Being an LLLI Board Member
Donna Cookson Martin, Trudy Hartt, Nan Jolly, and Heidi BK Sloss
Members of the LLLI Board Nominating Committee
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 5, October-November 2002 p. 98, 120.
What is it like being on the La Leche League International Board of Directors? What does our organization "look for" in volunteer Board Members? The 2002-2003 LLLI Nominating Committee considered these questions and facilitated a broad discussion among the full board.
Being a part of the LLLI Board of Directors may be like nothing you have ever done before, as an LLL Leader or otherwise. Board members share (with all Leaders) a passion for La Leche League and our mission of helping mothers and babies. We are a diverse group from various parts of the LLL world, many walks of life, and varied family situations; we bring many different experiences to the table. We have a commitment to building consensus through open communication and respect. We learn to truly appreciate each other’s skills, opinions, and life experiences, and consciously work to build a community of trust in email discussions between meetings and in small and large group discussions at meetings.
Currently, in accordance with the LLLI Bylaws, the LLLI Board is composed of members from the LLLI geographic Zones and members at large. A minimum of two-thirds of the Board members must be Leaders. Each Zone has at least one seat on the Board, with additional seats determined according to the Zone’s percentage of the total population of active Leaders. Most Board members are nominated by the Zones and elected by the Board; the Board can also elect members at large, usually for their particular knowledge and skills (for instance, accounting, or law).
Personal qualities that contribute to a successful "mix" of board members include a willingness to learn, a capacity to think "out-of-the-box," and a desire to look at the "big" picture of what will be good for the organization as a whole, all the time keeping in mind the mothers and babies and the local Leaders and Groups.
Representatives from various geographical regions of the LLL world or members from different economic or cultural backgrounds add depth to the Board. As Zones begin the nomination process it can be helpful for them to ask the Nominating Committee if there are any special needs at the time. (Sometimes, the Board needs special expertise, such as a lawyer, someone skilled in finances, or a health professional.) If the Board has certain needs that are not met by current members or candidates, the Nominating Committee can recruit members at large for a Board seat. Also, Board committees and work groups may invite such expertise from outside the Board to be part of their committee or work group.
Serving on the LLLI Board is some of the most rewarding work many of us have ever done! If you have any questions, feel free to contact the LLLI Board of Directors Nominating Committee (Susan Deo, Donna Cookson Martin, Trudy Hartt, Nan Jolly and Heidi BK Sloss).
Thoughts on Being a Board Member—From Those Currently Serving as Board Members
Donna Cookson Martin
There is so much to learn that it can sometimes be hard to decide where to begin or if it will be possible to learn it all. My Board mentor reminds me that none of us can learn it all, nor is it necessary, for we are all here, ready, willing, and delighted to help and support each other. Board work is a tapestry of patience, prudence, flexibility, decisiveness, crisis management, and sensitivity to time, place, and people; a tapestry woven by many hands and many hearts. Sometimes consensus on a single word can take an hour or perhaps months of careful searching, and sometimes a decision with worldwide importance to the organization can be reached in minutes.
As a Board member, I find that there may be no right answer for all of us, but there can be many right answers for many of us—and the answers may be as different and diverse as those seeking them.
In Board work, as in so many aspects of life, it is such a fine balance—the needs and styles of the individual versus the needs and well-being of the collective. As a lone blind person in the world of the sighted, I struggle with this balance every day. We all do in our own circumstances in our own way. And somehow LLL and the LLLI Board are no exception.
After being on the Board five months I have learned so much. I have developed new skills—like anything to do with finances—and improved areas such as effective writing. I’ve learned so much about La Leche League beyond my Area and Division—what Leaders around the world are doing, what projects LLLI is connected with, and other breastfeeding groups we interact with as an organization.
The vital importance of working together in respectful ways is evident as we work through issues, discuss various perspectives, share information, and listen intently to understand the issue or another perspective. Decisions that reflect a great diversity of experience and knowledge better serve LLL than decisions made with only a little input.
I was surprised that once I was on the LLLI Board, some looked at me differently, as if I were suddenly different! I can assure everyone I did not change and suddenly become wiser and more clever and powerful. I know that as a Board member I do have a great deal of influence over what happens in LLLI, but what ends up happening is a product of the group’s consensus, a working with many perspectives to learn from each other and create a new collective wisdom.
Board work is characterized by a greater perspective: hearing many different opinions and ideas and thoughts from people with varied backgrounds, personalities, and experiences, on the Board during our discussions, from other enthusiastic people on the Board Committees and work groups, and from anyone, in or outside of LLL, who cares to write. We get a wider view of the LLL world, and of where LLLI fits into the world.
Everybody feels overwhelmed at first (and later too!). Each Board member brings particular talents and experience—which are valuable to the Board and to LLL. As a Board member, I feel privileged to be watching the renewal initiative unfold and take root, and to be helping it along. I feel this experience may be useful in other areas of my life.
Effective members of the LLLI Board need dedication to the work and a commitment to the time necessary for the Board work. I have found Board work interesting, mind expanding, and fun. Working with women from many parts of the world expands my understanding of LLLI and its work throughout the world. At meetings and during informal discussions, the Board stays on task and has fun at the same time and the high level of respect between members is evident.