As Marrow grows into a stage in our growth focused on capacity-building and long-term sustainability; it’s time to rethink the way our Board of Directors operates.
On a “traditional” Board of Directors, it is hammered into us that Directors must have access to funding streams, corporate connections, and friends with independent wealth. This is not really a reflection of who Marrow’s community has access to, so it isn’t who’s on our Board, which has left us unsure about how to operate to best serve Marrow at this point in time.
While discussing this recently with a really rad and well-established nonprofit consultant, she asked why Marrow’s Board needs to look like a traditional Board. We discussed it, and found that not only is having a traditional board with traditional goals not in line with Marrow’s values, it’s not serving us.
But what about fundraising?
One of a Board’s primary responsibilities is fundraising, but what should that look like for Marrow? Over the past year we’ve gained some larger donors (which is exciting! and incredible!) - but while focusing on pulling in larger donations and trying to determine how to connect with individuals with more financial privilege, we lost sight of what was actually our largest income stream, which is $20-100 donations from friends and family of our invested adult community members.
The culture that will be built from our new Board focus and requirements (see the list toward the end of this post) will grow our community, and the people who are invested in us. It may not be the “fundraising” itself, but it will lay a stronger groundwork for fundraising to be done more organically and sustainably.
But there must be a reason most boards look this way?
Marrow is not a traditional organization, and trying to operate or come across that way is not useful to us at this point in our growth.
When we apply for grants, what foundations are looking for is a Board that is invested and mission-aligned.
Through our programming and organizational structure, Marrow strives to break down and provide alternatives to existing systems and power structures. Our organizational values are to be low-barrier, anti-colonial, and non-hierarchical. Our Board of Directors should reflect this not only in member identity, but through intentional questioning and rewriting of what we’ve been told a board needs to be.
So… we’ll be shifting away from a connection-to-money-specific focus, and building a stronger board off the following commitments (which are actually very similar to our founding board, back in 2015):
Reworked Board Commitments:
Passion : Board of Directors members not only believe in what Marrow is doing fundamentally, but are genuinely invested in the growth and success of our mission and programming. You light up when you talk about Marrow! You’re excited for our organization’s future!
Time : you must attend our monthly board meeting - but Directors must also be involved in Marrow activities and efforts throughout the month, based on your time, capacity, and “area of focus”.
Area of focus : what is your unique contribution to the board and role within Marrow’s community? You’ve given this some thought, and are excited to shine in it! It could be grants, raising the visibility of our all ages music events, developing our mentorship program, making community partnership connections, gaining access to new arts technology - whatever you’re excited to bring to the table to deepen Marrow’s mission!
Direct investment in Marrow’s youth : maintain an active effort to build relationships with the youth in Marrow’s community, whether that’s through a one-on-one mentorship, regular attendance at youth-led or youth-centered events in our space, or leading programming. Our regularly involved youth should recognize ya!
Commitment to community growth : one of our primary organizational needs right now is for more individuals to feel genuinely invested in Marrow’s sustainability. We need board members who are willing to network on Marrow’s behalf, and ask people to show up for our community in meaningful ways (whether that’s through physical attendance, collecting smaller financial contributions from friends and community, etc).
Board culture : lastly, we need a board that gets along and enjoys one another on an individual level - so that our investment is not only in Marrow, but in our community as a board.
Sound like you?
Let’s talk! Email our director at email@example.com Please include a little background about yourself, why you’re excited about Marrow, and what you believe you’d bring to the board!