Bring a fresh perspective to your nonprofit board
Each academic year, the Golub Capital Board Fellows Program partners with Chicago-area nonprofit organizations to host fellows on their boards of directors.
Nonprofits who participate in the Board Fellows program benefit in a number of ways: tapping into the talents and insights of a Kellogg student; delegating an important strategic project to a fellow; accessing the Kellogg and Northwestern community; and developing the next generation of civic leaders.
Through the program, fellows serve on nonprofit boards as ex-officio members. Each fellow is assigned a board mentor and works in close collaboration with the executive director/CEO of the organization throughout their board service.
Role of fellow. Typically, boards treat their fellows as peers; fellows sit at the board table and contribute to board discussions. However, the way in which the fellow participates on the board should be collectively determined by the nonprofit’s executive director/CEO, board of directors, board mentor and fellow. The goal is to help fellows to deepen their understanding of how a board deliberates and makes decisions.
Commitment of fellow. A nonprofit can expect a fellow to commit a similar amount of time to the board as an active board member. In the summer, however, fellows often travel outside of Chicago for internships. During this time, fellows are asked to call into board meetings or attend board functions if they are in the area.
Participation on committees. In organizations where board responsibilities are completed at the committee level, the fellow is encouraged to participate on a committee. Students often complete a project that is directly related to the committee’s area of focus.
The program welcomes applications from nonprofits interested in hosting a fellow. Applications are due annually in October.
- Email Golub Capital Board Fellows to arrange a meeting between your organization and the program manager.
- If your organization and the program are deemed a good fit, the program manager will send you an application to complete.
- Submit your application before the fall deadline.
- Matches, informed by student preferences, are made in January.
Golub Capital Board Fellows Program is designed to provide mutual benefit to the fellow and organization. Nonprofit partners support the success of this partnership in the following ways.
- Assign a board mentor to the fellow. A good mentor is someone who has served the board of directors long enough to have a thorough understanding of its work. Former board chairs are often very good mentors. The mentor should be a current member of the board, have time to provide advice and guidance throughout the fellowship, and support the fellow's project work.
- Collaborate to scope a project. The executive director/CEO, board mentor and fellow should work together to determine a project for the fellow to complete.
- Attend two events. Both the executive director/CEO and board mentor are asked to attend the Nonprofit Orientation (held in March) and annual Golub Capital Board Fellows breakfast (held in May).
- Provide orientation and guidance. The organization should spend time orienting the fellow to the board and organization. In addition, mentors should schedule regular meetings (e.g., once a month or more) with the fellow outside of board meetings.
- Sign an LOU. After being matched with a fellow, the nonprofit must sign a Letter of Understanding (LOU) that outlines student and nonprofit expectations.
Kellogg requires each fellow to complete a strategic project for the nonprofit organization. Fellows must complete their projects by the end of April in the second year of the program.
Defining success. Golub Capital Board Fellows defines a good project as one that is (1) important to the board of directors (2) uses the fellow’s skills and expertise and (3) furthers the work of a board or board committee. When identifying and scoping a project, consider the following questions:
- Is this project important to the board of directors?
- Will the results be discussed and used by the board?
- Is the project clearly defined and discrete (i.e., it has a beginning and an end)?
- Is the project agreed upon by the mentor, the executive director/CEO and the fellow?
- Is the project strategic?
- Is the project suited to the fellow’s experience and expertise?
Recommended process. Early discussion of the project is key to its success. In the spring of the first year, work with the fellow to identify a project area. In the fall, finalize the project scope and details. (Note that fellows typically attend internships in the summer.)
It’s best to identify a project that the fellow can complete, to an extent, on their own time. Fellows typically have demanding schedules; they have to balance board service with their full-time studies (which includes courses in board governance) while actively seeking employment.
Presenting the project. It is expected that the Fellow present their work to the board at the end of the fellowship.
Past projects: Topic areas
Financial Strategy & Analysis
Annual fund trends
Planned giving best practices
Governance & Strategy
Junior/advisory board development
Enterprise Risk Management
Marketing & Insights
Website and social media strategy
Customer evaluation and data analysis
Hiring practice evaluation
Talent Management/Human Resources
Fellows can serve as valuable members of nonprofit boards. On average, these students are 28 years old and have approximately five years of work experience. They bring skills and expertise from a variety of industries; some have worked for major corporations and consulting firms while others come from the public and nonprofit sectors.
Before serving on a board, fellows are required to complete the Kellogg course Board Governance of Nonprofit Organizations. While serving on the board, the fellow must be enrolled in Advanced Board Governance, a 10-session course.
Fellows come to board service with some knowledge of the following topics:
- An overview of nonprofit sectors and role of nonprofit boards
- An overview of nonprofit funding sources (e.g., fundraising, earned and raised revenue, government grants and contracts)
- Fiduciary and legal duties and expectations
- Nonprofit accounting and basic finance
- Basic responsibilities of board members
- Parliamentary procedure and how boards get work done
- Roles and interactions of board chairs and chief executives of nonprofits
- Life stages of nonprofit organizations
- Habits of highly effective boards
Program timeline for nonprofits Year 1 October The Golub Capital Board Fellows program sends application to interested nonprofits. December Applications due from nonprofits. February Nonprofits learn whether they are matched with a student. March Matched nonprofits attend orientation event on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. April - May Nonprofits begin working with fellows. Fellows are introduced at a board meeting and assigned to a committee and mentor. Projects are outlined. Late May Golub Capital Board Fellows Program hosts annual breakfast on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. June - September Quiet period; fellows are typically away at summer internships, but are encouraged to call in to board/committee meetings. Year 2 October - May Mentors and fellows meet. Fellows attend board and committee meetings and work on projects. April / Early May Projects are completed. Ideally, fellows present work to boards or relevant board committees. Late May Golub Capital Board Fellows Program hosts annual breakfast on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.
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