Earlier this month, I quoted business people regarding the value they derive from serving on nonprofit boards. While it is widely understood that nonprofits have much to gain from the expertise and resources that board members bring to bear, it is also useful to recognize that board members gain from the experience as well.
Here is a second set of comments from board members who serve on a wide variety of boards– regionally, nationally, and globally.
Feel free to add your own thoughts at the end of this post in the comments section below.
Q: How has your nonprofit board service helped you develop as a leader?
A: “I did not appreciate the leadership experience that I would gain serving on the board of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). In addition to governance matters, the board is very involved in significant strategic initiatives and decisions. Many of these issues are common in for-profit organizations. I have been able to apply some of the lessons learned through my involvement with CSH to my business.”
A: “I am a better entrepreneur and executive because of my engagement as a board director in the nonprofit world. I presently serve on two boards, KaBOOM! and water.org. These organizations challenge the commonly held stereotypes of nonprofit organizations as “soft” or “slow” or “unwilling to change.” Both are as innovative and nimble as the most well-regarded venture-backed startups.
“KaBOOM! is based in Washington DC, but it feels like a company born on Sand Hill Road. Way before its peer, KaBOOM! integrated dynamic tactics like crowdsourcing and social media optimization into its marketing toolkit. It has moved beyond its core, creating new product lines that tap adjacent markets with the precision normally associated with a P&G. I will long remember my first KaBOOM! board meeting: its efficiency and professionalism rivaled what I previously had seen in a Fortune 500 setting. CEO Darell Hammond has recruited a team and nurtured a culture that should be studied by Jim Collins and his cohort of management gurus.
“Like KaBOOM!, Water.org repeatedly has impressed me on many levels. Before there was a term like “impact investing” or “social capital markets,” Gary White, its entrepreneurial founder and chief executive, was experimenting with innovative new techniques to provide sustainable access to water and sanitation to communities in the developing world. He single-handedly pioneered the water-credit concept, applying microfinance principles to the water sector and thereby creating a model that meets demand and provides dignity to those in need. Like Darell, Gary also is a great leader. Gary has recruited top tier talent in his hometown while scaling Water.org to new heights.
“Both KaBOOM and Water.org continually achieve well beyond their profiles as so-called nonprofits. They remind me that an organization does not need to sacrifice its mission to recruit great people; does not need to compromise on quality to drive performance; and does not need the promise of a lucrative payout to motivate people to take risks. At the end of the day, I continuously learn about innovation and impact from these two amazing social enterprises.”
A: “As a board member of SAFE, I benefit from the rigorous and insightful training programs SAFE has developed for board members, including Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and financial accounting for non-profit institutions. As a fund management professional these skill sets are universally applicable to my service on for-profit company boards and I have been able to share these valuable training tools and materials with colleagues in the private sector. The training SAFE undertakes for its board members should be emulated not only throughout the not-for-profit sector but across the private sector as well.”
Q: What experiences from serving on a nonprofit board have helped you to be more effective in your business/professional life, and/or to be a better citizen of the community/world?
A: “My nonprofit boards have enriched my life immensely. I feel honored to be able to give back to my community.”
A: “Working for a nonprofit board has been great for making sure I am looking at things with a balanced perspective. While at work I might be dealing with an issue like a product launch or sales campaign, through my engagement as a board member with the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County I get reminded every day of the great people struggling to feed their kids, trying to work and grappling with daycare, homelessness, or that many kids are growing up in environments where they are being exposed to gangs and drugs. This doesn’t minimize the importance of my day-to-day work at Microsoft but it does keep me very grounded while at the same time keeping me excited about how I can bring the power of the Microsoft Corporation & Community to the table to help with these problems.”