Uncovering Value in Nonprofit Board Service

If you are considering serving on a nonprofit’s board of directors, you’ve probably already read articles on the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of board service. These articles address common questions like “Should I serve on a board when asked?” or “What are the financial and time commitments of board service?” 
 
However, though important, these articles often fail to highlight the value that board service brings to you both personally and professionally—so you in turn can add value to the organization you have joined.  Here are five valuable outcomes you can expect to obtain through board service.  
 
1. Leadership: Board service gives you with the opportunity to sharpen, cultivate and demonstrate your leadership skills. Although many people who are invited to serve on a board are already recognized leaders in their community, this does not preclude ‘up-and-coming professionals’ to leverage Board service to develop their leadership skills. Chances are, while you might have learned a lot in B-school, it is through Board service and other experiential experiences that strong leaders are forged. As a Board member, you will be tasked with providing the strategic and financial leadership to ensure your organization’s vitality, integrity and ultimate success in delivering on its social mission. 
 
2. Teamwork: As a board member, you get to work with a variety of different people with different skills and backgrounds all focused on accomplishing a common goal. Through Board service, you will sharpen your ability to collaborate, and hone your teaming skills. Most Boards are structured with an executive committee and working subcommittees—excellent opportunities to cross-team with Board colleagues on a variety of initiatives. High-functioning Boards expect their Board members to join at least one subcommittee and to fully participate during the Board meetings. The best Boards embrace diverse perspectives in order to obtain the best solution to the challenges the organization is addressing. And impactful Boards do not expect to solve their problems in isolation nor rely solely on the nonprofit staff to shoulder the work of the Board. 
 
3. Expand your network: LinkedIn is great for online networking, but personal face-to-face interactions are still the best way to demonstrate your personal brand while growing your personal and professional network. Board service will expose you to people outside of your traditional connections. A strong peer network will help you whether you are looking for that next new job, leveraging it for your current position, or making new friendships.
 
4. Skill development: Serving on board committees and attending board meetings can translate into valuable learning experiences for you. You will strengthen your expertise in an array of fields. For starters, through board service you get an exclusive look into a nonprofit’s governance and can help shape the organization’s mission and strategy. As a board member you are also exposed to new ideas and opportunities and can increase your business acumen and knowledge of concepts like financial management and strategy building. You’ll learn a how to contribute to a different type of bottom line—one that incorporates the delivery of public benefit. Cultivating school gardens, protecting the oceans, or helping returning Veterans find employment are examples of supporting a social ‘bottom line’. You will learn how to define and measure success, and understand what tools and resources your nonprofit can tap into to achieve its goals. In addition to learning from the people around you, you also have the opportunity to be a mentor to an organization’s staff, volunteers, and possibly other board members as well. Your business acumen and strategic mindset are valuable skills that will benefit your nonprofit.
 
5. Enact meaningful change: Serving on a board is a privilege and offers an opportunity to guide the vision and strategy of an organization with a mission that is meaningful to you. If chosen correctly, the board should serve as a vehicle for you to enact change and make a substantial impact on issues that are important to you. You will gain expertise on how to combat pressing social issues. While many people do what they can to help address social and environmental issues through donating money or ad-hoc volunteering, imagine the even greater impact you could make through board service. By serving on a nonprofit board, you gain first-hand knowledge and insight into social issues’ causes and perpetuating factors. You also leave the board equipped with the tools to find effective solutions to these issues—a win-win for all.
 
If your company is interested in learning more or engaging SVCF, please contact donate@siliconvalleycf.org. SVCF has worked with numerous companies to help all levels of employees, including high-potential new talent and seasoned C-suite executives find their perfect match! 
 
About Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation advances innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems. As the largest community foundation in the world, we engage donors and corporations from Silicon Valley, across the country and around the globe to make our region and world better for all. Our passion for helping people and organizations achieve their philanthropic dreams has created a global philanthropic enterprise committed to the belief that possibilities start here.