Volunteering and giving back have always been important to me. It started for me back in high school by participating in United Methodist Army mission trips every summer. And that was only the beginning! I went on to work with my church to organize large mission-related volunteer projects over the last 10 years, to help struggling communities throughout Texas rebuild houses, install wheelchair ramps, and provide as many improvements as possible to the community’s existing condition. I started with Forney Construction in 2011 and was so happy to work for a company that mirrors my values. Forney Construction core values are very important to the company’s culture. The acronym of “SERVICE” was created to represent our core values and visually demonstrate the decision-making matrix on which the company operates. The giving spirit is represented in the first letter, “Serve God, others, then yourself”.
In 2018 I joined the Board of Directors of the Houston ToolBank. I had never served on a Board before. Still, I was very excited to take on a role that would allow me to grow my leadership skills and provide the opportunity to develop new skills. In 2020 I was asked to join the Executive Board and serve as Board President in 2021. I encourage anyone reading this to consider board service. Our community is overflowing with individuals looking to give back with a broad array of skills. Here are a few myths I believe prevent people from taking the next step in volunteering:
1) I have a full-time job and just don’t have the time!
Believe me! I thought the same thing. I have two young children at home, a demanding job, and was nervous that board service would mean less time with family. The most important thing you can do is meet with the Board President and Executive Director of the organization you want to serve and thoroughly review what the commitment entails. The Houston ToolBank Board operates as a “governance board”, which means the board is less involved in the organization’s day-to-day operations. Other organizations have what are called “working boards” and may require much more time commitment from their members. The ToolBank board meets bi-monthly and requires every board member to serve on a committee which also has regular meetings. On average, our board members spend 3-4 hours a month supporting the organization. Again, every organization is different, and understanding the commitment upfront is critical to a successful match.
2) I’m not a CEO; I don’t have the skills or connections needed.
You don’t know what skills are needed on a Board until you have a conversation with a current board member. There are so many amazing organizations in the community, and sure there are commonalities across the board like strong social network, legal or financial experience. Still, there are also many organizations looking for niche skillsets. At the ToolBank, we have previously recruited members connected to the faith community, realtors, and individuals with facility and warehouse experience. And what we are really looking for, beyond these specific skills, is an excitement about our mission and a willingness to become involved in various ways.
3) I’m not a millionaire and won’t be able to make a large donation.
Financial commitments vary from Board to Board and are typically outlined in the Board Job Description. Making an annual donation of $250 out to be $21 a month, less than $1 a day. It might not seem like much, but if an organization has 20 Board Members, it equals out to be more than $5,000 for the organization a year. And remember you may be able to bring on board other stakeholders (neighbors, friends, members of your faith community), either as board members, regular volunteers or even as part of a corporate volunteer day. These individuals can in turn bring their own potential donations to the board.
Thanks to Volunteer Houston and all the work they do to get our community engaged. I hope you consider taking the next step in your volunteer service and become a board member for one of the many organizations recruiting right now.
About the Houston ToolBank
The Houston ToolBank is a nonprofit tool lending program that provides fellow not-for-profit organizations (and disaster volunteers) with year-round access to an inventory of tools for use in volunteer projects and facility and environmental maintenance. We provide tools to enhance the charitable sector’s capacity to serve, scale, and facilitate hands-on volunteerism in the greater Houston area. All other borrowing costs 3% of the tool’s cost per week.
Access to ToolBank tools eliminates the need for agencies to incur the expense of purchasing, insuring, repairing, and storing tools, reducing the costs associated with service projects and allowing these agencies to focus more of their resources on their mission.