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Narrowing the choices Featured

7:01am EDT August 30, 2002

The word "impact" elicits images of hard-hitting, immediate effects. Positively impacting a nonprofit organization was the impetus behind my pursuit of board placement through Business Volunteers Unlimited.

On the surface, the goal seemed easy. But when I sat down with BVU's Shawn Nemeth to pore over a two-foot stack of folders filled with information about potential organizations, the task proved daunting.

Among the dozen or so nonprofits of varied size, purpose and need that Nemeth presented me with were small neighborhood groups I'd never heard of and high-profile organizations with household names.

I was surprised to see the higher profile groups on the list. I'm not a corporate CEO, nor have I spent my life spreading my largesse across the region. But there was a slight twinge of ego boosting as I envisioned my name on the board of trustees masthead of a large organization.

Stroking my ego, however, wasn't part of the plan, so I removed those organizations from my list. Further, I didn't believe that on a large board, filled with well-known business leaders, I could effectively make a difference.

I also removed several nonprofits that focused solely on health care services, infant care, disease management and the arts. Some were for personal reasons; others because the minimum donation expected of board members exceeded my means.

That left four strong organizations that met my requirements: one neighborhood center, two welfare-to-work training groups and one health and human services organization.

I spent the weekend reading the materials on these nonprofits and doing Internet research. After much introspection, I settled on two with missions that were aligned with my interests and appeared as though I could jump right in and make an impact.

But I could narrow it down no further, and asked Nemeth to present me as a candidate to both groups.

Next entry: Meeting executive directors and exploring organizational goals and expectations.

Editor's note: Editor Dustin Klein is working with Business Volunteers Unlimited to be presented as a candidate to serve on the board of trustees at a Northeast Ohio nonprofit organization. SBN will chronicle Klein's experiences through excerpts from his diary.