Today, Taproot will be attending the BoardSource Leadership Forum , a conference “focused entirely on the governing challenges facing America’s nonprofit organizations.” Joining our President and CEO Aaron Hurst for a session on the intersection of pro bono and board service are two business professionals who are walking the walk by donating their time and skills to their own local nonprofits. Today they share their reasons for serving on boards and the rewards they’ve gained from it. Have you considered using your professional talents for board service?
Marketing Director, Technicolor
When considering joining a board, most people think in terms of solely benefiting the nonprofit. The truth is that corporate professionals can gain not only a sense of well-being by helping guide the mission and message to the public, but also practical experience to help in their day-to-day job.
The stereotype of a non-profit functioning out of a backyard garage should be banished from everyone’s mind. They are now highly organized, business- and media-savvy organizations. This is not a one-way relationship. If you put your energy, time, and focus into being a participating board member, you’ll reap loads of knowledge you can use.
That being so, my list of reasons corporate professionals should be on non-profit boards:
- Enhanced Communication Skills: When you can’t throw tons of money at a person or project, you really get to understand how important it is to be able to sell-in your idea with your words.
- Learning How to Stretch a Budget: Smaller budgets help in the understanding of how to make your marketing budget (or any other one) last longer, and you spend it smartly.
- Better Negotiation Skills: You don’t realize until you’re trying to help a donor to understand why your cause is a terrific place for their donation or to get a vendor to donate or lower their prices that your ability to negotiate is a key attribute everybody should have.
- Thinking More Strategically: High-level thinking about the future of a business takes on a greater meaning when the health, education and welfare of real people are at stake. Makes corporate strategy seem much easier to deal with. And a special note to my fellow marketers, you’ll not find a better way to use every bit of knowledge you have about social media, traditional media, and digital marketing. I’m using it all in a marketing plan I’m writing for LA Commons. So if you’re looking for a way to flex that marketing muscle, nonprofit board service is a great way to go.
Vice President of Human Resources, Associated Third Party Administrators
To my fellow HR professionals:
Board service should not be about practicing your Human Resources technical skills. While the organization may request some guidance and/or ad hoc assistance, this is not a reason to join a board. In my opinion, the benefit of board service is primarily to work with individuals in other industries and professions.
On your regular work team, you play the HR expert role. Even when you are contributing to solve a challenge with an operation’s procedure, you are still perceived as doing so from an HR perspective. Board service can allow you the professional anonymity to contribute and work with a diverse team. Your HR professional skill set is secondary to the success of the overall mission of the non-profit organization. It is a fine line, and if you are selected for board service solely because of your expertise, the anonymity may be difficult. My board experience began with me playing HR expert but has evolved as the organization hired an HR professional. I now benefit from a great opportunity to transcend HR stereotypes and truly contribute without biases from myself or my fellow board members.
The benefits of board service also include an opportunity to learn about non-profit regulations and fundraising. It provides an excellent opportunity to polish your “elevator speech” techniques as well. However, the ability to collaborate and truly make a difference in people’s lives is the greatest benefit of all.