Board Spotlight: Meet BDI Board Member Mike Pate

Mike challenges us to take roads less traveled.

From Debbie Freeman, BDI Contributing Writer

“I call myself an inverse paranoid,” says BDI Board Member Mike Pate. “I think everyone is out to help me!”

While this statement is intriguing, it’s not surprising – coming from someone whose email address begins with “PositivePate.” Throughout his professional career and personal adventures, Mike says an optimistic outlook has served him very well.

“I think attitude is one of the most critical components of success in life,” he says, recalling an article he read years ago reporting a majority of Fortune 500 CEOs felt the same way. And his colorful career path is a testament to this truth.

With a degree in communications and ministry, Mike has owned an advertising agency, led a Christian camping ministry, joined relief efforts all over the world and is currently pursuing a hobby-turned-career as a day trader. In addition to these rewarding endeavors, he also finds great meaning working with boards of directors, providing guidance and wisdom to organizations.

“It’s an opportunity to be associated with great people and involved in a good way.” 

Mike has served on local advisory councils and with organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He sits on the board of Christian Community Credit Union, now the largest Christian credit union in the country. And more recently with M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a foundation that guides nonprofits through every level of their development, he was invited to be a coach and instructor of a program that trains board members and CEOs in succession planning and governance.

“That was great fun and I discovered how critical boards are and how important they are to the overall long-term health of an organization.”

It’s this wealth of experience Mike brought to BDI when he joined the board of directors in 2018 and helped guide the agency’s transition to an ESOP.

Mike believes the precise role of a board isn’t known by most people. “The #1 priority is to be the keeper of an organization’s mission,” he says, “followed only second by choosing the correct leader – the CEO, president or executive director.” 

Besides fiduciary and compliance issues, the board should have little to do with day-to-day operations, Mike explains. “The board doesn’t usually even come up with an organization’s strategy. But it must own the strategy. And in order to own something, you have to be intimately involved with its understanding.”

“It’s often said that the role of the board is to keep their noses in but their fingers out.”

On a personal level, Mike’s positivity plays out in his pledge to “say yes to opportunities whenever feasible,” which has led him literally to roads less traveled. “It’s not the easiest road or the clearest road marked, but it’s always been the most interesting.”

For example, Mike works with mission efforts in Liberia, building orphanages, schools and churches and helping children with critical medical care. “It’s a long trip and to one of the poorest places I’ve ever been. But I said yes and it changed my life.” 

And with a goal of setting foot in all seven continents, Mike has also visited Antarctica. “The number of people who have been there is extremely small. So if you’re taking a road less traveled, well…  It was a grand adventure and I’d recommend it to anyone!”

Then there’s the time he flew to Pago-Pago in the South Pacific to help a blogger he followed online sail his boat back to Hawaii – with no previous experience. Mike lost 25 pounds and broke two toes on the three-week voyage, but he would do it again tomorrow. 

“That’s where my life-philosophy rubber hit the road: A ‘road less traveled’ AND a ‘yes whenever feasible.’”

Of course none of it would be possible without the support of his loving wife, Shell, and her famous words: “Just go.” The couple live on a mountain side near Lake Arrowhead, California, where they cherish every second they can spend with their family.

“We have four grown children and two grandsons,” Mike says. “They’re spread out now, so we do family vacations and our home is large enough for all of them to stay. That’s probably one of our favorite things in life.” 

Shell is a master gardener and their location’s elevation allows for the change of seasons. So the view from Mike’s home-office window – currently soft snow – offers peace and serenity as he tracks the market on a bank of computer screens, contemplates his next “road trip” and uses his experience, knowledge and positivity to help BDI move ahead.

So what is Mike’s goal for the agency? 

“I love our mission – releasing generosity. As for a broad vision, we really leave that up to the senior leadership team. As a board member, my personal vision for BDI is that it would be healthy and grow and be all it was designed to be… to be the best we can be… and to have the greatest impact we can.  

It’s a vision teeming with optimism. You’d expect nothing less from Positive Pate.   

More About Mike

“There’s nothing better in my world than a great board meeting!”

What comprises a great meeting for Mike?

“It has a clear direction and a good agenda with a desired outcome. For example, you should know if an item is up for discussion or decision. You also must have the information you need ahead of time to have an intelligent discussion and make an intelligent decision. If the meeting lacks clarity, it makes for a lousy afternoon.”

The three positive principles on Mike’s family fridge:

  1. Take 100% responsibility for your life. You’re not the victim, but the leader of your life, and that eliminates a lot of blaming and complaining.
  2. You = 5. You become like the five people you hang out with the most, So choose those whose lives you’d be honored to emulate.
  3. E + R = O. Events plus Response equals Outcomes in your life. Often you have no control over events. So if you don’t like the outcome, try a different response.
  • Debbie Freeman

    Debbie Freeman, Contributing Writer

    Throughout her 30+ year career in direct marketing and fundraising, Debbie has held positions in client service, creative management and copywriting. She’s worked for a number of organizations, including Hallmark Cards, Unity School of Christianity, Resource & Development Group and Summit Marketing, and has served nonprofit clients such as The Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

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