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Matching Talent with Purpose

  • Want Leadership Experience? Serve on a Nonprofit Board

Want Leadership Experience?
Serve on a Nonprofit Board

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.

2017 April 24

Serving on a nonprofit board is not only a meaningful way to give back to the community, it is also a powerful way to build valuable leadership experience. This is one of the most compelling reasons why our corporate clients have implemented our Skills4Good/B3 Board Matching and Training Programs in their organizations.

While enhancing their Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand strategies, many large corporations and law firms consider our programs as solidly supporting their HR talent strategy to develop their high-potential employees. After all, talent development is a top priority in most leading organizations in Canada. So they view our programs as a strategic way of developing their top talent to drive business growth and gain a competitive advantage.

A board matching and training program takes on a “teach, don’t tell” approach. It is a unique, innovative and enriching “learning-by-doing” program. Here, employees actually make hard decisions, manage risks and resolve conflicts - skills needed in crucial leadership roles - as they serve on nonprofit boards to solve real-world social problems. Our programs become effective leadership development tools to complement the other organizational HR offerings to employees.

Alternatively, the conventional modes of learning - whether through conferences, workshops or online courses - take on a “tell, don’t teach” approach. In these modes, employees learn leadership skills primarily through the cerebral dishing out of leadership concepts, theories and case studies.

Here are three transferable skills that employees develop through board service:

1. Strategic Thinking

Through nonprofit board service, employees work side-by-side with other board directors to determine how the nonprofit is performing relative to its mission, vision, strategy and priorities. Together they develop strategies by assessing what the nonprofit is experiencing, what its desired future is and how to close the gap between these current and future states. Board directors also engage in generative thinking to envision the nonprofit’s long-term sustainability as it stays true to its mission amidst the never-ending sea change of societal demands.

Employees also take more risks because nonprofits become safe environments to test their ideas and practice their skills without the fear of making mistakes. Indeed, the stakes are lower in the nonprofit space as juxtaposed to the stakes in their companies where mistakes can be truly costly - such as negatively affecting their companies’ bottomline and getting poor performance ratings for their mistakes.

2. External Mindset

Nonprofit board service nurtures an external mindset within employees as they are exposed to diverse perspectives beyond the walls of their organizations. It opens their world to different viewpoints which in turn spurs innovative thinking. It broadens their exposure to different personalities, leadership styles, organizational cultures and business models. It gives them an expansive view of how organizations work from a macro perspective.

Employees then bring back a deeper understanding of the world and its needs. Their renewed understanding profoundly informs new ways of thinking about their companies. This new way of thinking creates an innovation culture that helps their companies proactively develop more responsive products and services that address what the world really needs.

3. People Skills

When employees serve on nonprofit boards, they practice their abilities to influence and gain buy-in for their ideas. They learn how to communicate their differing views with more confidence. They grasp the nuances of board dynamics as they build relationships with their fellow board directors. They learn how to promote teamwork and collaboration with others who are outside their usual social networks.

According to Volunteer Canada, individuals develop competencies relating to collaboration, managing meetings, team building and conflict resolution when volunteering on a nonprofit board. Without a doubt, board service is a very effective way for employers to harness the benefits of skills-based volunteering - such as increasing employee engagement while advancing employees’ prospects for career advancement.

Indeed, through a board matching and training program, a company engages in community building through leadership development. It's a strategic way to harness the power of business to do good by creating positive social impact while developing top talent.

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