As our readers well know, serving on a governing board is only one type of volunteering in a nonprofit organization. High-level non-governing work that requires highly knowledgeable, skilled – and often, well-connected – volunteers includes providing technical advice in program development, speaking on behalf of the nonprofit in important forums, testifying before legislative committees, soliciting donations, etc. So one of the important hats that every nonprofit CEO wears is what our colleague Michelle Mason, President and CEO of the Association Forum of Chicagoland, has called “Overseer of Volunteer Engagement.” This role, as Michelle pointed out in a recent conversation, is intended to capitalize on volunteers as a precious resource while also providing them with a rich return on their investment of time and energy, in terms, for example, of making a real difference and experiencing deep satisfaction.
Providing “investors” with a rich return on their non-governing volunteering is what Craig Richard, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, talks about in the podcast he recently recorded for this blog. Investor-driven organizations like the EDC occupy an important niche in the wild and wonderful world of nonprofits. In the EDC’s case, over 100 investors at various levels of investment – the Board of Hillsborough County Commissioners, the cities of Tampa, Plant City, and Temple Terrace, and several for-profit and nonprofit (e.g., Sun Trust and Hillsborough Community College) – fund the EDC. Its mission? “Develop and sustain a thriving local economy by focusing on the attraction, expansion and retention of high-wage jobs and capital investment.
Some 65 upper-tier investors make up the EDC’s Board of Directors, but only the members of the Board’s Executive Committee are engaged month-to-month in the nuts and bolts work of governing. So wearing his Overseer of Volunteer Engagement hat, Craig and his Board have put in place four, standing committees to actively engage investors in high-level non-governing work: Business Development; International Business Development; Investor Relations; and Marketing & Communications. As Craig observes in the podcast, these committees are not only enriching the investor experience, but also strengthening their sense of ownership of – and commitment to – the EDC. And as a governance consultant, I’m pleased that the EDC doesn’t sow confusion and dilute the governing function by mixing up the work of governing and the work of non-governing volunteering.
By the way, like many local nonprofit CEOs around the country, Craig, is passionately committed to the development of his profession. In Craig’s case, this means that, wearing his volunteer hat, he is an active member of the International Economic Development Council, whose Board of Directors he now chairs.