Middletown Area Non-Profits Seeking Younger Board Members

Non-profit organizations in the Middletown area say they're seeking younger members to fill vacancies on their boards of directors.

But it's a tough sell to convince professionals under 40 that board service isn't about long meetings with crusty pastries in drab conference rooms.

At a networking event at Camps Restaurant on Thursday night, the Middlesex United Way's Young Leaders Society connected the two groups, and is hoping to continue spreading the word about board service as a way to protect and evolve the work of non-profits in the area.

About 15 people attended, joining members of the Young Leaders Society and representatives from non-profit organizations working in Middletown and throughout Middlesex County including the shoreline.

"We really strategically look at how to diversify our board," said Michele Rulnick, CEO of Middlesex YMCA on the Main Street. "You want those board members who ask [many] questions, who call you up out of the blue. Everyone has a connection, everyone can link us to something that provides us with an opportunity for our organization, and we need that to survive."

Non-profits, especially the smaller ones, said they need volunteers who do more than go to meetings. They need people to help with event planning, communications, fund raising and other duties, but also need people to fill the traditional board of directors role of oversight, mission planning, leadership searches and financial review.

Sandy Durosier, 25, moved from Haiti to Miami when she was a teenager, then moved to Middletown to attend Wesleyan University and stayed after she graduated in 2013.

Until recently she was an adviser at New London-based non-profit Higher Edge helping provide college opportunities for low-income students. She now works at Wesleyan as part of the residential life staff, and attended the session Thursday night because she's looking for community volunteering opportunities.

"I was scared that board members have to fundraise because I don't have the means to offer that right now" but she was relieved to hear that organizations look for a variety of skills in board members, she said.

"I was that student as well. I've seen the journeys of my students and how getting into education was important for them," Durosier said. "I'm looking forward to getting involved in student access, student life and student success and making sure every student has the resources they need."

Anne Yurasek, principal at Rhode Island-based Fio Partners, said in a presentation that joining a board of directors is a chance to offer new perspectives on important issues, and provides an excellent chance for professional development.

"This is about envisioning the future of the organization and how can I use my strengths to bring that to fruition," Yurasek said. "The key is to be thinking about you and what are the strengths I want to bring to this job and what do I want to do to get better. This is about a positive impact on your community and a cause you care about."

Connecting the non-profits and future board members has been a goal for several years, said Meg Slater, past president of Young Leaders Society.

"It's important to give people avenues to connect and make a difference, and board service in non-profits is a way to do that," Slater said. "We're targeting young people under 40 who feel strongly about being involved in their community. The organizations are doing great work, they just need more help."

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