By Hiba Mukhtar and Ashley South
Sean Smith will arrive at a party and always ask for dogs he can play with. Sean is a marketing and business consultant at Hire Yourself and the current Vice President of the Naperville Area Humane Society (NAHS) Board of Directors. His membership on the NAHS Board was inspired by his first dog, a black female Labrador retriever named Dublin that he adopted ten years ago. As with most rescues, her background was a mystery. On their first day together, he secured her in a crate to depart for groceries. He made a quick about face when he realized he had forgotten his reusable bags at home. Walking back through the door, he was astonished to find that Dublin had clawed her way out of the heavy-duty crate in the five minutes he was away! Through getting to know his new dog, Sean discovered that “Just like humans, animals have their own peculiarities… you just have to get to know them and figure out their needs.” Since bringing Dublin into his life, Sean has felt a strong urge to ensure the well-being of any animal.
Sean shared his valuable insight on joining local nonprofit boards with Main & Luxe. Among the nonprofits Sean scouted when considering a service commitment, NAHS was one of very few organizations that offered a board member application online. He shared frankly, “If organization leadership is only relying on who they know to serve on their board, they miss the opportunity for diversification. With online applications, they can attract interested people and convert applicants to a faster ‘yes or no’ for board service. This approach has made NAHS a fairly diverse board in many aspects.”
NAHS is a privately funded animal shelter whose mission promotes the humane treatment of companion animals while enriching human-animal bonds. Going into 2022, the organization has three vacancies on its fifteen-member board of directors. Officers are typically voted on annually in December and their term starts in January of the next year. However, most applications are considered on a rolling basis because every candidate is individually considered. Each board member serves a two-year term, with three term limits. After that, they must take one year off or join the newly created advisory committee to continue service without interruption. With this new committee, NAHS retains their valuable knowledge base while offering veteran board members the chance to remain involved.
When reviewing a candidate’s qualifications, current board members determine if a person has desirable nonprofit experience or skills. If more experience or skills are needed, NAHS directs candidates to the advisory committee. As such, the committee also serves as a pipeline for future board members. Committee responsibilities include reviewing and opining on the organization’s five-year strategic plan, attending quarterly meetings and fundraisers, and advising the board upon request.
Many nonprofit boards are classified in two ways: an operational board that is involved in daily activities or a nonoperational board that strictly focuses on fundraising. The NAHS board solely focuses on fundraising; they leave the operations work to staff. However, Sean stresses, “Our board has a wide spread of how everyone contributes.”
Are you contemplating philanthropic leadership in 2022? Sean has advice for you: bring your skills and knowledge to the table (e.g., marketing, fundraising, event planning, community contacts). The process is akin to a job interview on both sides! “Join a board that you feel strongly aligns with your values and one where you can thrive within the culture of the organization.”
There has been little downtime since Sean joined in 2019. NAHS has doubled their paw print with a newly expanded facility, including a surgical suite and puppy training center. Portions of the building are still open for sponsorship and expansion. Our furry friends would love to see more community and local business involvement for NAHS to provide support for years to come.
Our previously featured nonprofits also offer mentor and board member applications on a rolling basis: SCORE, DuPage Pads, DuPage Children’s Museum, and Feed My Starving Children.
The Naperville Area Humane Society is our featured 501(c)(3) for January, please consider donating, volunteering, and finding forever homes for these animals.
Naperville Area Humane Society
1620 W Diehl Road