McCombs MBA students looking to serve on nonprofit boards in Austin

Lauren Blitzer, president of Net Impact McCombs

Austin nonprofits: Consider hosting an MBA Board Fellow this semester.

Lauren Blitzer is president of Net Impact McCombs, a professional club for socially-minded MBA students at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.  She filled me in on this fantastic idea.

This month, Net Impact McCombs launched a Board Fellows program in which students serve on the board of directors of local nonprofits in a non-voting capacity, attend meetings, serve on committees, and complete a Board-level strategic project.

What MBA students get: MBA students learn about Board governance, the realities of operations of nonprofits, and get to apply their business skills to serve the community.

What the nonprofit gets: The nonprofit benefits from a fresh perspective and gains the business insights of an MBA student.

Here’s a little more information from Blitzer:

“Since the program is new to McCombs, and we want to focus more on the student/organization match than on strict guidelines, we plan to be flexible in our selection and matching process and encourage ALL organizations to apply.  Nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, and we think this program should reflect that.  Please be assured that a good student match, enthusiasm, and commitment to the program will outweigh these criteria.

  • Nonprofit (501(c)3) status  (STRICTLY REQUIRED)
  • An operating history of at least one year
  • An annual budget of at least $350,000
  • A minimum of 3 full-time staff members
  • Have a board member willing to serve as a mentor (STRICTLY REQUIRED)

As long as you are confident that someone at your organization could be available enough to facilitate a positive student experience (provide mentorship and needed information/data for their project in a timely manner, etc), then we’d love for you to apply. That said, we can’t guarantee you (or any other organization) a Fellow.  We will be working this summer to ensure that the needs of the organizations match with the students’ skills and interests.  If we are unable to match you, please know that it isn’t because of those ‘criteria’; other schools who have done this before have all warned us about the disasters of a bad student/organization match, so we would rather not facilitate a match then force a bad pairing.”

Still interested? Blitzer asks nonprofit to apply by August 15, but if you want a student to start at the beginning of their semester, please apply sooner.

Get more information by sending Blitzer an email or just apply online now.

NEW! GivingCity Austin Issue 3

 GivingCity Austin Issue 3 cover

CLICK HERE to download

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Inside this issue:

The New Philanthropists
We photograph the young, active, and engaged people making a difference in Austin now.

Are There Too Many Nonprofits in Austin?
“Yes, no… maybe. That depends.”  We let the experts have their say.

Unscripted Collaboration
The We Are One video proves nonprofits can – and do – work together.

Tom Spencer on Austin’s philanthropic culture.
An all-girls football game for charity.
What you don’t know about Goodwill.
The “social entrepreneur” poster child.
What’s so cool about Leadership Austin?
Teaching philanthropy in schools.
New Austin-born films about giving.
Mando Rayo’s argument for social media.
Katie Ford’s encounter with the convicted.
DJ Stout’s SIGNS for change.
…and photos from the fundraising event, Austin Under 40.

SEND THIS ISSUE to a friend.

Kerry Tate inspires dozens of women at GENaustin event last Friday

Kerry Tate of TateAustinHahnGENaustin’s fundraising event enjoyed a full house at the MACC last Friday, thanks to its headliner, Kerry Tate.  Tate is the founder of big-time Austin PR firm, TateAustinHahn.

I Twittered from the event because Tate was throwing out some real gems (see below). But the big takeaway was her “Ann Richards and 5 Things Story,” which she’s probably told before but which was pretty fresh to me. I’ll paraphrase the story here (thereby removing most of the charm, but here it is):

Years ago Tate saw Richards at Las Manitas. They were just acquaintencances at the time, but Richards charismatically demanded (as only Richards could) that Tate sit at her table. In the course of their short, one-sided conversation, Richards said, “Kerry, you need to tell me five things about yourself that you stand for and that make you who you are,” or something to that effect. “And whenever someone asks you to do something, you make sure it aligns with at least four of those five things, and if it doesn’t you say no.”

Tate, nervous and kind of awe-struck, told her she didn’t have those five things. “Well, why not?” demanded Richards. To deflect, Tate asked Richards for her five things, and Richards pulled an envelope  and a pen out of her purse, wrote them down, and handed it to Tate.

“Now Kerry, you need to go home and think about your list of five things. Because if don’t live your list, you’re going to be living somebody else’s.”

“Don’t live someone else’s list.” The “list” in Tate’s world, is her personal brand, and it’s something she said she bears in mind whenever establishing a client’s brand, too. Tate urged us to go out and make out own list. And I will, as soon as I think I could stay awake for the whole exercise.

I hadn’t expected Tate to be such a charming storyteller, but then again, it makes sense that she is. As one of Austin’s best known PR professionals, storytelling has got to be one of her skills. What interested me about Tate was her new venture, Civic Interest. Apparently, that’s what lots of other people were there for, too. Tate described it as a place where people with a civic interest can figure out what to do next. Hmmm. All I know is, they got David Balch, former executive director of United Way Capital Area. I sat next to him at the last Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative forum on the arts, but it wasn’t the right place to ask about it. So it’s still a mystery to me what it’s all about, but I would love to know more .



In the meantime, one of GENaustin’s high school employees certainly held her own. She’s part of the nonprofit’s ClubGEN program, which trains high school girls to be mentors to middle school girls, because who else is a middle school girl going to listen to? She told us about what a great program ClubGEN is, how much fun she has connecting with the other girls, and how great an experience it has been to take on a leadership role. Wish I’d had someone like her when I was in middle school…

If you’re concerned about girls and their problems with body image, self esteem, popularity, teen pregnancy, and other related challenges, GENaustin needs your support. Find out more here.

More of Tate’s gems (from my Tweets):

“Run toward trouble. The opportunities right now are where there’s turmoil, where there’s change.”

“Delight, humor, wonder, authenticity, believability” – When you know your own brand, you have these things.

“PR is doing something good and making sure you get caught.”

“PR is where we spend a lot of time and someone else’s money to tell their story.”

Hey, Craig, is it really that simple?

Craig Newmark of craigslist

Craig Newmark of craigslist

I went to the Craig Newmark lecture last night, co-hosted by the RGK Center and Leadership Austin. It was held at this gorgeous new building near campus, the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, which looks like a very expensive hospital inside, without the wheelchairs in the hallways.

For some reason I expected more from Craig Newmark. Here he is, founder of one of the most popular Web sites in the world, craigslist, plus he’s a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, and all he could talk about were those Sunday-schoolisms like “Treat others the way you want to be treated” and “Do what feels right.”

“You can do well by doing good,” he said. “And that actually seems to have worked for us.”

So he spoke for exactly 38 minutes, repeating over and over and over again how he just “stuck to my values” and “built this community of trust,” and as a result has turned down millions and millions of dollars… which isn’t a problem for him because, as he said, “I do know some of these really rich guys, and they don’t seem any happier than I do.”

Is he serious?

When he finished talking, they opened the lecture up for questions. People asked him what he was doing about spam, how craigslist would handle the scammers, why they’ve never done a redesign – or a design for that matter. All he could say is “We’re working on it,” and “The community didn’t care about the design, so we’ve just kept it the way it is.”

He says they have limited resources… I’ll tell you why he has limited resources: Because they’ve chosen to do right by their users over making a ton of money!

The thing is, all of his answers were like this, no matter what the crowd through at him. He kept returning to principles like fairness and trust and transparency and customer service. In fact, that’s all Craig does now. He no longer programs or participates in the structure of the sites. He just works customer service.

I should mention at this point that the craiglist sites get about 12 BILLION viewers a month and are available in more than 500 cities all over the world.

So Craig’s doing something right. Is there something to this whole fairness thing?

How to be a young, nonprofit board member

You’re young – in your 20s or 30s. You’ve recently started on your professional path. Maybe you’re new to Austin. And you’ve decided that you want to get involved, but seriously involved – like at the board level. What next? 


Hal Meyer, Ronda Rutledge, Heather Davies Bernard, Heather McKissick and Abby Williamson

Hal Meyer, Ronda Rutledge, Heather Davies Bernard, Heather McKissick and Abby Williamson

More than 25 people attended the Greenlights Lunch & Learn event today at Leadership Austin, which included a panel discussion on the merits of young board members to nonprofits and what it takes to become one. Panelists included Heather Davies Bernard, a young, Sustainable Food Center board member; Hal Meyer, a young-at-heart Any Baby Can board member; Heather McKissick, the new president and CEO of Leadership Austin; Ronda Rutledge, executive director of Sustainable Food Center; and Abby Williamson, communications for People’s Community Clinic, serving as moderator. Mary Alice Carnes of Greenlights was hostess.

Here are some notes from the panel discussion. 

Fulfilling the financial commitment

The panel seemed to agree that having younger people on the board did not negatively affect the organization financially. Rutledge said that young people seem to be as connected as older board members, “They have so many people at their fingertips, and they bring them to the organization.” Bernard agreed, saying that when she sought out a board, the financial commitment was one gauge by which she would make her decision. “My husband and I are not yet in the position to write the checks we want to write in our hearts.” Later, Bernard brought up that social networking sites actually increased the number of her connections exponentially. 

McKissick of Leadership Austin weighed in, saying “I’m not underestimating the spending power of this group.” She noted that some young professionals don’t hesitate to spend $75 in one night at a restaurant.So that the financial commitments of board service shoulnd’t scare them away. (Comment from the crowd: “Hmmm, beer or board?”)

Both Any Baby Can and Sustainable Food Center ask board members to make a financial commitment, framed as a “give and get” – meaning the board member gives some and seeks out the rest in donations. At Sustainable Food Center, board members are responsible for $250 personally and $750 to “get.” Any Baby Can board members must raise $2000 in the same way. “We try to give them a number of ideas for ways to do this,” said Meyer.

Finding a good fit

McKissick offered a rule of thumb for young people trying to find their role on a board: “Don’t do your day job.”

“I think that some people assume that, because they’re an accountant during the day, then that’s what they should do for their board.” She said a person should instead consider taking on a role that matches an outside interest, say PR or leading a committee. “It works out great that way. They’re interested. They’re committed.” 

Bernard, the young board member, agreed. She told the story of how she first met Rutledge, Sustainable Food Center executive director, and went on and on about her outside interests. “Okay, I’m a lawyer, but forget about that.” 

“I had a sense I should choose something that would stimulate my other interests,” said Bernard. 

How to get on a nonprofit board

The panel offered a number of ways to get started. 

McKissick: “Apply to the Leadership Austin Emerge program! Find a way to connect with the community so that you learn more about what your passion is. What lights you up when it comes to community?”

Rutledge: “Attend a Greenlights board workshop. You can even attend a nonprofit board meeting. They’re supposed to be open to the public.” (GC suggests you contact the executive director ahead of time to politely invite yourself and express your interest.)

Bernard: “Talk to people. Look at Facebook and LinkedIn and get introduced. Then take that person to coffee and just pick their brain.”

Meyer: “If someone has never been on a board and doesn’t have experience with the organization, they should volunteer. It’s an excellent way to take that first step toward being on the board.”