What happens when you cross the Bridge?
Four Seattleites found themselves not only in the same Seattle Works Bridge course, but also on the same path toward doing exactly what they were learning to do as part of the Bridge program: connecting people with the opportunities around them.
2012 Bridge program graduates Kira Cha, Emily Knudsen, Chelsey Meek-Beck, and Jennifer Mortensen (read their bios) share how, what they learned from Seattle Works, helped them land board membership at the West Seattle-based nonprofit Nature Consortium, whose mission is to connect people, arts, and nature.
What was it about Nature Consortium that drew you to them?
Chelsey: I was drawn to Nature Consortium because of their mission statement: connecting people, arts, and nature. This organization is unique because each of their initiatives connects the three elements. I also like the fact that the organization has several projects that target youth. While many art programs are cut due to budgeting, Nature Consortium is actively working with after school programs to provide opportunities for youth to learn about art in a fun way. I think that’s great!
Emily: There are so many qualities to choose from! I think what I found most impressive, though, was the organization’s support of the arts. By promoting the arts in its programs and committing to always pay artists not only shows that the organization is true to its values, but also helps demonstrate to others in the community that art deserves more attention and appreciation. This helps create a more vibrant community.
Kira: The connection Nature Consortium has with the community is what drew me to them. As a new Seattleite, seeing how this organization ties art and conservation, which strengthen the identity of the area, to the neighborhood is a mission that I wanted to be a part of in my new city. I’m excited to contribute to the positive values that define Seattle, because this is what attracted me to the city when I moved here.
Jen: At the end of the Seattle Works Bridge program, Page Roth gave us a great list of organizations seeking volunteers. I was the nerd who looked up the website for each and every org on that list. I’m a marketing person by trade, so spending my time with an organization that knows how to—or that’s at least eager to—creatively tell their story is important to me. I wanted to join an organization capable of standing out in a crowd. One look at Nature Consortium’s website and you’ll know they’re creative, inspiring, doing lots of great things in our community, and that they’re even a little quirky. I just love that.
What was the process of becoming a board member like?
Emily: I familiarized myself with the organization by meeting with the executive director, board members and attending Nature Consortium events to learn as much as I could about its mission and how the organization operated. I was in awe of what the organization was accomplishing and was certain that it had further potential. So I submitted my resume, attended a board meeting, and was voted in just a few months after attending the Bridge program. I felt supported and encouraged throughout the whole process by Page Roth of Seattle Works and everyone I met at Nature Consortium.
Jen: Becoming a board member was not unlike dating. Seattle Works was the matchmaker; they gave me a volunteer “makeover” and introduced me to Nature Consortium. I had a first date with Nancy, NC’s executive director. She showed me their artistically decorated office, introduced me to their fun-loving and hard-working staff, and we had a great conversation about the organization’s mission and her vision for the future. Then, I had a second date with Board Member Derek. We talked one-on-one about the state of the organization and what it’s like to serve on the board. Shortly thereafter, Derek and Nancy invited me to meet the family. I attended a couple of spirited board meetings (not at all like the stuffy, number-crunching board meeting’s I’d envisioned. (Well, there was some number crunching; budgets are important!) We all got to know one another, ask questions, and evaluate if this relationship was going to work. I was very proud to be asked to join the board and to be voted in with my fellow Bridge grads. Now that the honeymoon stage is over, Nancy has me hard at work helping with the organization’s brand building. It was and continues to be a great experience!
What are you excited to work on as a board member?
Emily: I’m really excited to get the word out about Nature Consortium. I’ve heard so many volunteers and attendees of the Arts in Nature Festival speak very enthusiastically about the organization, so I know that if more people find out about the organization, they will also be smitten and eager to be more involved. (Just as I was.)
Kira: We host a series of fun art and nature events in West Seattle and beyond and getting people involved and invested in the mission is the biggest way I, as a board member, can contribute to the organization’s longevity.
Chelsey: As a Board Member, I’m excited to learn more about the structure and a typical statement of work of a non-profit organization. As a new board member, I think it is fascinating how differently a non-profit functions than a for profit company. I think that attending board meetings and different functions will help me to learn about these topics.
Jen: I’m excited, albeit a little nervous, to work on friend- and fund-raising. Over the years I’ve grown a network of friends who share professional and personal interests. Now I have a chance to introduce my network to my philanthropic interests. I hope I’ll learn how to effectively “pitch” Nature Consortium to friends and colleagues, to help inspire them to give time and resources in support of arts, nature, and community-building. I’ll definitely be drawing on the knowledge Seattle Works taught me during the Bridge course.
What is one thing from The Bridge that you remember and are excited to apply in your upcoming service?
Kira: This is my first board service and what The Bridge taught me is that diversity of experiences are important on a board. It’s important for a board to continue to develop as a group, and bringing in new ideas and voices strengthens the board as a whole, prevents stagnation, and pushes it to grow.
Jen: Board service has a social benefit, too! I’m enjoying getting to know my fellow board members and the Nature Consortium staff: what they do professionally, what they do for fun, what we have in common (in addition to our love of Nature Consortium, of course).
Emily: The base knowledge on nonprofit financials I learned at the Bridge was really important to me. It’s an area where I’d like to gain more experience so I’m hoping to apply that knowledge to my role as a board member.
Chelsey: The Bridge taught me that different board members can bring different things to the table in an organization. For instance, some people can bring the benefits of a large network or knowledge in a specific field (such as law) that would be useful in a board setting. Personally, I can donate time to volunteer for the organization. By doing so I can help ensure the organization is fulfilling its mission in the activities it provides to its targeted audience. I am excited to get to know the people that are passionate about Nature Consortium’s mission as I volunteer.
What has been your favorite moment at Nature Consortium so far?
Jen: Handing out beer tokens at Clips of Faith was pretty fantastic. “What’s Clips of Faith?” you ask. Oh, only the most awesome summer evening out in Seattle you’ll ever have: movies on the lawn at Gasworks Park, New Belgium Beer tasting, music, prizes, friends, and above all else, an entire community learning about and showing support for Nature Consortium! Check out the photo recap.
Emily: The first Nature Consortium event I attended was the Youth Art Program. I helped the kids create flowers and bugs out of reclaimed materials and put together a mosaic for their garden. After art time, the kids wanted to take me to their garden. They pointed out the plants they had sown and showed me the resident chickens. What really got me was their excitement over the sorrel they had grown. (Yes, sorrel, a leafy green.) A few kids picked off a leaf or two, stuffed it into their mouths and then asked permission to get more. Then one boy turned to me, “Do you want to try it? It’s delicious!” and he gave me his. Who knew kids could be that excited over fresh-from-the-garden greens?! You could tell how proud they were at what they had accomplished.
Kira: My favorite moment was the first meet and greet board meeting we attended before becoming board members. It was the biannual board and staff meeting and there was an introductory storytelling where everyone shared a Nature Consortium memory. It was so inspiring to hear everyone’s vastly different experiences. Listening to the passion and energy everyone has for this organization made me want to join right away!
Join Kira, Emily, Chelsey, and Jen in the ranks of community leaders. The next session of The Bridge starts THIS Tue, 9/25 6-9p! Sign Up Now!