Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 Views: 17106

Serving On a Nonprofit Board

Most of us reach a point in our careers where we need a new challenge. A little change once in a while spices up our lives and motivates our work. What better way to introduce change than to inspire change by serving on a nonprofit board?  Nonprofit board members witness the social impact of their great causes while also offering advice, oversight and support. Read on to learn about an array of benefits that come with serving on a nonprofit board.

Benefits of Serving on a Nonprofit Board

Broaden your connections and build valuable networks.

Nonprofit boards tend to attract accomplished, interesting people. By working on issues that you care about and earning a good reputation in the process, you’ll build valuable relationships with fellow board members and the organization’s donors. Serving on a board welcomes you to a myriad of people seasoned in the nonprofit sector. This makes you an eye-catching candidate to larger or corporate boards seeking members with useful networks.

Round out your resume.

While everyone is busy vying for the top corporate board positions, stand out from the crowd of hopefuls, often clutching newly minted MBAs, by proving yourself first on a nonprofit board.  Many boards, especially those at publicly traded companies, look for boardroom experience when recruiting and hiring.  Serving on a nonprofit board lets you prove yourself as a leader while helping the board strategize. The experience and boardroom credibility you gain make a great stepping stone to serving on a corporate board.

Gain expertise on complex issues that are integral to business and the economy.

Nonprofit board members gain expertise on salient issues such as community development, education, housing, healthcare, and the environment.  Such expertise often proves a valuable tool that attracts recruiting from future boards. And familiarity in these fields sharpens your business acumen, helping to improve the boards you already serve and solidifying your reputation as a valuable leader.

Make an impact.

Nonprofits lead by a social value or mission and work to make a significant impact in the world. Whether the mission is to provide school supplies to homeless children or to train shelter dogs to become companions for seniors, channeling your productivity into a cause that is meaningful for you is intrinsically rewarding.  Says GreatNonprofits CTO James Rowley–

“One of the benefits is enriching your life through the understanding of how the nonprofit serves its mission and the people they help. Every day you learn that by putting your skills & experiences from the commercial world to serve that mission, you are part of changing the world.”

How to Pick the Right Board

Now that you’ve decided you want a seat on a nonprofit board, consider the following questions in determining the right one:

What skills/expertise/connections do you bring?

Most organizations look for board members with specific skills–such as public relations, search engine optimization, finance or event planning–or those who have expertise in certain social sectors.  Consider the needs of the nonprofit and how you could contribute, especially in areas in which you consider yourself an expert.  Nonprofits also look for new connections that you can bring.  Landing a valuable board membership can help propel your career, but it also involves you being of value to the organization.  Determine if you can be useful and make a difference.

What is the give/get policy?

Understand the time commitment involved. How much time will you be expected to donate as a board member, and how often?  Also compare serving on a local nonprofit board with serving on the board of a national nonprofit. While local nonprofits may offer more grassroots involvement, national nonprofits tend to be higher profile and may recruit key influencers as board members.

Will you love it?

Most importantly, look for nonprofits that inspire you and that support a cause you’re passionate about.  This will make your board interview much less stressful, since it’s always easier to talk about things you love. You’re also likely to contribute the most ideas and get the most involved serving on the board of a nonprofit that you’re genuinely excited about.  When you love your work, it doesn’t feel like work anymore!

For more information on serving on boards, read this article.