Judy Maley | Building diverse non-profit boards in Chicago


Ms Judith (Solomon) Maley

Consultant on Leadership, Philanthropy and Social Enterprise

GREATNESS: Native Chicagoan who connects smart women of all ages to governance roles at non-profits they truly care about; an engaged alumna; and a donor whose giving is now taking shape in a major way

“I don’t know how great I am, but I’m happy to help,” Judy graciously responded to my request for a feature on this blog over LinkedIn. It was the kind of comment that reinforces my quest to profile a genuine, humble (i.e. real!) woman whose good works often go unnoticed in mainstream media.

Judy is a “Chicago person,” coming of age in Hyde Park. She attended Northwestern University to earn her undergraduate degree and Chicago Booth for her MBA (1984), at a time she recalls just 25% of her fellow MBA candidates were female. She credits her breadth of education with increasing her job prospects. After school, she entered corporate marketing. Then, she took time off and had children. It afforded her the opportunity to serve education non-profits that were related to her children, including After School Matters.

When her children grew older, Judy sought to rebuild her network, and “re-establish herself,” by reconnecting with her alma mater networks. Today, she advises on the boards of After School Matters and the Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth. Her accomplishments in the civic arena and volunteer service are impressively extensive; read more here.

I met Judy last year when she co-delivered a presentation about finding meaningful non-profit board governance opportunities at her alma mater Chicago Booth. She and her colleague Gayle Haller spoke to an audience of Booth women who were early in their careers, looking to enhance their professional development through non-profit board service, doing good in their communities.

Yours truly attended Judy and Gayle’s session as an outsider of Booth, but an insider in the non-profit space. I was curious about what advice Judy and Gayle would offer this community of youthful, ambitious women interested in giving back their time, talent (and possibly treasure). Being a prospect researcher and fundraiser, I’m well-versed in the competing views of staff and board when it comes to fundraising. A board director may tell you fundraising is the sole job of the fundraiser, while a staff member wishes her board would dedicate resources to raising friends and funds in a co-ordinated effort. What do Judy and Gayle have to say about the act of fundraising, I wondered?


I was heartened by their emphasis on determining values and passion first before getting involved with a non-profit. Judy and Gayle asked: What is most meaningful to you?

People or causes? Local or global? Donate time or donate money? Being with friends or being with notables?

“Think about your passions and your values. It’s absolutely essential to be passionate about the board’s mission since you’ll be an ambassador for that organization and help garner support for it,” Judy later said.

When we talked on the phone, I asked her for tips on joining a non-profit board, particularly for those who are further established in our careers.

“You may want to develop different skills than your current [skillset]. Try something new; learn a new skill to stretch yourself.

You don’t have a lot of time to search for a non-profit, so start by networking with friends and colleagues. Ask them about organizations they’ve worked with. They’re your best source.” Pending that, check out the online resources Judy compiled to seek new opportunities (below).


Judy harnessed her formal education to build and re-energize her professional life.

“Coming out of Booth gave me a strong foundation and practical knowledge. My job prospects were much better after graduate school.

The real benefit? The relationships I made there,” she noted. “Some of my ties to Booth colleagues are the strongest ones I have today. Re-connecting with old friends and making new ones [through the SEI) helped me to help Chicago non-profits.”

Judy goes onto to say, “Older relationships are based on an underlying trust – they can be open more easily than new ones. I feel very fortunate to be part of Booth.”

When I asked her why advocating for women is important to her, she explained:

“Advocating for equality – gender equality – is important to me. When many diverse thoughts are involved, more diverse boards make superior decisions. For the advancement of all non-profit boards [appointing more women] is the effective thing to do.”

She coaches clients to secure that coveted board seat. “Women need to self-advocate. I’m here. I’m ready to take this on.”

Confidence and self-advocating is something that often arises in Judy’s conversations with clients and mentees. She pays it forward by recently establishing a speed networking circle at Booth reunions where alumnae of all convocation years come together to share stories and advice about what they know now they wish they knew in business school.


“The givers are the ones who get ahead in life.”

And I had to ask about her views on giving since diverse, engaged, fund-raising board directors are, in turn, a non-profit’s most transformational donors!

She cited the work of Adam Grant, a celebrated Wharton business professor, who wrote the book called Give and Take. “There are givers and there are takers in the world. The givers are the ones who get ahead in life,” she recalled about Dr Grant’s work.

What kind of involvement does she personally require with a non-profit before making an outright gift, I asked.

“Good question! The answer has been evolving for me. Where to give is an important decision. I need to know that my donations are impactful.

When I was younger, I gave small gifts to many organizations. I wasn’t deeply involved with the organizations per se. I gave when friends asked me.

Recently, I’ve been giving more sizeable gifts to fewer organizations. It turns out, I’m involved with each of them. I’m on their board, I volunteer, or I know their board and staff. I attend their events.”

Wise words from a great Chicago woman. Perhaps your next major donor is closer to your organization than you realize?

Relatable Sources

The next Booth Women Connect conference is happening on October 23, 2015. Details

A British non-profit research firm Factary recently studied the number of women serving on UK  foundation boards. Not surprisingly, they note abysmal numbers here.

Want to give back? Here are Judy’s resources for getting started:

LinkedIn Board Connect (“really good”) | Idealist.org | Boardsource.org | Volunteermatch.org | Boardnetusa.org | Boardopenings.com

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