So You’re Thinking About Joining a Board in the New Year?
New year, blank slate. It’s a common time to look at the months ahead and thoughtfully consider how you’ll spend them well. Maybe that means trying something new. If joining a board in 2018 is on your list of potential happenings in the new year, to that we say – that’s a fabulous idea.
We’re Spokes, the nonprofit that supports nonprofits. And yes, supporting nonprofits is literally why we exist, so it makes sense that we’re in favor of serving on a board. But you don’t have to just take our word for it. In this blog post, we’ll share some of the research on why board service is valuable for every entity involved, and we’ll finish by helping you with the next (or first) steps in the journey.
“When you’re on a board, you have to learn when is the right time to speak up. What’s the right level of detail to get into. When and what to say. When you’re back at work, this experience helps you listen to issues when you’re having conversations with co-workers and superiors. You’re better at communicating, listening, and asking better questions.”
In San Luis Obispo County, more than 90% of local businesses are smaller owner-operated organizations – which bodes well for a local cultural of entrepreneurism, but presents real challenges for succession planning and talent development. It’s nearly impossible for small business owners to hire additional staff to provide a promising young employee supervisory experience or to share detailed financial information to sharpen a potential successors financial management skills. But, there is another solution to helping middle management staff develop leadership skills: nonprofit board service.
A recent study, Better World Leadership 2017, sponsored by the World Environment Center and produced by Korngold Consulting LLC, confirms that employees develop an average of 6.7 leadership skills while serving as board members for nonprofit organizations. The leadership skills most identified include: community relations, board governance, communication, networking, decision-making, strategic planning, consensus building, team leadership, conflict resolution, management oversight, public relations, crisis management, and government relations. Nearly half of the respondents reported developing proficiency in critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, and innovation.
Nonprofit board service also contributes to employees gaining appreciation for diversity and inclusion, and developing empathy. Specifically, survey respondents report that their board experiences greatly affected their:
Appreciation of the perspectives of people from backgrounds different from their own;
Understanding of challenges facing people who live in different circumstances than their own;
Empathy for people from backgrounds other than their own; and,
Interest in people with different backgrounds than their own.
Further, more than 80 percent of respondents eventually served in leadership positions on nonprofit boards, usually as the President/Chair or other officer position, and were able to develop their skills through active and meaningful experience.
“I’ve served on boards with people from every background possible: financial, religious, media, university people. I’ve been the youngest person on the board, trying to explain social media and people’s shorter attention spans. Everyone has something to add that others might not have. You’re always learning. You see why they’re seeing things the way they do.”
Nonprofit board service also plays a critical role in talent retention – an especially difficult challenge to overcome in today’s competitive employment market. More than half of survey respondents reported that their employer’s support of their board service improved their impression of their employer and increased their desire to stay with their employer. And, these responses dramatically increased among people who were employed by companies that introduced them to their nonprofit board positions and provided financial contributions to the nonprofits where they served.
With more than 1,500 registered nonprofits, San Luis Obispo County is uniquely poised to help local businesses leverage this talent development opportunity. Companies that do so will gain more competent employees while also fostering diversity, inclusion, empathy, innovation, employee loyalty, and brand value to their organizations. Nonprofits will gain the active and committed board members they need to help fulfill their missions. And, our community will gain a higher quality of life for all residents as those missions are realized. Supporting employees in a nonprofit board service is the ultimate win-win-win scenario.
Have we convinced you? Nonprofit board service is an excellent way to develop leadership skills, provide the knowledge and resources a local organization needs, and even find more contentment in your job. We understand, of course, that knowing where to start can be overwhelming. It’s one reason that Spokes exists. We can help you with that.
Successful nonprofit board service starts with training to understand the nuances of nonprofit management and governance. And, like all jobs, employees need to take time to carefully vet which nonprofit organization and mission is the best match for his/her personal values, interests, and expertise.
We offer nonprofit management training, resources and support services for individuals seeking board service positions. We encourage you to contact us; we’re more than happy to assist you. Reach out at [email protected], www.spokesfornonprofits.org, or 805-547-2244.