Nonprofit Board Service Builds More Effective Business Leaders
Alice Korngold, President and CEO of Korngold Consulting LLC, has recently released the results of her study 2018 Nonprofit Board Leadership Study in partnership with IMPACT2030, a private sector collaboration with the United Nations, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Following a similar report in 2017, the more recent study shows that employees of businesses who serve on nonprofit boards develop in ways that positively change their behaviors, effectiveness and productivity on their jobs as soon as one or two years after beginning their board service.
A total of 842 employees from four companies participated in the 2018 study, and their responses were similar to the 957 employees from five companies who completed the 2017 survey. Combined, these findings provide powerful evidence that participating in volunteer service on a nonprofit board increases appreciation of perspectives of people from different backgrounds, deepens their understanding of the challenges people face, and makes them more empathetic.
As a result, these employees listen more carefully to different viewpoints, create more inclusive teams, and make more inclusive hiring and promotion decisions. One board member commented, “Because of my board work, I’ve become used to working with diverse people from diverse backgrounds and without a hierarchy. That’s how you learn to solve problems...by working together…including healthy debate that comes from challenging each other’s assumptions.”
These board experiences also result in employees describing themselves as more confident (68%), better leaders (69%), able to accept more responsibility (65%), feeling more useful (69%), finding more meaning in their work (64%) and better qualified for promotion (55%). Results are even better for employees who have served more than two years on one or more boards.
One board member offered the following: “My board experience has given me the ability to connect with customers on a different level and the ability to partner with enterprises on common causes. You can build your professional network, which accelerates the learning that you can bring back to the company.”
Those learnings can include the development of broad skills such as board governance, networking, communication, decision-making and strategic planning, as well as much-needed skills like conflict resolution, crisis management, critical thinking and problem solving, consensus building and team leadership.
Given these results, the report urges more companies to engage employees on nonprofit boards in order to accelerate progress in building more diverse, inclusive and high-performing workforces, which will have the added benefit of improving employees’ impression of their company, and serving as an important factor in their desire to stay with their company.
The study also recommends that companies offer board training programs for their employees so that they are prepared to serve. The top five topics suggested by board members are: how to be an effective board member, how to help improve a board’s effectiveness, nonprofit financial reports, the roles of board members and committee chairs, and legal and oversight responsibilities.
Employees who are not serving on nonprofit boards stated that the following help from companies might make them more interested in serving on a board: assistance in finding the right board, understanding the time demands, assistance in understanding what would be expected of them by the organizations, and understanding how they could add value.
BoardSource is a global leader in nonprofit board leadership, and its programs help to train board members in order to increase their effectiveness and strengthen the impact of their organizations. Its annual study, Leading with Intent, provides information about current board composition, practices and performance, and it charts important trends and changes in board leadership.
BoardServeNYC is a program of United Way of New York City. It builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations by connecting them to a pool of prospective board members who have been trained in nonprofit governance and finance, and who are actively seeking positions with nonprofit organizations (American Express is the long-time corporate sponsor of this program).
BoardServeNYC suggests that serving on a nonprofit board will provide the following rewards for individuals:
- Connect with others who share your passion;
- Contribute your skills, expertise and access to resources to strengthen nonprofit organizations;
- Support and strengthen the community in which you live and work;
- Rally support and invite others to join you in advocating for the nonprofit’s mission;
- Develop new skills and hone your leadership abilities; and
- Expand your social and professional networks.
Portions of this blog post first appeared on Forbes.com
If you have a comment or question, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.
CSR Now! Is a weekly blog by Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, designed to get at what's happening in corporate social responsibility today -- from the point of view of a corporate practitioner.