It may sound a little self-serving, but there’s an easy way to advance your career, get networked, while you’re also doing good for others. Serve on a nonprofit board.
Of course, the primary reason you should serve on a nonprofit board is that you want to make the world a better place and you care about the cause. But, serving on a board and bringing your knowledge, energy, and expertise to the table is something that can not only benefit the organization but you as well.
Many reputable and leading charities have seasoned business leaders serving on their boards. That means, that for those starting out in their careers, or perhaps wanting to get to the next level, serving as a nonprofit board member gives you the chance to meet and network with community leaders. The experience of working with senior executives at a nonprofit also brings a unique experience many junior professionals might not get for years—and that’s the experience of closely working with seasoned business leaders.
Let’s face it; most nonprofits operate with budgets significantly less than $1 million. Many have budgets of under $100,000. But, nonprofits have needs beyond just financial donations so they can become sustainable. Many rely on the expertise and knowledge of business and community professionals—especially board members—to help them advance their missions.
You can end up with the CEO of a major company working alongside you on a board committee. Additionally, many nonprofits have events, and this is another opportunity for younger professionals to network and connect socially with leaders in the community.
We all know you have a better chance to get ahead in your career if you have a good network of people and contacts. Since your fellow nonprofit board members will personally know you, they will be much more open and amenable to brainstorming ideas with you or even making introductions if and when you’re looking for other business opportunities.
You will have the opportunity to learn about dealing with others as it relates to issues of leadership, finance, and other business areas. Make no mistake; nonprofits are businesses—and there will be times where there will be disagreements. This experience of working with others in different areas will teach you about diplomacy and how to navigate potential landmines and delicate situations.
Nonprofits need money. The best nonprofits, even if they’re small, will work closely with their board members to help them facilitate financial contributions. You’re going to become comfortable in asking for money. In other words, you’re going to learn about the art of persuasion. It’s a skill you should have in your career.
When you serve on a nonprofit board, you will gain another career skill, and that’s learning how to have a productive meeting with people who do not report to you. Again, dealing with people is an art. Many young people become managers, and they have team meetings, but frequently this is with people who work for them. Working at a nonprofit teaches you a valuable skill of managing individuals who don’t work for you or that you manage.
You can learn a lot from a nonprofit about education, health, the environment of whatever interests you. Nonprofit organizations are typically excellent at understanding the cause related to the mission. If you want to dive deep into an area and know it well, a nonprofit board is a great place to help you gain insight.
In the corporate world, one of the key factors that senior leaders look at when considering promoting people is whether or not they have experience serving the community. Businesses want to be good corporate citizens, but they also understand the value and skills learned by professionals who serve on nonprofit boards.