How Serving on a Nonprofit Board Makes You a Better Business Professional

Whether you're an management consultant, banker, attorney, manager, accountant, or other executive or professional, serving on a nonprofit board will help you do your job better.

Wendy Wysong, Partner at Clifford Chance, explained to me the following: "My experience serving on the boards of two nonprofit organizations, EngenderHealth and the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, has given me a valuable perspective for my professional work, representing and providing legal advice to corporations.  The governance, audit, and ethics issues with which the nonprofit boards deal are directly analogous to those of corporate boards.  Accordingly, when I make presentations to my clients' boards of directors to explain pending legal matters, I can focus on the issues that would and should concern them most."

In fact, the nonprofit board experience has been transformative for hundreds of professionals and executives whom I have placed on boards and also coached as they ascended into board leadership positions.

Here is what you have to gain:

  1. Learn about an issue outside of (or complementary to) your area of business expertise--whether it's housing, healthcare, the environment, economic development, healthcare, or education, just to name a few.
  2. Gain new perspectives by engaging with people from diverse backgrounds, including board and staff members, the nonprofit's funders, and the community it serves. This can help enrich your awareness of your business's and clients' broader base of customers and shareholders here in the US and globally.
  3. Better understand the role and responsibilities of corporate governance by serving on a board yourself.
  4. Experience the perspective of the CEO and board of the corporation, including the actual responsibility of envisioning the organization's greater potential, and creating and achieving the organization's revenue/business model.
  5. Have an opportunity to step up to lead, by chairing a committee, or serving as an officer; you will learn how to build consensus through process, and you will understand what it means to be accountable to the community that your organization serves.

If you choose the right board, you will feel good about serving a cause you care about.

You can also learn about selling and business development (we often call it fundraising in the nonprofit world), consensus-building and process, leadership, your community, global issues, corporate governance, ethics and accountability, and a great deal more.

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