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Research Communications

Ready to Lead 

Graduate Student Spotlight: Renee Steffen

April 5, 2011

How can nonprofit board members make the best contributions to their organizations? Judy Millesen, a faculty member with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and director of the master of public administration program, proposed developing an instructional DVD on board governance to better prepare regional board members with critical skills for fundraising, time management, and strategy.

Millesen recruited public administration graduate student Renee Steffen, students from the Scripps College of Communication, regional nonprofit board members, and a local musician for the effort.

“It turned into the biggest project I’ve ever been involved with,” Steffen says.

Renee Steffen
Renee Steffen. Photo credit: Kevin Riddell.


With funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation, the team created a DVD that consists of five 12-minute sections: fundraising, planning and strategy, roles and responsibilities, making meetings count, and financial management.

“Board members should be able to articulate how they will contribute to the mission and vision of the organization, as well as how they will play a vital role in helping to raise funds,” Steffen explains.

As project manager, Steffen coordinated schedules, scouted film locations, and guided the film students who taped interviews and edited footage. The team filmed interviews at the Kennedy Museum of Art and the Voinovich School, and local musician Bruce Dalzell provided a soundtrack.  

Steffen called the final product “easily understandable, engaging, and fast-paced.” The team released 500 free copies of the DVD in August—following 10 listening sessions, 21 board member interviews, and hundreds of hours of editing. Local and national nonprofit boards for the arts, animal welfare, human services, environment, and youth have received the DVD, and board members have given very positive feedback so far.

“The great thing about the DVD is that it has a broad-based appeal,” says Steffen, who adds that the project helped her land a job with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Akron, Ohio. “The information is applicable to any type of nonprofit seeking to strengthen its board despite its particular mission.”


By Katie Brandt

This story will appear in the spring/summer 2011 issue of Perspectives magazine.