By Mary McPhail Gray
Here is a favorite Taos question: “How many nonprofits are there in Taos?” Often asked by people serving in one—or by residents asked to make donations—the answers may be “Over 100”—“No—over 200!” And then the subsequent conversation usually includes—“There are far too many and they all compete with each other for donations. The same 60 people get asked again and again.” There is a discouraged air about this conversation. All the “asks” can be categorized as worthy and it is frustrating to decide where to put resources.
Another common Taos question to newcomers is “Are you serving on any boards yet?” Notice the “yet”—because the invitation to serve on a board is often made to people coming new to Taos. Why? Well if the answer in the first paragraph is 100 and each NFP needs a board of 5-10 persons—there is a minimal need for 500-1000 people to be board members. That is a great deal of human service needed in the village.
So—not only is there competition for donations—but very real competition for excellent board members. In Taos Behavioral Health, we have a board of eight dedicated active members. Over the past 8 years, we have seen an additional sixteen board members join our ranks—and for a variety of reasons—both personal and professional then had to leave. In addition, we approached eleven others with an orientation to TBH and an invitation to serve—all of whom eventually declined. Recruiting and keeping great board members is time consuming and challenging.
Why should you serve on an NFP board? The business literature often suggests that it is a great way to support your career advancement. Yet—many of the board members serving in Taos have already “had” their careers—are in retirement or a “step-down” phase and do not need to support career growth. Another primary reason is simply to learn more about the community. Another objective is to make use of your expertise and knowledge in order to make a difference. This is the motivation that most often is stated by TBH Board members—and we are the fortunate recipients of their skills.
Three of the TBH board members still work full time and are close observers of the needs of Taos. Two of them were raised here and have a depth of understanding regarding appropriate communication and services. The third, a resident for 20 years, is a writer/editor for an international integrative health center and is a master at writing and developing messages for the public.
Three board members retired from officer’s ranks in the military and were deeply observant and active in supporting the social/emotional struggles of youthful recruits and the deep impact of war. Their experiences as officers in charge of personnel and budgets give them excellent perspectives to bring the board.
In addition, their military experiences informed them that many in the military come with limited educational and vocational skills and have often been exposed to violence while growing up. They saw TBH providing another path for these young people. One board member joined TBH as a mentor—a role which has been deeply satisfying as his mentee is now in a premed program in the Colorado system.
Another board member is retired from the National Institute on Drug Abuse where he was a branch chief in charge of research on community prevention of addiction. His experience in grant reviews, university teaching and community action is a valuable resource for TBH.
All board members were interested in an active role—helping TBH make responsible growth in answer to community needs. They bring their experiences and their passionate commitment to making a difference—an investment in Taos and its future.
I am hopeful that others in Taos will gives their talents to the worthy NPF’s.
Taos Behavioral Health has the largest staff of credentialed and licensed behavioral health professionals in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at 575-758-4297, 105 Bertha St. in Taos or www/taosbehavioralhealth.org.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at 575-758-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org