L to R: Marie Sullivan, AWEE and Katherine Cecala

L to R: Marie Sullivan, AWEE and Katherine Cecala

Katherine Cecala drew on experience gained while serving on more than 35 boards to dispel myths surrounding board service, answer questions and offer expert insight on what it takes to serve on a board during her keynote address at January’s Professional Women’s Alliance luncheon.

Many people dream of having a positive and lasting impact on their community through board membership, but actually reaching that goal can sometimes be elusive. Cecala serves as president of Junior Achievement of Arizona and is also a lifelong volunteer, attorney, industrial engineer, mentor and much more. She has effectively served on boards at several Valley nonprofit organizations, including Mayo Clinic and Valley of the Sun United Way.

First off, she said being an effective board member requires some preparation.

Joining a board comes with great responsibility, which means it’s important to know the state of the organization and exactly what is expected of its board members. Be prepared to ask the right questions regarding finances, board structure and individual board member responsibilities in order to be fully aware of what board membership entails.

These questions are vital because board members are responsible for the well-being of the organization. The best board members always put the organization’s needs first.

“When you are on a board, you are putting that organization before yourself,” Cecala said.

Effective board members are always prepared to serve as an ambassador and an advocate. It is important to be prepared to take advantage of every opportunity to discuss the great work done by the organization.

Cecala explained that in addition to information provided to board members by the organization, top-notch board members take the initiative to further educate themselves about the organization.

“You’re always talking and bragging about the organization you work with,” Cecala said. “You have to learn about the organization.”

With 22,000 nonprofit organizations in Arizona and 13,000 in Maricopa County, opportunities to join a board or volunteer are plentiful.

Deciding which nonprofit board to join can be challenging, but Cecala urges professionals to find an organization with a mission about which they are passionate. One of the best pieces of advice she ever received is to always live true to your values.

Cecala emphasized that having tremendous passion for the organization’s mission is key to being effective on its board.

“You have so much to offer,” Cecala said. “Think about those talents you have and use them to make our community a better place.”

– Alexie Chavez, marketing coordinator, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the Chamber’s PWA program, click here.

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