People who live on a low income have particular skills and lived experiences that can benefit a governance board, but may also experience barriers that could make it challenging for them to join a board and to participate in board activities.
There are many reasons why people may live on a low income:
- Systemic factors in society that prevent them from moving out of poverty, such as sub-standard housing or inaccessible transportation.
- Their lives may be in transition, or in development, such as youth
- They are temporarily in a low-income situation, such as after a change in jobs
- They have had a major life change, such as recent immigration to Canada
- Recruitment—highlight both skills and lived experience for potential board candidates.
- Orientation—assign a mentor to new board members during their first year, particularly for those who are not familiar with your governance structures.
- Language— use respect when talking about the populations served by your organization. Avoid using “us’ and “them” terminology, particularly if you are serving marginalized people in low income communities.
- When inviting participation from all board members, ensure that the questions and content are inclusive and do not make assumptions about income levels and past experiences.
- Participation— do not expect board members to make financial contributions to the organization, such as buying tickets to fundraising events. Provide other opportunities for board members to serve and participate in fundraising events or activities.
- Do not assume that board members can contribute to food at meetings, either brought or bought (if this is a board practice).
- Be aware of work schedules when choosing times for meetings. Not all workplaces are flexible when it comes to allowing employees to take time off to participate on volunteer boards.