It’s almost August – a month associated with vacations in many parts of the world—and a good time to contemplate the meaning of life from new viewpoints. As you break away from your everyday routine to view the big picture, be sure to give nonprofit board services some consideration. An educated guess would put the number of registered nonprofits worldwide at about 10 million—and in the United States alone there are 1.5 million charities, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. This includes about one million charitable organizations (501 c 3s), more than 100,000 private foundations, and nearly 400,000 other nonprofits ranging from chambers of commerce, to civic leagues, to fraternal organizations. All of them have boards of directors, and most are looking for volunteers. How about you? Here are five good reasons to consider the call.
Reason #1: Nonprofits Serve Worthy Causes
The first and foremost reason to serve on a nonprofit board is to make a difference in the world by advancing a worthy mission. Nonprofit organizations make the world a better place through a variety of channels including the arts, education, health, relief services, and public safety, and serve a variety of beneficiaries including both animals and humans throughout life cycles ranging from the very young to the very old. This is not to say that serving on a for-profit board lacks meaning; after all, businesses create jobs and provide useful goods and services. Still, for sheer moral pull, the typical nonprofit has greater “why” appeal. (If it didn’t the government wouldn't grant it nonprofit status in the first place.)
Reason #2: Nonprofits Need Directors
Another good reason to consider serving on the board of a nonprofit is that you will have a fairly good chance of finding a seat; if you are a good match. Compared to for-profit companies, charities offer more opportunities for service, judging from turnover rates reported by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). The 2014-2015 NACD Nonprofit Governance Survey, released this month based on responses from 750 board members, revealed high turnover: 88 percent of respondents indicated that their board had added or replaced at least one director in the previous 12 months. This compares to only 64 percent of public company boards and 57 percent of private company boards. This difference rate is understandable, as nearly two-thirds of nonprofits surveyed (64 percent) limit the terms of their directors, compared with only 8 percent for public companies and 14 percent for private companies.
Reason #3: Nonprofits Need You
Yet another reason to serve on a nonprofit board is that your particular skills are likely to be a good match. When asked what two skills were the most sought-after in their most recent director search, 35 percent of respondents to the NACD nonprofit survey said that experience in their particular field was a top consideration, but almost as many (31.6 percent) said that a top trait was leadership – a skill that all executives should have. Other popular choices (each selected by 10 percent of respondents or more) were strategy, finance, marketing, and diversity. Given the range of these criteria, most executives are likely to find a nonprofit board seat with their name on it.
Reason #4: Nonprofit Experience Can Help You Serve a For-Profit Board
A fourth reason to consider serving on a nonprofit board is the simple value of board experience. As you continue your career in the business world, chances are that you will eventually be reporting to or serving on for-profit board of directors. Do you know how boards work with their agendas, minutes, committees, calendars, and deep deliberations and decisions? You can read books and articles on the topic but the best teacher is experience. NACD has a Directors Registry where individuals can list their qualifications for board service, so that boards (both for-profit and nonprofit) can find them. Many for-profit boards looking for directors consider nonprofit board service to be a plus.
Reason #5: Nonprofit Board Experience Provides a Channel for Giving
As a nonprofit director, you won’t get paid much, if anything. NACD stats show that most nonprofit boards (88.7 percent) do not pay their directors, and those that do offer compensation pay very little (a retainer of less than $30,000 and meeting fees that are a fraction of that). The rewards, however, are great. This post has named four of them - including the worthy causes that nonprofits serve. But there's more. By helping those causes you yourself will benefit. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta, aka Mother Teresa, once wrote: “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in."' Nonprofit board service provides a channel to give in these important ways.