Nancy Stearns of Wonalancet is former Head of School at The Derryfield School and has served on the Foundation’s Lakes Region Advisory Board since 2011. She shares her thoughts about the experience of being a community advisor to New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation.
When a former colleague and Charitable Foundation staff member invited me to meet a few folks from the Foundation’s Lakes Region Advisory Board, I was both delighted and curious. From what I knew about the Foundation, I knew that this would be a chance to learn more about statewide issues and work in partnership with others making significant strides to improve conditions for everyone in New Hampshire. That was a compelling opportunity. I joined the Lakes Region Advisory Board the following year.
The Foundation, in its commitment to engage people from every corner of the state and develop a deep understanding of issues and needs in New Hampshire communities, has eight regional advisory boards made up of community members from diverse backgrounds who bring a wealth of experience and skills to the task. Regional advisors review and approve grants and help the Foundation identify emerging community needs. My own background offered decades of commitment to students from pre-school through college-age, while the other Lakes Region members brought personal and professional experience in business, ministry, philanthropy, health care, financial advising, non-profit consulting, and architecture. Each of us was engaged in meaningful volunteer work in the state as well as with a wide circle of friends and colleagues.
Because our terms rotate every six years, the board always welcomed three or four new people each year. The result was an ideal balance of continuity in leadership and experience with a steady infusion of new ideas and opinions.
Among my many memorable opportunities, three stand out: partnering with so many fine people, participating in site visits to local nonprofits, and serving on the Foundation’s Statewide Community Grants Committee.
In our site visits, I was moved by the profound dedication represented by the work our non-profit leaders commit to others: after-school youth, early childhood centers, summer recreational programs, year-long mentoring for young people, housing for homeless veterans and families, and vigorous advocacy for neglected children and isolated adults. The list is long.
The most significant opportunity of all for me has been my participation on the Statewide Grants Committee, reviewing proposals from organizations that serve the entire state. I have been challenged, enlightened and inspired, and each year grow in awe of the selflessness and determination of so many good people whose very reason for being is to make life better for others.
Because of this rare exposure to the Foundation’s reach into every corner of New Hampshire, I have found more ways to be involved in areas that matter hugely to me – particularly, environmental conservation, educational leadership, CASA, and hospice. Serving as a regional advisor to the Foundation has reaffirmed my pride in being a citizen of this state and my life-long commitment to helping to make a difference in the lives of others.