ADVANCING YOUR CAREER AND HUMANITY: 6 BENEFITS OF JOINING A NONPROFIT BOARD

By James D’Ambrosio

JamesProfile1TwitterHaving written about major news items lately, I’ll devote this column to professional development. A few years ago, earning a certificate in nonprofit management, one of my best instructors told the class that if you really want to learn about how nonprofits operate, join a board of directors. Sound advice, both then and now. (I’ve served on the board of a small PR association and plan to eventually join a nonprofit board.)

Learning on the job and/or earning an advanced credential — M.S. in nonprofit management, MBA, nonprofit management certificate, etc. — is good, but can only take you so far. Case in point: Some years ago, working in PR for a large school system, one responsibility was covering board meetings. Here I learned about larger issues facing the district and how key decision-makers guided the school system  — something far beyond my regular job responsibilities.

6 BENEFITS OF JOINING A NONPROFIT BOARD

1) LEARN GOOD GOVERNANCE: The board’s job is to govern the organization by discussing and making decisions on big-picture issues — strategic plans, business/fund-raising strategies, staffing, agency planning, etc. It’s NOT about managing daily operations or specific projects; that’s for the executive director and staff. Not understanding this can create problems and hinder a board’s effectiveness.

2) APPLY SKILLS IN A MANAGEMENT CAPACITY: Within your areas of expertise, you’ll have opportunities to join committees and take on projects applying your talents to further the organization. For myself, it could be developing a communications plan or outlining a series of special events for the year.

3) LEARN BUSINESS PROTOCOL: One of the first things I learned at board meetings was formality — following “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a book of rules designed to be adopted and used by a deliberative body. This included voting procedures, a transcriptionist documenting discussions/decisions, executive sessions for personnel matters, annual meetings, new business, old business, unfinished business, etc.

4) LEARN FROM EXECUTIVES: Board members are often professionals at the top of their field, sharing expertise and giving back. Much can be learned from those with more experience or holding positions we aspire to. 

5) EXPAND YOUR NETWORK: In today’s environment, it’s crucial to have a network of professionals with strong knowledge of work, skills and abilities. By demonstrating your value, over time, people will notice and respect your talents. This can lead to more professional references, learning about unadvertised job openings, new networking opportunities, etc.

6) INCREASE FUTURE VALUE: If you’re planning to move into management, the experience is invaluable. You’ll bring more to the table than others who haven’t made this professional investment: you’ve been tested in dealing with core organizational/strategic issues and better equipped to honestly say “been there, done that.”

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QUESTION TO READERS:

Care to share your experiences serving on a nonprofit board?

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LINKEDIN LAUNCHES NEW SERVICE HELPING NONPROFITS RECRUIT BOARD MEMBERS

By James D’Ambrosio

Recruiting strong candidates to serve on the board of directors is a vital management  task in operating a successful nonprofit. Well-qualified, enthusiastic professionals with the desired knowledge, skills,  experience and judgment are always in demand. The trick is finding them. There’s a new resource I just learned about that can help with recruitment efforts.

INTRODUCING LINKEDIN BOARD CONNECT

On September 17, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Board Connect, a program helping nonprofit executives identify and recruit well-qualified individuals to serve on boards of directors. The program includes: a) free access to Talent Finder (a $1,000 value as part of a premium account); b) access to an educational webcast delivered by experts; and c) membership to LinkedIn’s Board Connect Group providing access to valuable content and a strong network of nonprofit professionals.

Board Connect is being launched in “limited release,” providing an opportunity to learn from nonprofits initially taking part. (NOTE: The webcast is scheduled for Wednesday, October 10, at 10 a.m., EDT. After signing up and attending the Webcast, you’ll have free access to a Talent Finder account and exclusive access to the LinkedIn Board Connect Group.)

Prior to roll out, nonprofits representing two key sectors — social entrepreneurs and education leadership — were identified to test the program and team up for the launch. Partners include: Teach for America; Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation; New Schools Venture Fund; and Charter Board Partners. According to LinkedIn, these types of organizations are well suited to benefit from Board Connect.

GEARED TOWARDS SMALL AND MEDIUM NONPROFITS

On a blog post, Meg Garlinghouse, LinkedIn’s head of social impact charged with identifying initiatives creating positive social impact, notes that while Board Connect is open to all U.S.-registered nonprofit agencies, it’s particularly well suited to small-to-medium-sized agencies that lack the resources or brand recognition to recruit board members. She explains that LinkedIn will monitor the number of nonprofits using Board Connect and plans to survey nonprofit executives gauging their success in securing professionals to join their board of directors and how strong those matches were.

RECRUITMENT PERSPECTIVE

While there is no perfect way to recruit board members, my own experience using LinkedIn professionally has certainly helped me connect (no pun intended) with some very accomplished individuals who I otherwise might not have had access to. In addition, LinkedIn continues to grow with 175+ million members who, with few exceptions, are predominantly professionally-minded individuals. In keeping with the theme of this blog — providing information and resources that can help nonprofits increase efficiency and meet mission — I present this resource as another  method of board recruitment that some agencies might find useful.

Learn More and Sign Up Here: http://nonprofits.linkedin.com

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QUESTIONS TO READERS:

What do you think of this new program? Are you inclined to try it?

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