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16 Jan. 2019 | Comments (0)

This is the third post in a four-part series about the Nonprofit Board Leadership Study, which was conducted with several multinational corporations to explore the potential benefits of nonprofit board service for employees, their companies, nonprofits, and communities. Click here to read parts 1, and 2.

Seventy four percent of the 494 respondents not serving on nonprofit boards are interested in doing so, revealing a valuable opportunity for companies, particularly given employees not serving are more likely millennials (53 percent compared with 31 percent who serve) and people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds (26 percent compared to 13 percent who serve).

These respondents reported several factors that would increase the likelihood of their serving, including:

  • Understanding the time demands and expectations
  • Assistance in finding the right board/mission
  • Understanding how they can add value.

Companies can develop diverse employees for leadership by training and matching those who are interested in serving to appropriate board positions.

Board members commented on the importance of board opportunities in recruiting millennials:

“I’m involved in recruiting Ph.D.s to the company. The current generation has a strongdesire to do meaningful things in society, so board service provides an opportunity for recruiting and retaining. I get questions [about board service] in interviews because candidates see what other companies are doing.”

“Millennials and Gen-Zers want to combine their job, dreams, and passions more. They expect companies to encourage and support this. The next generations have higher aspirations to connect their purpose to their job—they expect companies to help them do this. Unless you ignite people’s passion in their jobs, they are going to get bored with their companies.”

Based on the report’s findings, companies should take the following three-pronged approach to board service programs:

Train To optimize the benefits of board service to the company, individuals, and nonprofits, companies should offer a board training program for employees interested in serving. According to survey respondents, the top five most useful topics to prepare business people for board service are:

  • Being an effective board member
  • Improving a board’s effectiveness
  • Nonprofit financial reporting
  • Role of board officers and committee chairs
  • Legal and oversight responsibilities.

Match Companies can help ensure that their employees have productive and rewarding board experiences—that also reflect well on the company—by assisting employees in finding the right board. Data show that when people are matched thoughtfully and purposefully, they are more likely to rise to board leadership positions. A company’s approach to board matching will depend on its goals, demand, and budget.

Support Board experiences will be more productive and rewarding for employees, their companies, nonprofits, and the community if companies provide ongoing support to their employees. Additionally, employees appreciate their employers who support their involvement by providing time to participate in the programs, financial resources to help make the most of the partnerships, and recognition for the work and its benefits to the employer. One board member commented:

“I’m a big advocate of companies encouraging and supporting people to serve on boards. This is where the creativity and ability to solve new problems comes from.”

Employees who serve on boards describe what’s possible

In interviews, board members described their vision of what would be possible if more companies were to provide opportunities for employees to serve on boards:

“I want people to become passionate about something external to themselves—it causes your stress to decline and helps you get a better perspective of your company and work .”

“There’s a lot of talent that’s not fully developed or leveraged. You become so much better as a leader when you get practice. When you get the opportunity to observe leaders from other backgrounds and in a variety of settings, you get to develop your own approach.”

“I volunteer and I love it, but serving on a board is a different muscle and discipline. You’re giving in a different way, and different people want to give in different ways.”

About the study

The 2018 results are based on surveys submitted by 842 employees of four companies and 18 follow up interviews. Altogether, 1,799 surveys from eight companies affirm the value of nonprofit board service for companies seeking to change behaviors to build a more diverse, inclusive, and high-performing workforce, and promote the SDGs. (Dow and PIMCO employees participated in the surveys in 2017 and 2018. HP, Johnson Controls, PwC, Symantec, and Target employees participated in one year or the other.)

  • About the Author:Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold advises companies and NGOs on strategy, board governance, sustainability, ESG, and diversity and inclusion. She is the author of  A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solv…

    Full Bio | More from Alice Korngold


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