On Wednesday this week, I sat in a meeting that is now a quarterly ritual: the Investment Committee meeting. As a person who prides herself in her competence, the Investment Committee meeting makes me feel that I am in a room where others are speaking an entirely different language that I can’t understand. I often feel bamboozled reading the papers and fear that I will be asked a question about the material only to show that I understand very little. However, on this committee with me are two volunteers from our Board who read voraciously around investments, are active investors and also love the College. They very generously volunteer their valuable time where they could be getting paid to offer their expertise elsewhere. Because they are so generous, knowledgeable and wise, the College’s investments have performed well. All of our scholarships are drawn from this fund, so their volunteering literally impacts on whether or not a student can live at the College or not. Their work is precious to us and they, as volunteers, are irreplaceable.
The recent meeting has made me think a lot about expert volunteers. Non-profit organisations like mine could never afford the level of expertise that we receive from their generosity. Our Board is made up of expert volunteers in law, property, education, design, and philanthropy. Each of them also offers support in sub-committees such as the investment committee, directs our strategy, and serves as ambassadors of our work in the community. We could not function without them, and I am so grateful for their contribution.
In 2014, I was fortunate enough to be selected for Leadership Victoria’s Folio program. Drawn from the Williamson format, we were challenged by the social, economic and environmental issues facing our world today. We were urged to consider how we, as senior leaders, could make a positive impact through volunteering our time to groups in our community who needed our expertise. Since then, I have actively sought to volunteer my own expertise to those who can’t afford it, and urged others to do the same.
Volunteering takes on many forms. You only need compassion and a smile for others to work in a soup kitchen or an opportunity shop. Experts in finance, communications and marketing, investment, HR, law, strategy or education are dearly needed by a number of non-profit organisations. Websites like this one, this one, or this one advertise voluntary board positions needed, or you may realise that a local group right under your nose needs your help. If you have expertise and would like to serve on a non-profit Board but have little experience doing so or want to be well prepared, this course is highly recommended.
I hear from many people how busy they are, and I understand as I am busy too. However, I am also the Principal of an institution that is so very fortunate to have experts, busy and in-demand experts, to serve as volunteers so that our College continues to grow and thrive.
St Hilda's College is a living community and residential college on campus at the University of Melbourne.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which our college is situated. We pay our respect to all the Elders of Indigenous students who call St Hilda’s home. We also acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community, the University of Melbourne, and the wider world.