Ben Thornley, Director of InSight at PCV, was highlighted by UC Berkeley’s Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership for his work as the Board President of Centerforce, a nonprofit supporting families and communities impacted by incarceration. Learn more about Ben.
The full article:
“My path to becoming a nonprofit board leader:
I serve as Board President of Centerforce, a nonprofit supporting families and communities impacted by incarceration—a board I first joined as a Berkeley Board Fellow in 2007. As a graduate student at the Goldman School of Public Policy, I was interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. I wanted real-world experience in organizational leadership, and the Board Fellows Program was ideal. The process of being matched to a nonprofit was straightforward, and I was provided with tons of support throughout the year.
I was placed with an organization called Centerforce, a nonprofit in San Rafael (a stone’s throw from San Quentin State Prison) focused on supporting communities impacted by incarceration. Centerforce programs promote successful re-entry, particularly by encouraging strong, healthy familial relationships. Like many nonprofit organizations, the Great Recession has forced Centerforce to become lean and efficient. Together with a leadership transition early in my tenure on the board, the first-hand experience of these challenges has been invaluable.
My Board Fellows experience:
I was fortunate to work with some seasoned nonprofit executives and board members at Centerforce and learned enough about nonprofit finance, programming, and board development during my first 24 months as a Board Fellow to enable me to move into the role of President in 2010 (I made an initial two-year commitment, which is not a requirement of the program). The Board Fellows experience has directly enhanced my ability to contribute to PCV as a program director. It also introduced me to the Bay Area and some of its most intractable problems and underserved communities very soon after relocating to California for school. I felt more connected to Berkeley and the region as a result.
What advice would you give to students?
I consider the Board Fellows Program a central part of my education. My involvement with Centerforce quickly became a top priority at Cal when I realized that the experience would be truly valuable and memorable – but also somewhat terrifying, given all of my other school-related obligations. I would advise students considering becoming a Board Fellow to embrace the gravity of the responsibility and to throw yourself into it… and to expect the unexpected!”