Tawanda Lewis Owsley has served on the boards of the Louisville Urban League, Greater Louisville Inc., Leadership Louisville, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Lexington Chamber of Commerce, and the Lyric Theatre.

Begin the new year by showing up in a big way. Serving as a board member with a company or organization could be a chance for you to advance progress and discover some gifts you didn’t know you possessed. We show you how to do it.

By Tytianna Wells   |  Photo submitted

Are you ready to tackle some of the big issues happening in our community while making positive changes that will stick? Joining an organization’s board of directors is a great place to start.

As a board member, you would be part of a governing body who makes decisions, protects the company’s integrity, serves as ambassadors for the mission and offers financial support for the organization.

Tawanda Lewis Owsley, senior vice president and chief development officer of Hosparus Health, has served on multiple boards over the past 20 years and says philanthropy is a part of her identity. She serves on the boards of Transit Authority of River City (TARC) and Family Scholar House and has an unwavering commitment to her community. “Volunteerism is something that has been important to me throughout my entire professional career.”

Tawanda’s interest in TARC began when she interned for the company. The internship gave her the opportunity to learn about how public transportation impacts vulnerable populations in our city. It inspired her to help take an active role in supporting residents who rely on this service for basic needs. “As a leader in the community, I feel that public transportation is a catalyst for economic development and improvement.
I want to make sure that our most vulnerable communities have adequate transportation. Many use our public transportation as their only way to get to work or doctor appointments.”

She has served on the Family Scholar House board for six months where she assists with their fundraising efforts. The organization provides resources for single parents that allows them to achieve their educational goals and create a stable home environment for their children. “I understand the impact education can have on a family, and I believe in empowering parents to thrive,” she says.

Bringing diversity into the boardroom

Tawanda believes the ever-changing social and racial landscape of our country makes it imperative for companies to have board members who are representative of the communities they serve. “[We need to] encourage others to get involved — especially women and people of color to take the time to utilize their voices to influence our community.” The goal, she says, should be to let people know everyone matters, because inclusivity allows for different perspectives which can yield positive results. “We need not only diversify in race and ethnicity but in professional backgrounds to incorporate diverse voices.” Tawanda says having a diverse board also includes recruiting younger professionals. Those who already serve on boards can encourage young employees to participate in or chair a fundraising event. She also suggests recommending them for
board positions.

Knocking down barriers

Tawanda says most boards require minimal contributions to serve, which can discourage young professionals if they have limited incomes. However, she says many nonprofit boards have created a give or get option to encourage charitable giving at all levels. In some cases, organizations that have a minimum donation amount will ask those who are unable to contribute financially for their help in soliciting donations from their corporation and friends. This would allow young professionals to either make a monetary charitable gift to the company or recruit someone who can assist with funding such as selling tickets to an event. “Everyone should have the opportunity to serve.”


Be intentional:
Get on board with these self-reflective questions first

  • What organization do I believe in and am committed to?
  • What is the current impact of the organization?
  • Who is the leader or the Executive Director of the organization? What is their vision for the organization and does it reflect my values?
  • What are my prior personal and professional commitments?
  • When would be a good time in my schedule to begin a new commitment?
  • How much time can I designate to the Board?
  • Who are the current members of the Board?
  • In what ways can I contribute to the Board?

P.S. Learn tips on how to lead with appreciation from Leadership Louisville Center President Cynthia Knapek.