ARTICLE: Nonprofit Board Leadership: Advice for Companies & Nonprofits

December 13, 2018 Christine Newman

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Better World Leadership event in NYC at which Alice Korngold presented the findings of the 2018 Nonprofit Board Leadership Study. Alice has long been a leading expert on the value of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit board service, and the study, which first launched in 2017, is demonstrating just how nonprofit board service programs can 1) help companies build more diverse, inclusive and high performing workforces and 2) help companies advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Alice emphasized the larger benefits that companies gain through nonprofit board leadership initiatives. She highlighted how companies develop human capital to solve vital challenges by involving employees on nonprofit boards. She pointed out the leadership development aspect – nonprofit board service gives employees the chance to develop leadership skills in new and unique ways they may not have in the office. And ultimately, that the most competitive companies understand the benefits of engaging employees in giving back.

Learn more about how companies can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems in the free webinar: Building a CSR Program That Really Matters with Alice Korngold

After Alice presented the study findings, she led a panel discussion with Richard Brown of American Express, Ayo Sanderson of Comcast NBCUniversal, Grady Crosby of Johnson Controls and Deidre White of PYXERA Global to talk about the impact of nonprofit board service on companies and how nonprofits can better take advantage of such programs to have a bigger impact. Here are some of the key takeaways from that discussion:

 

Value to Companies

  • Board service can be a significant vehicle for younger employees who are invested in giving back.
  • Stakeholders and investors are looking at ESG issues more and more, and board service helps demonstrate a company’s commitment.
  • Every company can implement a board service program, which can reach more people than more intensive service projects/trips, ultimately leading to greater engagement of employees in giving back.
  • Serving on boards with other company leaders can result in networking and business conversations that lead to sales, partnerships, and more.
  • Nonprofit board service can help grow business skills by being exposing board members to new areas and perspectives they don’t see at work, even leading to gaining skills that then transfer to new roles within a company

 

Setting Employees Up for Success on Nonprofit Boards

  • Encourage managers to include a goal in annual goals for their employees’ service on a board
  • Help employees understand what their responsibilities are when serving on a board up front so they are prepared when they start. Consider including training as part of your company board service program.

 

Advice for nonprofits

On the opportunity to involve emerging leaders: Ayo, Grady and Richard all suggested that nonprofits should start looking at how they can better incorporate promising young professionals who may not yet have the big paychecks but have the skills and time to make notable contributions to nonprofit boards.

  • Nonprofits should look at designating “young professional” board seats without prohibitive give/gets
  • Look at time commitment vs monetary commitment – the more advanced executives may not have the time to be active on committees, read through proposals, etc., whereas emerging leaders do often have more time to share.

The importance of diversity on boards was also stressed:

  • Boards need to be diversified to have greater diversity of thought and to reflect constituencies.
  • It’s not good enough to recruit one person to check off “diversity” on the checklist. Bring in a class of people to diversify your board – it’s more authentic and also more impactful.
  • And there’s a financial imperative – more foundations are looking at board diversity when making funding decisions.

 

You can access the full 2018 Nonprofit Board Leadership Study results and hear from leaders about their experiences serving on nonprofit boards at www.betterworldleadership.com.

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