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Joining a Non-Profit Board

My boss did it. My predecessor did it. And now, I’m trying to do it. After being involved as a volunteer with charitable organizations in the past, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring for a spot on a non-profit board. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of conversations about my personal and professional development with previous managers but, for some reason, the topic of serving on a board and the benefits of doing so never seemed to come up.

My boss did it. My predecessor did it. And now, I’m trying to do it. After being involved as a volunteer with charitable organizations in the past, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring for a spot on a non-profit board.

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Over the years, I’ve had a lot of conversations about my personal and professional development with previous managers but, for some reason, the topic of serving on a board and the benefits of doing so never seemed to come up.

The selection process varies somewhat for each organization. But, based on conversations I’ve had with colleagues, it seems like the single best way to get your foot in the door is to serve on a committee. And if you decide to go that route, look for opportunities that blend your interests and skill sets. In my case, I started out looking at committees focused on strategic planning as 1) I think it’s something I’m good at and 2) it will reinforce my positioning for future leadership roles. But beyond having something impressive to add to my resume, there are other benefits to serving on a non-profit board. In particular, doing so will:

Require you to employ a different leadership style than you might use at your day job. Not only will you have to learn to work with your fellow board members, but you’ll also have to provide guidance and feedback without, in most cases, being directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Facilitate connections with other board members and leaders in your community. These connections will not only help you grow professionally by learning from people from disparate backgrounds, but it also is a great way to grow your network.

Allow you to give back to the community. In my case, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with a number of charitable organizations. Joining a board will be the perfect extension to that experience.

Open the door to involvement with other boards and other opportunities in general. If things go well, I hope to join the board of a non-profit that I’ve done a lot of work with in the past. And I’m sure there will be other chances for me to get involved in the future.

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I should know if I’ll be nominated to serve on the board within a few weeks. But regardless of how things turn out, I’m glad I became aware of the possibility of serving on a board and how to go about being considered.

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).



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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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