More Michigan Students Are Serving on Nonprofit Boards Than Ever Before

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The Michigan Ross Board Fellows program, an initiative connecting U-M students with local nonprofits, just hit a record.

This year, a total of 38 students are serving on governing boards for 30 local community organizations, a high in the program’s 15-year history. The program is managed by Business+Impact at Michigan Ross, a new initiative aimed at making Ross the most progressive source of ideas and solutions for how business can address the global challenges of our generation.

During their tenure on the boards, the students focus on a specific project for their nonprofit, such as creating a marketing plan, analyzing fundraising efforts to increase donations, or conducting a cost/benefit analysis for a new investment.

Board Fellows voluntarily commit a similar amount of time per month as a full board member (typically six to 10 hours a month), including attending board and committee meetings and completing their project. Many also enroll in the Ross course BA 601, Governing Nonprofit Organizations, which is led by Janet Weiss, a professor at Ross and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Evening MBA student Cepha Nixon was attracted to this opportunity because it allowed him to gain real-world experience in nonprofit planning and operations. He’s a Board Fellow for the United Way, where he’s developing a web app for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

“The prospect of being in the same room as some of the best visionaries in the community, having discussions, and learning how everything needs to work together for an organization to accomplish its goals thrilled me,” Nixon said. “Moreover, the privilege to contribute my time and talent to make a direct impact on the community inspired me to become a Board Fellow.”

Tim Bier, MBA ‘20, came to Ross as an experienced volunteer in his community. “While the experiences were rewarding and I was making a difference, I wanted to do more,” he said. “When I learned about the Board Fellows Program at Ross, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give back to the community while building my leadership opportunities.” Bier is currently developing a monthly dashboard for housing outcomes for SOS Community Services.

In addition to Ross students, the fellowship attracts students across the University of Michigan, especially those studying public policy and social work.

This year’s 30 participating nonprofits offer a wide range of services to the metro Detroit and Washtenaw County areas. They include the Michigan Abolitionist Project, which works to prevent human trafficking and slavery; Matrix Human Services, which helps the most vulnerable in metro Detroit achieve self-sufficiency; the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, and many more.

Learn more about Business+Impact at Michigan Ross