Volunteering on a charitable board keeps full-time mom engaged with community

IMG_4284[14]

Interview with Laurie Lyle
President-Elect, Kiwanis Club of Toronto and Kiwanis Toronto Foundation Board Member
Former President of Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs
Mom of two young children

A few years ago, Laurie wanted to apply the skills and experience she had acquired during her professional career to a role on a charitable board. She wasn’t sure where to start, but luckily she found BoardMatch on the internet and discovered several charities searching for people with her qualifications.

BoardMatch connected her with Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs and after meeting the Executive Director and both agreeing it would be a good fit, she joined their board. During her seven years on the board she served as Treasurer, Fundraising Chair, Vice-President and President. She then moved onto the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, where she is currently President-Elect. The Kiwanis Club of Toronto and its Foundation fund the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs, the Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival, post-secondary scholarships and other GTA children and youth charities.

Laurie gets a lot of satisfaction from her charitable board work and encourages other stay-at-home moms to give it a try. She spoke with BoardMatch about her personal board journey and why charitable boards and stay-at-home moms are a great fit.

What got you interested in charitable board work?
My previous career was in non-profit management. I worked for many years with boards and committees from the other side of the table, as a staffer, so I understood the role of a board/committee member and knew my experience in events, marketing, sponsorship, and association management were sought after by many non-profits and charities.

How did you hear about BoardMatch?
When my husband and I were ready to start a family, we agreed I’d stay home with the children. I knew I wanted to stay engaged in the working world – but without the rigours of a full-time job. Volunteering on a non-profit or charity board would enable me to continue doing meaningful work AND be a full-time mom.

The challenge was finding a Board. I did not know BoardMatch existed. I did a random search online for “join a board” and up came BoardMatch! I completed the registration for BoardMatch Fundamentals – the online education program that outlines the roles and responsibilities of board members. Then I uploaded my resume and the process took off.  Two charities offered me a seat on their boards within a week, one of which was the Toronto Kiwanis Toronto Boys and Girls Clubs. They were the best fit for me.  Within two months of joining BoardMatch, I was a board member!

What do you think is the benefit to being on a Board?
Besides it making you feel like you are a member of a team working to better the lives of people in your community, it gives you self-satisfaction. Being philanthropic, giving money and/or time, makes you feel great inside.

It’s also a perfect way to stay relevant. In the future, if I decide to return to the working world, there won’t be a huge gap in my résumé. It will show that I have been active the whole time I was at home with my children. It also gave me a reason to maintain business contacts, stay up-to-date on industry trends and technology.

Tell me more about Kiwanis Club of Toronto?
After seven years with Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs, including a term as president, I moved onto the board of the Kiwanis Club, the parent organization to the Boys and Girls Club.  Kiwanis is a service club, similar to Lions and Rotary. Kiwanis is a global organization of members in 80 countries, dedicated to serving the children of the world. Kiwanis Toronto, has helped the children and youth of Toronto’s inner-city for 100 years!  Our charitable foundation’s endowment enables us to fund the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, the Toronto Music Festival, post-secondary scholarships, and a wide-range of organizations in the GTA that provide children and youth with the chance to learn and succeed.

Could you tell me more about the board’s role?
When I was at the Boys and Girls Clubs, the board’s decisions had a direct impact on the services provided. There were many functional decision to be made including programs and services, operations, budgets, funding, and human resources/staffing. At Kiwanis Toronto, the Club board is primarily responsible for membership recruitment/retention, meeting management, budgets, and policy. The Foundation board places emphasis on the work of fundraising, doing service and awarding grants to children’s charities.

If you are interested in being close to the people you serve, and want to make a direct impact, a charity like the Boys and Girls Clubs is a good choice. If you are suited for more of an administration role, then joining a non-profit or foundation would be a good fit.  I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to serve on both types of boards!

What advice do you give to organizations looking for new board members?
At the Boys and Girls Club one thing we did was encourage everyone to join a committee first, to understand the level of commitment required before they took a seat on the board. In doing so, organizations can create a great board succession plan because you will always have a pool of committee members to draw from. Committee involvement first also helps the potential board member and the non-profit board get to know each other and see if it is a good fit before making a long-term commitment. I learned this in hindsight. In my case, I was elected to the board at my first meeting and was even made Treasurer! Thankfully, it was a perfect fit and I enjoyed seven wonderful years on the board.

If you don’t have committees, have candidates shadow a board member for a few months before they join the board. At the very least, ask candidates to go to three or four board meetings beforehand, so they understand volunteer work is a commitment.  Boards should also be looking for directors who can commit to at least three to five years and are willing to make some time each week to be engaged. Personally, I spend at least 10 hours a week working for my charity and I’ve been on a board now for more than 9 years.

Any advice for people seeking a board position?
Register for BoardMatch!  Find an organization/cause that really speaks to you. Join a committee first or ask to sit in on a few board meetings before joining.  Understand the expectations and learn the dynamics of the board before agreeing to sit at the board of directors table.

Thank you Laurie for your time and insights!

Kiwanis Club Toronto is celebrating their 100th Anniversary this year. Learn more about the club on their website.