I’ve decided to stop serving on non-profit boards.
I used to have a rule that I’d only serve on three non-profit boards at a time. I let this get out of control and found myself on eight non-profit boards with a commitment to join a ninth one.
During our Q4 vacation last month, Amy and I talked a lot about this. I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the non-profit board service, even though I deeply enjoy my personal engagement and support of the organizations I’m on the boards of.
There was an intellectual conflict here that Amy and I spent a lot of time discussing. Our philanthropic work is important to us. However, the actual board service part of it, while fulfilling to Amy, is not fulfilling to me.
It’s also very time-consuming. While most of the boards only meet four times a year, each board meeting is three hours long. If I include another two hours for reviewing materials in advance and travel, that’s 20 hours per year per board. For eight boards, that’s 160 hours/year. If I only worked 40 hours/week, that’s four weeks of work. While I work a lot more than 40 hours/week, the five hours per board meeting is probably low, especially if I physically travel to a board meeting.
My conclusion was that I could be just as impactful to the non-profits we support – and in some cases even more so – without being on the boards. Instead of consuming my time with board meetings, I’ll engage directly with the CEOs and Executive Directors of these non-profits in ways that are specifically helpful to them. I’m already doing this in many cases, so it’s not a direct re-allocation of time, but rather a huge time saving on my part, which allows me to more focused – and more enthusiastic – about the work I’m actually doing.
I’ve now talked with all the CEOs/EDs of the non-profit boards I used to serve on. They all understand my perspective and, in most cases, are supportive and excited about the change in my involvement. As my goal is not to withdraw from the things I’m involved in, but to increase my impact by shifting my focus and activities, the feedback was good positive reinforcement to me.
A new non-profit organization, the Center for American Entrepreneurship, launched yesterday.
While there are lots of non-profits supporting entrepreneurship, CAE is organized around the idea of engaging and educating policymakers in Washington and at state and local levels across the nation, regarding the critical importance of entrepreneurs and startups to innovation.
I met the John Dearie founder and CEO of CAE, a year ago. He came to Boulder, met with me for lunch, and gave me a copy of his book Where The Jobs Are, which I promptly read and felt was on the money. I knew a number of people on the board of CAE, which was just getting started, and Amy and I made a quick financial contribution to the organization.
I then watched over the past year as John, as a founder, put CAE together. I helped where I could and watched John live the entrepreneurial life as he founded a new organization. Several of our conversations were self-reflective, especially around the challenges of getting investors attention to provide seed financing for a new organization.
Ultimately John was successful and CAE has launched. Instead of a board role, I’ve agreed to be on the Advisory Council, as I’m trying to fit into a role of having an impact by helping the CEOs of the non-profits I’m involved in, rather than having a broad governing role that being a member of the board entails.
If you want to get connected to CAE or are in the DC area and want to engage around the issues of entrepreneurs and innovation, email me and I’ll connect you with John. If you want to support CAE, please consider making a donation.
When I woke up this morning, I wondered which non-profit that I should highlight today on #GivingTuesday.
Path Forward began as a program at Return Path, a data-solutions company with more than 500 employees in 12 offices around the globe. The company’s CTO, Andy Sautins, came up with the idea of an internship program aimed at women who were interested in returning to work after a career break. The program began in 2014 with just one participant. Under the leadership and guidance of Cathy Hawley, VP of People, the company brought in six women in January 2015, four of whom were hired. The program expanded later that year to include a larger cohort at Return Path and also to bring in partners who also wanted to create return to work programs. The first partners were PayPal, SendGrid, ReadyTalk, Moz, and MWH. Along with Return Path, these companies assembled a cohort of nearly 40 women and men. From this, the idea to create a nonprofit focused on bringing return to work programs to even more companies was born.
If you want to support an organization that supports women (and men) who want to return to the workplace after an extended absence for any reason (health, children, aging parents, or caregiving of any nature), consider making a #GivingTuesday gift to Path Forward.
Last week, I joined the board of a new non-profit called Path Forward which has a mission to get people back to work after they’ve taken time off for caregiving. Specifically, Path Forward works with companies to create mid-career internship that are an on ramp back to the paid workforce.
Andy Sautins (at the time Return Path’s CTO) and Matt Blumberg (Return Path’s CEO) came up with the idea two years ago. After running two cycles at Return Path, they expanded it to other companies including ReadyTalk, SendGrid, MWH Global, SpotX, and Moz.
It’s now an independent non-profit organization that was launched last week with posts from Fred Wilson (who is on the board of Return Path with me), Joanne Wilson (who is the board co-chair of Path Forward), Matt Blumberg (CEO of Return Path and board co-chair of Path Forward), and Tami Forman (Executive Director of Path Forward). And, as a bonus, Fortune had a long article explaining things in This Nonprofit Wants To Put Stay-At-Home Moms Back to Work.
I’m very selective about the non-profits I’m on the board of. While I’m involved in a number of them and Amy and I support many others, I’ve limited myself to three non-profit boards at a time. I’ve been chair of NCWIT for many years and co-chair of Startup Colorado since inception. Until last year, I was on the UP Global board, but left the board when UP Global was acquired by Techstars. So, I had an open non-profit board position and immediately said yes when asked by Matt given the mission of Path Forward.
If you have a company in New York, California, or Colorado (they are starting in these three states) that would like to start doing returnships, go to Path Forward and fill out this form. If you are ready to restart your career after taking time off, go to Path Forward and complete this form.
Finally, Amy and I are making a substantial financial contribution and would encourage any reader who (a) supports the mission and (b) wants to give back in some way to go to Crowdrise, hit the donate button, and help support our launch.
Last week Fred and Joanne Wilson announced that they are helping create a $5m seed fund to invest in computer science education in the NYC public school system.
A few weeks ago Fred sent me a note and asked if Amy and I would make a contribution from our foundation. We’d previously contributed to another project Fred and Joanne spearheaded for the Academy of Software Engineering last year. It was easy to say yes for two reasons.
– The Warren Buffett / Bill Gates Rule: Remember that Warren Buffett gave all of his money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because Buffett trusted Gates judgment and ability to allocate his massive philanthropic gift wisely and intelligently? We completely trust Fred and Joanne’s judgment and easily support whatever they do in areas Amy and I are interested in.
– Computer Science Education: This is one of the areas Amy and I support significantly. Two weeks ago Wellesley unveiled their new Human-Computer Interaction Lab which we underwrote. I’m chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. And we have a few more fun things coming soon. So the Computer Science Education Venture Fund was something that was right up our alley.
Fred and Joanne are doing this with The NYC Foundation For Computer Science Education (the executive director, Evan Korth, is a total star.) If this is interesting to you, they are hosting an event at USV on Monday, November 18, 2013 for 6pm to 8pm for those who can consider making investments of $5,000 and above due to space constraints. Separately, there will be a crowd-funded campaign to allow donations of between $50 and $4,999 for those who can’t participate at these levels.
This is another great example of private philanthropic support to help transform something really important that public funding just isn’t getting done. If this is an important area to you, I encourage you to support Fred, Joanne, Evan, and this effort. If you are willing to consider contributing at the $5,000 or great level and can attend the event at USV on Monday, November 18th, register here.
There are many things I love about Boulder. One of them is the powerful sense of community that exists. Talking about this is fine, but examples are better. Here’s one:
On the first Tuesday of every month is the Boulder New Tech Meetup. It’s one of the largest regular tech meetups in the world and is orchestrated by a bunch of folks, most notably Robert Reich of OneRiot who is the founder and ringleader. Given my travel, I can’t make it regularly but I try to go a couple of times a year. Each time is fascinating – I’ve always learned something, met some interesting folks, and had fun.
Last week Robert and the NewTech gang decided to do something different. They lined up multiple non-profit organizations who presented New Tech style, but with a twist. Once all of the groups were finished on the podium (they each got two minutes instead of the typical five minutes to present) they split up into rooms all over the CU Wolf Law Building (where the New Tech Meetup is held) and started hacking. The tech community helped the non-profits on tech issues ranging from web design to social media help, database support to graphic design, and everything in-between.
Robert sent me a list of the non-profits that presented. They follow and include several that Amy and I support philanthropically:
- Colorado Nonprofit Development Center presented by Kamela Maktabi
- Food Bank of the Rockies presented by Janie Gianotsos
- Cool Girls Science and Art Club presented by Mary Golden
- Boulder International Fringe Festival presented by Alana Eve Burman
- I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County presented by Lisa McAlister
- The WILD Foundation presented by Emily Loose
- Denver Curling Club presented by Alyssa Rossnagel
- Boulder Community Computers presented by Eric Jackson
- Ashoka’s Youth Venture presented by Matt Nathan
- The “I Love U Guys” Foundation presented by John-Michael Keyes
- Blue Sky Bridge Child Advocacy Center presented by Judy Toran Cousin
- Leave No Trace presented by Dana Watts
Here are the stats of what happened:
- 300 people showed up to listen to the non-profits present
- 200 people stuck around for dinner
- 130 people stayed around and directly helped the different non-profits hack
It’s pretty amazing what can happen when you put a bunch of smart techies in a room. Boulder – I love you and miss you. And, if you are in a NewTech Meetup in another city, I challenge you to help out some non-profits!