Before Prue Beidler says “yes” to any philanthropic invitation, she tries to say “no” first. Not that you’d know it from the number and variety of boards and organizations she’s served. But to Prue, the most effective volunteer is the one who is passionate about what she’s doing.
“Don’t ever say yes the day you’re asked,” she advises. “Think about it first. It has to be something you look forward to. If you’re saying, ‘Yeah, I should do that, but I don’t really want to,’ you won’t be any good. If it’s exciting to you, then go for it.”
As it turns out, Prue looks forward to a great many things. It’s hard to believe that her service record belongs to one person. She’s been a board member of everything from the Lake Forest Garden Club to Chicago Public Radio to the Women’s Boards of the Art Institute and the Joffrey Ballet.
Prue volunteered as a candy striper as a teenager, but her philanthropic endeavors truly began in her 20s, when she was invited to serve on the Jane Addams Hull House board (she is now a Life Trustee). At the time she was a Chicago Public School teacher, and she remembers calling in sick to work to attend Hull House meetings.
“When you take on leadership, you have to make that organization a priority,” she says.
One of Prue’s biggest challenges came in 2000 when she was elected chairman of the board for the Chicago Children’s Museum. This particular chairmanship had the responsibility of running the museum, and Prue says it was difficult to shift her focus to the organization’s day-to-day operations.
“It was a riveting experience, and it taught me what I wanted. I love board development—engaging with members and working on policy and strategy,” she says.
Prue is still involved with the Children’s Museum, and is the current co-chair of its Capital Campaign. She also serves on the boards for Planned Parenthood, the Juvenile Justice Initiative and the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, to name just a few.
“I like to be involved with places that provide access for people who don’t necessarily have their own voice,” she says.
Prue’s other passion is mentorship, and she’s thrilled when she can help and encourage other women to take on leadership roles.
“Part of how you give back is sharing the things you know,” she says. “Other than my family, volunteering is the core work of my life. It’s the work that gives me purpose.”