The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 

12 Dec. 2017 | Comments (0)

Employees are more likely to work and stay at companies that help match them to nonprofit boards in addition to providing funds to the nonprofits where they serve. This is one of the most powerful findings of Better World Leadership: The Nonprofit Board Leadership Study, released last month. Additionally, 96 percent of respondents who do not serve on boards are interested in doing so, and these employees are more diverse than those who already serve. The reservoir of talent waiting in the wings includes women, millennials, and people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Not only is board service an opportunity to develop employees as leaders, but it will also benefit nonprofit boards that seek greater diversity.

This pathbreaking study was sponsored by American Express, Dow Chemical, HP, Johnson Controls, PIMCO, and Symantec.

Meaningful service

The level of satisfaction among those who serve on nonprofit boards is compelling. Nearly every respondent reported that the work of the nonprofit is meaningful to them (97 percent), that they are able to add value (95 percent), and that they would recommend nonprofit board service to their friends and colleagues (99.5 percent). The majority of respondents serve in leadership positions on their boards (81 percent), some serving on multiple boards and in multiple leadership positions.

Now is the time for companies to invest in leadership development that works. A recent McKinsey Quarterly article said: “As the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development. If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.”

The Better World Leadership studyshows the value of nonprofit board service in advancing diversity and inclusion, developing human capital for leadership in innovation, and fostering economic development and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—all essential to growing shareholder value. Companies can maximize the potential of their employees by training and preparing them for board service, and providing ongoing support.

Train. Match. Support.

Companies that seek to enhance and expand their board programs, or establish a new program, need to take the following three steps:

  1. 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. Not only is this a best practice, but the survey shows that people interested in boards would be more likely to serve if there were training that addressed responsibilities and expectations.
  2. 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 nonprofit match. Additionally, data show that when people are matched thoughtfully and purposefully, they are more likely to rise to board leadership positions.[1] There are a variety of approaches to board-matching that a company can establish, depending on goals, demand, and budget. By providing highly effective board-matching services, companies will make it more likely that people will participate, and help maximize the benefits to the company, employees, and the nonprofits at which they serve.
  3. Support Best practices indicate that board experiences will be more productive and rewarding for employees, their companies, and the nonprofit at which they serve if companies assist their employees’ efforts.[2] Additionally, employees appreciate their employers who support their involvement.

 Survey responses and subsequent interviews with respondents indicate specific ways that companies can help.

  • Time People who were interviewed expressed their appreciation for the company’s support, particularly with regard to time.
  • Financial Employees whose companies provided financial support to their chosen organizations are very appreciative. Those whose companies do not support their involvement financially noted that it creates challenges. In one interview, a board member commented:

 “When you’re a board member from a company, the organization looks to you for corporate support. I think it’s very important that the company backs us up, as my company does, with sponsorships and/or scholarships. It puts the board member in a very awkward position if the board member can’t solicit from their company.”

  • Recognition In interviews, people recommended that companies recognize their service. Some commented that since their contributions on boards reflect well on the company, they would like their companies to recognize their service publicly and also in their performance reviews.
  • Coaching and ongoing training People who were interviewed commented on the complexity of nonprofits and board governance. They also noted the challenges of balancing work, board service, and family time. By providing ongoing coaching and training support services, companies can maximize the leadership development value of board service, enhancing the benefits for their employees, the company, the nonprofit, and the community.

Companies can further develop and retain more diverse, inclusive, and effective leaders and workforces by establishing uniquely effective nonprofit board training and matching programs. Additionally, our new research shows that many people who do not already serve are interested in doing so, and would be more compelled to take the leap if they had a better understanding of expectations and assistance in finding the right board fit. This shows the potential for companies to expand board training and matching programs to further achieve the company’s goals for increasing diversity and inclusion, developing human capital for innovative solutions, and addressing economic development and the U.N. SDGs.

[1] Alice Korngold, Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), 2015.

[2] Korngold, Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses, 2015.

  • 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


0 Comment Comment Policy

Please Sign In to post a comment.

    Subscribe to the Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Center Blog
    Supported By