Berkeley Board Fellows: Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations

bbflogoThe Berkeley Board Fellows Program (BBF) is launching its 12th year of facilitating greater social impact for nonprofits and their clients while providing an experiential learning opportunity in nonprofit board governance and leadership for UC Berkeley graduate students.

Entering my second year of managing BBF, I have talked to many prospective nonprofit partners answering questions about the Program including: is there a fee associated with participation? (no), and what can I do to make this a successful program for my organization and for the Fellows? My experience tells me there are two items that drive BBF success: (1) a well- (and appropriately-) scoped project, and (2) a Board mentor (or buddy) who facilitates onboarding the Fellows and makes himself or herself available to answer questions.

BBF Number InfographicDefining and scoping a project is more art than science. My advice is to start at the end. What is the finished product you want from the Fellows? Is it a PowerPoint presentation of a market analysis for a new fee-based business? Is it recommendations for developing and implementing a social media campaign? Or is it an analysis of an existing line of business that hasn’t been analyzed for “fit” in years? Next, think about the resources you can share with the Fellows that are pertinent to the project. Do you have a financial model you prefer using? Are there existing marketing studies or feasibility reports relevant to the project? And last, frame the project knowing that BBF is, on average, an eight hour/month commitment for the Fellows (inclusive of meeting times) from October – May.

Identifying a board mentor or buddy on the board also contributes to a successful collaboration. Many organizations already have a buddy system as part of their onboarding strategy where a more seasoned board member makes themselves available to answer questions, provide context about agenda items, facilitate introductions to other board/committee members who have project knowledge, etc. Bringing the Fellows along through this type of system works well. You can read some great advice from Haas Executive-in-Residence and Board Mentor for Destiny Arts and American Conservatory Theater, David Riemer, on how Mentor participation can make BBF a successful experience for both the board and the Fellows here.

Emergency-1The deadline for nonprofit organizations to apply is fast approaching and space is limited. Only 30 nonprofits will be accepted into the Program so complete the application today. All nonprofit applications are due by Monday, August 31. Should you have questions, do not hesitate to contact Cathy Garza at


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