Support our nonpartisan, nonprofit research and insights which help leaders address societal challenges.Donate
09 Oct. 2018 | Comments (0)
This is the first in a four-part series about the 2018 Nonprofit Board Leadership Study, which was conducted by several multinational corporations to explore the potential benefits of nonprofit board service for employees, their companies, nonprofits, and communities.
The value of nonprofit board service is particularly meaningful if business people who serve are able to transfer and apply their experiences and lessons to the workplace. One important outcome of nonprofit board service, identified in the 2017 Nonprofit Board Leadership Study, is that business people who serve on nonprofit boards develop a greater appreciation for the perspectives of people from different backgrounds, deeper understanding of the challenges that people face, and greater empathy. In the 2018 study, participating companies wanted further data to understand whether employees change their behaviors back at work as a result of the growth in appreciation for diverse backgrounds and perspectives that they develop by serving on nonprofit boards.
Current diversity and inclusion initiatives fall short
Current approaches to diversity and inclusion have not yielded satisfactory business results. A 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review, said: “Most diversity programs aren’t increasing diversity... The positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that it can activate bias or spark a backlash.”
But nonprofit board experience works.In the new set of questions added to the 2018 survey, respondents report that they perform their company work better because of the increase in their appreciation of different perspectives gained through nonprofit board service. Respondents indicate that at work, they:
- Listen more carefully to different views (78 percent)
- Create more inclusive teams/committees (63 percent)
- Make more inclusive hiring decisions (50 percent)
- Make more inclusive promotions (41 percent)
About the survey
A total of 842 employees , who either serve on boards or seek to serve on boards, from four companies participated in the 2018 survey. Additionally, follow-up interviews were conducted with 18 survey respondents. Where survey questions are similar, responses to the 2018 employee survey are highly consistent with responses to the 2017 survey, which was completed by 957 employees from five companies. Altogether, 1,799 surveys from eight companies affirm the value of nonprofit board service for companies seeking to build a more diverse, inclusive, and high-performing workforce, and advance solutions to social, economic, and environmental challenges. (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.)
Comments in interviews
In follow-up interviews to the 2018 study, people reported situations in which they have used their enhanced awareness and understanding to be more effective in their jobs. These are some comments:
“I work with [customers/clients] in a variety of industries. 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.”
“One thing we don’t do well is stop to listen and put ourselves in our client’s shoes. I’m not sure if that comes more from volunteering or the humanitarian experience but it’s embedded in the culture of the board.”
"On one of my boards there are people from all walks of life… but we share one common passionate view of the organization. Under difficult circumstances, we come to solutions that no one individual could. That kind of awareness is a growth experience for me.”
By encouraging and supporting board service among their employees, companies can grow shareholder value by accelerating progress in building a more diverse, inclusive and high-performing workforce.