Fuqua On Board (FOB) is a volunteer-based, year-long program where MBA students are selected from a pool of applicants and paired with a local nonprofit to serve as a non-voting board member. We worked with Durham Art Guild, a nonprofit organization that supports local artists and advocates for arts in the Durham area. Through our involvement in the board meetings, committee meetings, and other events, we had a unique learning experience.

Why We Participated

There were a couple aspects of FOB that were specifically attractive to us. First, we wanted to learn how a board functions and how board committees impact the overall division of work and productivity of the board. We wanted to understand how the board oversees the operation and promotes the development of the nonprofit organization through the collective efforts of its committees. Additionally, we wanted to learn the language used in board meetings and improve our understanding of standard operating procedures so we can be better prepared to serve on boards in the future. Finally, FOB provided a great opportunity for us to get connected to the local community outside of Fuqua. By participating in the program, we also had the opportunity to apply an analytical mindset and strategic thinking in a real-world setting. It is exciting to be able to help a nonprofit add value to the Durham community.

Getting Involved

To become involved with FOB, there is an application process that starts in late September of students’ first year. Initially, we each looked through the previous year’s board profiles to see which organizations we would be most interested in and qualified to join. The application asks a number of questions about you, your past experience, the organizations you’d like to join, and the work you’d like to do for the board. After submitting the application, there are invitation-only interviews that happen about a week later. This allows for the staff who oversees FOB to get to know applicants better and helps ensure students are matched with the best board possible.

By the end of October, we were notified of our acceptance to the program and our match with the Durham Art Guild. After our acceptance, we jumped right in!

There are a number of events that prepare students to take on this new board role, such as FOB Orientation/Kickoff and FOB Bootcamp. These events helped ensure we got up to speed on the basics around how boards function and what our role would be over the next year. During these events, we got to meet our board liaison and began talking about what our project would be for the Durham Art Guild. Throughout the year we also attended events hosted at Fuqua for FOB participants such as “Evaluating Organizational Performance,” “Nonprofit Financials and The Board,” and “Non-Profit Fundraising.” These additional opportunities for learning really rounded out the FOB experience.

Reflecting on Our Experience

FOB exposed us to the nonprofit world in Durham. It gave us the opportunity to get connected to people outside of the Fuqua ‘bubble’ and get to know their passions and struggles. Throughout the process, we were able to leverage the resources and support around us to navigate through ambiguity and identify areas of improvement. FOB allowed us to learn the fundamentals of a board and make an impact while gaining experience that we can take with us to future board experiences. It was truly rewarding when our project presentation was well received. FOB has been such a meaningful experience—one where we overcame challenges and gave back to the community.