Sara Assaf


Business - Economics & Law

Graduate of the Non-Profit Board Internship Program (2021-2022)

Describe your board/organization, their objectives, and your responsibilities during the NPBI internship. 

My board is a governance board known as Community Options. On this board, the team (board members) make high level decisions for the non-profit organization that are aimed at helping achieve equity for children with disabilities. The organization’s mission statement is to “support the diverse learning needs of children and families through inclusive early childhood education and community initiatives,” and they aim to bridge the gap between children who experience difficulties learning, whether due to financial difficulties, technological difficulties, physical or mental barriers, and more. As a board, we review the decisions made by each committee, as well as, the organization’s overall progress relative to the strategic plan and the Executive Director’s Report. As an intern, this means a lot of observation before actively participating, to really understand how a board operates. Our board also consists of three committees relevant to the sectors that coordinate each function: one for marketing, one for finance, and one for governance. I am a member of our group’s marketing committee, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the board and committee. 

Can you describe your project and how you think it will benefit your board? 

My board project is an SEO guide, and I believe it will benefit our board, as, being a member of the marketing committee, I’ve learned that for the past year, the organization has been trying to improve their social media marketing. While there was an external consultant hired on behalf of Community Options, one thing the organization seemed to lack was knowledge on search engine optimization (SEO). As a result, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to write up a guide on how they can improve their website, so that it will rank when people search up relevant terms, and so that they can spread more awareness about Community Options as a non-profit organization. This will mean that hopefully, their social media marketing team can implement SEO, to (potentially) feature monthly blogs with education on different services that Community Options provides, and the different learning disabilities young children can experience. This also means that when parents search up questions on how to help their children, the Community Options website will have a better chance of popping up near the top of the list, since Google will begin to index the relevant terms found in the website, thereby increasing viewership! I absolutely love marketing and am happy I can combine aspects of social media marketing to my board project. I am looking forward to presenting my project soon! 

What stands out for you as key learning moments as a result of volunteering on a board? 

What stood out to me most was my own mentor, Emma, who is the Board President. She’s very kind, and made me feel comfortable when I was first starting out, showing me the ins-and-outs of each meeting, and explaining how things worked in detail. Despite each board meeting having a standardized format, Emma was humorous and engaging, I admired that she could have fun in her position, while still remaining professional, and taking initiatives. Emma was eager to answer all of my questions and lend a helping hand. A key learning moment for me where I learned more about Emma’s Role, occurred during the in-camera sessions on our board. I realized that being on a board isn’t always easy, but it’s how you handle moments of adversity that really make a difference, to both your teammates (board members), and with your own character. I admire her for these reasons and so much more! 

Would you recommend this program to U of A students and why? 

Yes! I definitely would recommend this program to University of Alberta students, because I feel it is a great first step at learning about non-profit organizations. The structure of non-profits is so different from private sector companies, and there is so much students can learn simply from attending board meetings. You really learn how modern non-profit organizations operate, and there are so many opportunities for individual growth. There are also different levels of flexibility, so if you feel that you’ll be too busy to do this program - there are options! This program was very accommodating to students like me, who have busy schedules, and Madeleine and Jill, the program coordinators, are there to help you every step of the way! If you have questions, reach out to your mentor or the University itself, but definitely take charge of opportunities like this one, because at the very least you’re gaining tangible skills and a valuable learning experience!