Nina Chandarana joined the NYCH Board of Directors in 2013. As a resident of North York, along with her husband and two young children, Nina is extremely passionate about building North York into an inclusive, thriving community. She brings a diverse skill set, with an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and experience in the private and public sectors in management consulting, teaching accounting and finance, and managing multi-million dollar businesses. In the last 2 years, she has been involved with the Strategy and Board Development committees, developing NYCH's 3-year strategic plan and putting in place a new board evaluation process.
Nina spoke with NYCH’s Human Resources Director, Bonnie Hunter, about what it’s like to be on a board, and some of the things she sees for the year ahead:
BH: Hi Nina, thanks for doing this! It would be great to share a bit about who you are, your experiences on the NYCH board so far, favourite flavour of ice cream…whatever you want to tell us.
NC: Hey Bonnie! Thanks for asking.
BH: So what made you decide you to join a board of directors, instead of doing some other kind of volunteer work?
NC: A professor once told me that my education is a gift, and the best way to show my gratitude would be to volunteer on a non-profit board of directors. At the time, I had NO idea what she was talking about (in my young, naive days!). But about 10 years later, I remembered that conversation as I was feeling very lucky to have had the schooling I did. I really wanted to utilize my education in the most effective and contribution-oriented way possible. So, I took her advice, looked into organizations whose cause I wanted to support and applied!
BH: There are so many organizations out there – how did you get connected to NYCH?
NC: A friend from school was on the NYCH Board and she posted all kinds of interesting things on Facebook about the organization. I live in North York, and was looking for an organization in my community doing work that helped empower people to live fulfilling lives. After seeing my friend's Facebook posts, I reached out to find out how I could get involved, and lucky for me, NYCH was looking for new Board members. Gotta love social media!
BH: What has been the biggest surprise, or ‘aha’ moment since you joined the board?
NC: How unbelievably challenging running a non-profit can be. I always knew that non-profits worked in a unique environment, but I had no idea to what extent the challenges are at every level. At the Board level, we have the opportunity to see all aspects of the organization and the question of "how do we deliver the highest impact within the restraints that we have" always makes for a complex discussion. It has been a real eye opener for me to witness NYCH's ability to work with minimal funding, to constantly be looking for more efficient ways to operate, to train, mentor and retain staff, to fight to maintain current funding levels, all while staying focused on delivering world-class programming.
BH: I’m not sure if everyone knows how much work is involved in being on a board. What’s one thing you wish people knew about non-profit boards?
NC: Great question! Before I became a board member, there was always this mysterious veil over an organization's "Board of Directors", almost like a Big Brother type feeling. Thankfully, my view has changed and the board is actually not as mystical as I was led to believe! It is actually just a group of people genuinely wanting to help the agency move forward to build stronger communities.
In my experience, there seem to be three aspects of board involvement: First, attending monthly board meetings which is primarily used for the ED to get feedback on major initiatives and finalize big organizational decisions. These meetings also provide background, context and insights into the organization which allows for deeper and richer board discussions (~ 3 hours/month). Second, getting involved with committees (e.g. finance, communications, strategy, policy, recruitment/development, fundraising). This is where projects are taken on and board members roll up their sleeves to help the organization accomplish its goals (anywhere from 3-20 hours/month depending on the committee and the project at the time). Thirdly, board members act as ambassadors and help to raise the organization’s profile in the community.
BH: From your perspective, what do you see for the year ahead for the board/for NYCH? Can you give us a horoscope? I believe the organization is an Aquarius.
NC: Well, if I were to look into my crystal ball, I see a winding road with some roadblocks for NYCH, with an all-terrain vehicle pushing through the barriers and a beautiful garden at the end of the journey. (Do I need to brush up on my fortune teller analogies?!?) This is actually an extremely exciting year for NYCH because the organization is very clear about the impact it wants to make (which really lines up with its key strengths), and is gathering the tools and developing the structure to deliver on that impact. There are a lot of changes in the funding environment that we will need to keep our eye on (and develop some diversification strategies in response), but the ‘garden at the end of the journey’ is seeing many of our clients move into leadership roles in their communities and therefore inspiring others in their neighborhoods to push through barriers and live more confident and full lives. A pretty amazing vision for us to focus our energies on!
BH: Finally, what IS your favourite flavour of ice cream?
NC: I'm a mint chocolate chip kinda gal!