By Brad Kirshenbaum, Director of Marketing and Recruitment
Welcome back, Blog Buddies!
This is the first in a series of interviews with our Board of Directors to let you get to know them better and see why they chose to serve our mission in such a direct manner. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands is incredibly fortunate to have such an outstanding board. They were recognized this June as the Board of the Year for 2017 at the Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference in St. Louis.
Below is an interview with Board Chair, John Gilbreath. John is the VP of Finance at AOS Energy/Gilbreath Capital.
How long have you been on the BBBSM board?
Nearly 6 years, since January of 2013.
How did you become involved with BBBSM?
About 8 years ago I decided I wanted to get more involved in the nonprofit world, particularly with an organization that focuses on local youth. I was fortunate enough to have a good career in energy mergers & acquisitions, and wanted to give back to the Omaha community. At the time, I was working for Tenaska and Paul Smith, the head of our group, was very involved in local non-profits. I asked Paul if he had any ideas about ways I could get involved and he suggested joining the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I knew a little about the organization as my older brother had been a Big Brother. Once I met with the CEO, Nichole Turgeon, and learned more about the mission and success they have had as an agency, I knew instantly that I wanted to get more involved.
What does mentoring mean to you?
Mentoring is a way for someone to pay it forward and give back to a person that really needs it. Typically, a mentor has had some sort of success in their life and the mentee can benefit by learning from that person’s experience. One of the things that immediately drew me to Big Brothers Big Sisters was the volunteer-mentor model. It was a way to more effectively put donor dollars to work, utilizing donations to focus on making the matches between the Big (mentor) and Little (mentee) as impactful as possible.
What excites you most about the agency’s direction in the next 5 years?
It feels like a challenging time for nonprofits. It seems like the number of nonprofits with good causes continues to increase, leading to heightened competition for donor dollars. It also seems like federal support of such programs is in decline, including not only reduced federal funding, but also diminished tax benefits for individual charitable contributions. The dynamics for private fundraising are also changing as baby boomers shift into retirement and younger generations become a greater percentage of the work force. The thing that excites me about all of this is being able to be involved with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, which has demonstrated a long track record of success and challenges itself to adapt to this environment to ensure a continued, meaningful impact on the Greater Omaha Community.
Who was a mentor to you as you were growing up or in your career?
My dad. I was fortunate enough to have a really good role model in my father. I had 6 siblings. My mother died at a young age and my dad pulled it together to raise all of us, give us a good upbringing, and put us all in a position where we were able to achieve success. As the owner of the local small town grocery store, he had an extremely strong work ethic and was also very involved in trying to better the local community. My siblings and I learned from his example.
What are you most proud of during your time as Board Chair?
We have a highly engaged board, particularly relative to other nonprofits. Our staff is nationally renowned and extremely passionate about the mission. This is evident through the recognition and awards earned over the past few years for Board of the Year and Agency of the Year on a national level.
What do you think more people should know about BBBSM?
I think donors are often mistaken about two things: 1. Since it’s a ‘volunteer’ mentor model, limited funding is required and 2. Given the Omaha agency in particular has been so successful, less funding is required. The fact of the matter is that the organization requires increased fundraising every year to sustain that success. We need to recruit high-quality Bigs and support those matches. We also need to replace donor reductions that have resulted from the current nonprofit environment, while growing the reach of what has been a highly effective and impactful local nonprofit.