For Jerry and Carol Levin, a longtime commitment to social impact issues began with the lessons learned in their community. “We were both brought up with Jewish values that really call for each of us to help repair the world,” said Jerry Levin, ’68, chairman and CEO of JW Levin Partners LLC.

The couple was among nearly 60 speakers at this year’s On Board conference, hosted by Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative. Taking place April 15 at Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago, On Board drew 400 nonprofit leaders, Booth alumni, and students to discuss best practices in board service.

During a fireside chat at the daylong conference, the UJA-Federation of New York board member and his wife, herself a philanthropist and active on the boards of several organizations, reflected on their years of involvement in social impact work.

“When we do our own marketing research word clouds, the number one word that comes up is trust,” Jerry Levin said. “It is very important to us that whatever we do, it’s mission-focused, we communicate that, and we’re thoughtful and careful to make sure that it’s efficient.”

Meanwhile, Carol Levin highlighted the importance of using creativity and imagination to keep fundraisers fresh and donors engaged. “If I am involved with something they know it is going to be creative and fun,” she said. “I am always trying to do a little special something.”

A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY

In all, more than 145 nonprofits were represented at this year’s On Board conference. More than 20 sessions covered topics from crafting a board and creating its structure, to deep dives into financial best practices and leveraging data. A nonprofit networking fair also introduced attendees to organizations working on a wide range of social issues.

“At On Board, you’re learning about how to be a good board member and how to determine which board is right for you, so you’ll be a good steward of your community,” said presenter Gayle Haller, ’87, senior vice president, arts and culture, for the National Executive Service Corps.

“Everything we do at Booth is gathering data, and then asking what the data really does say versus what you want it to say,” said Aurora Investment Management CEO Roxanne Martino, ’88. “Booth is uniquely ready to assist organizations that perhaps aren’t doing a good job gathering the data or aren’t doing a good job of evaluating the data.”

A longtime board member of Chicago-based housing and mental health resource Thresholds, Martino gave the day’s keynote address and explained her passion for nonprofit work: “The impact is so lifelong. You’re not only helping the person, you’re helping the entire family, you’re helping all their friends, and you’re helping the community.”

A RESOURCE FOR STUDENTS

For current Booth students, the conference was not just a chance to learn, but also to connect with organizations seeking talent. “Having a conference like this dedicated to nonprofits and social enterprise is great for us to meet with other like-minded people,” said Gunjan Sud, ’16, a former Net Impact Board Fellow.

The conference is just one of SEI’s many benefits to students, said Evening student and Board Fellow Anny Chou. “Any time we’re organizing events, we go to SEI to ask for support or connections to speakers. They’re spearheading classes that are aimed at those interested in social enterprise,” Chou said. “There are just so many resources housed in one spot with a great team.”

AN EXPANDING FOOTPRINT

As interest in social impact issues grows among Booth students and alumni, SEI will expand On Board to New York City and the Twin Cities later this year. Earlier this year, SEI piloted Alumni Board Connect, an initiative that matches Booth alumni with board positions at nonprofit organizations, in New York and the Twin Cities. Alumni Board Connect will open applications in these cities again in fall 2016.

“I know Booth is dedicated to helping alumni find the right nonprofit matches and helping them get started,” Jerry Levin said. But whether graduates go on to become board members or nonprofit executives, Levin believes Booth’s rigorous, multidisciplinary approach puts the school in “a fabulous position” to propel the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

“We think that Booth could play a huge role in terms of getting these people more prepared,” he said. “I think this is a great training ground."