June 23, 2015
Angela B. Freeman, an intellectual property associate and patent attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, became interested in joining Leadership United when legal colleagues recommended the program to her. She had considered getting involved with a nonprofit board, but wasn’t aware how to go about it or what it would entail.
“I’m not from Indianapolis, so having the opportunity to truly get immersed into the community I thought was really fascinating,” Freeman said. “I was completely with it.”
Leadership United is United Way of Central Indiana’s signature board development and leadership training program. Participants are selected from a pool of applicants and attend 75 hours of training, workshops, and retreats over a 9-month period, ultimately preparing them to serve on nonprofit boards.
Around the same time she joined Leadership United, Freeman was asked to be a board member of Women & Hi Tech, a nonprofit organization in Central Indiana aimed at advancing women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers and industries.
“The plan was to get the board training before I joined a board, but the board opportunity with Women & Hi Tech presented itself. I have been passionate about increasing the number of women and people of color in STEM fields for years, so I had to accept,” said Freeman. “The experience presented an awesome opportunity to get concurrent training by going to Leadership United and learning some of the things you should and should not do on boards, then going directly back to my board and inquiring, ‘Are we doing this? Are we not? How can we improve?’ in order to implement the invaluable Leadership United training into my board.”
Throughout her Leadership United experience, Freeman was also exposed to various United Way partnerships serving the Central Indiana community.
“One of the biggest personal takeaways was that I very much felt a sense of being blessed,” said Freeman. “What I realized is that so many of these programs are for people who have real issues and needs, so if you don’t have those issues and needs, you’re not really exposed to all the services out there. Being kind of naïve to all that was happening, the breadth of services, and all the people these organizations were serving, I repeatedly came home saying, ‘Wow, I am very blessed,’ and feeling even more energized and motivated to continue to give back to the community as I can.”
Freeman had previously made an annual contribution to United Way through her former employer, Eli Lilly & Co., but didn’t understand United Way’s effect until she went through Leadership United.
“I think for the first time, I truly appreciated what United Way does,” Freeman said. “Having been to so many United Way agency centers and seeing the impact on the people…It very much makes me appreciative that I was involved when I was, even though I wasn’t wise enough to know what I was involved in or the organization that I was actually supporting.”
Freeman recommends Leadership United to anyone interested in learning about board membership, nonprofits, and the Indianapolis community.
“I truly received an excellent education on nonprofit organizations and how they run,” Freeman said.
“These organizations are dependent on United Way’s support to do what they do. When you get in there and see some of the services they provide, it’s just amazing. I learned a ridiculous amount, and am truly thankful for the opportunity.”
Applications for the 2015-2016 Leadership United class are due by July 8.