Why Serve On A Board?
Many individuals and businesses miss a valuable opportunity for professional development. They also miss a great opportunity to give back and make their community a better place to live. I know this because I used to be one of these individuals.
Early in my career, I resisted joining a nonprofit board or volunteering because I felt I was too busy with a growing family, work, and business travel. Looking back, I now realize that was a costly miscalculation on my part. Not only did I lose, but my community lost as well.
There are many reasons to become a volunteer or a board member; some are selfless, some personal, and some are actually shrewd career moves. I have found most people volunteer out of a compelling sense of service to others; some out of passion for a particular cause. But there are so many more reasons to give up some personal time and to help others if these two are not already enough. Nonprofit involvement can be a valuable tool for developing your professional skills. Here are some compelling reasons to consider joining a nonprofit board:
- Gain a new birds-eye perspective and appreciation for what working in relation to the “big picture” looks like.
- Develop your leadership style so you will be ready when the opportunity comes at work.
- Develop your critical thinking skills and see their value when serving at the top of a complex organization.
- Learn the value of understanding and focusing on an organization’s mission, vision, and values, and how they set the direction for the organization.
- Learn the importance of keeping elements of the organization in tight alignment, (mission, vision, values, key strategies, goals, budgeting, hiring practices, marketing and messaging).
- Learn how to delegate, trust, and rely on others.
- Develop self-confidence by taking on new challenges and stretching yourself.
- Develop an entrepreneurial, can-do mindset.
- Learn how to cope with limited resources and still succeed.
- Learn how to use influential power, a critical skill in the nonprofit sector. This will pay huge dividends once back at your workplace.
- Have the opportunity to lead projects, which you may not currently have at work.
- Learn how to lead others when higher compensation and organizational promotions are not key motivators.
- Learn to navigate challenging situations when dealing with passionate and variously motivated stakeholders, like volunteers, staff, donors, foundations, and key community partners.
- Deepen your network by meeting and working with many high value, influential people in a relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere. You have to admit:
- Most networking opportunities are a waste of time.
- Deep, valuable personal relationships develop when people are united by a mutual interest, not just helping themselves, like at a networking event.
- If you are out of work, this is a perfect way to fill in your resume, meet new people and stay purposeful during a rough career period.
- Have an opportunity to wrestle with authentic, complex issues impacting people’s lives, where simple solutions just don’t work.
- Collaborate with people from difference backgrounds and with different experiences than you.
- Learn how to frame/ask tough questions and hold others accountable.
- Formulate and present (sell) new ideas to others when you do not have positional influences or power.
- Learn how to focus on the organization’s client (customer) and determine their true needs and develop solutions.
I strongly encourage you to consider joining a nonprofit board if you have even an inkling of interest. Find a cause you are passionate about and reach out. Board chairs and executive directors are always willing to sit and chat about service on their board. Don’t wait to take advantage of an opportunity to improve your leadership skills and enrich your life.