, the CEO, and the fellow?
  • Is it strategic in nature?
  • Does the project use the fellow’s experience and expertise?

Can you provide some examples of past projects?
Generally, the project(s) have two broad results. The first type of project mirrors the type of work you would see from an active, engaged board member and most often happens at the committee level.  It may or may not culminate in a formal paper and would include things like:

  • Work with the strategic planning committee on designing the annual retreat.
  • Work with the marketing committee to revamp the marketing plan.
  • Work with the fund development committee to roll out a major gift initiative.

The second type is a discrete project with a final product, which is presented to the board of directors. For example: 

  • Develop a board manual and orientation program.
  • Develop a CEO succession plan.
  • Establish procedures for recruiting new members to further diversify the board of directors.
  • Create a self-evaluation "report card" to help keep best practices, roles, and responsibilities of board members top of mind. 

How is the fellow matched with an organization?
In early October, we invite interested organizations to apply for the upcoming year. Organizations have approximately 3 weeks to complete the brief application online. In January, the incoming fellows review the prospective partner organization list and the information provided by the application, and based upon their preferences, are preliminarily matched with an organization. After the matches have been announced, the fellow interviews the organization to determine whether he/she will join the board. 

How do I apply to be a host organization?
Email kelloggboardfellows@kellogg.northwestern.edu.  

Do you have any advice for organizations during the interview process?
Yes!  First and foremost, keep on top of your emails from us during the period of time from January to April.  We will notify you if you have been preliminarily matched with a fellow. Once notified, make sure you are available to meet with the fellow within the next two weeks.  If you are not in the office, notify us immediately and identify an alternate contact for the fellow.  Finally, be sure to arrange for the fellow to talk with a member of the board of directors, since this is the group of individuals he/she will be working with for the year.

Who is in charge of the program and whom do I talk to with questions?
While Kellogg students have designed this program and will remain leaders of it, Professor Donald Haider is the Academic Director. Questions and concerns can be directed to him at 847-491-8701 or at d-haider@kellogg.northwestern.edu or to kelloggboardfellows@kellogg.northwestern.edu.