Take a Seat at the Board Table
Nonprofit Board Participation Yields Professional, Personal Growth
by Kimberly Meehan Agee
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
For women in business, building relationships with people who share your passions within the corporate structure and outside are important to ensure a full life. The number of women serving on corporate boards lags behind male counterparts; however many Space Coast women are providing sound leadership and direction to the vast number of nonprofit and community organizations across our community.
Business objectives are often quite different between companies and nonprofits, yet the ways in which they are governed are relatively similar. Each relies on the support of a team of leaders who hold legal and fiduciary responsibilities that require a commitment of time, skills, and resources.
Experiences in the business world allow us to connect the dots between financial and managerial decisions that take place in the nonprofit world. For those with a corporate background, serving on a nonprofit board allows you to carry forward what you learned in that environment. Your responsibility as a director of a nonprofit board consists of various opportunities to grow the organization and ultimately better the community. There are also unexpected benefits that can come from serving on a board, both personally and professionally.
Whether you meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, your peers to the left and right of you at the board table are bonding over discussions of strategic plans, fundraising and CEO reviews. When everyone is striving toward a common goal over the course of many meetings, it’s hard not to sense the momentum and camaraderie in the room.
This is not to say there are never disagreements or votes of dissent from time to time; instead, this is a group of leaders trying to move the organization forward. These lively discussions often lead to new relationships in the form of professional acquaintances or finding shared interests with new friends. If you want to build your circle of influence, pick an organization you are passionate about and you will likely find peers that are as well.
Break the Mold
Many of us are stereotyped by our profession. What we do by day isn’t always where our personal interests lie outside of the office. One of the best parts about meeting fellow board members is finding out what they do professionally. Usually, it’s something you would never expect. My favorite example of this contrast is serving with a high profile lawyer whose passion and support of local musical arts is unparalleled. Imagine how you are being perceived in return? If you have a passion for the arts yet your day job is spent crunching numbers, serve on a board and let your true passion show.
Many people I have encountered from my various roles on nonprofit boards are often surprised to see me in a different light outside of my professional role. The fact that I am passionate about education, the arts and social services isn’t something people might know about me if I didn’t publicly serve these types of organizations.
Once relationships have had a chance to grow you begin to uncover synergies between your talents and those of fellow board members. If a fellow board member represents a company that falls within your area of professional specialty, it can lead to the start of discussions on partnering for upcoming projects or future work. It also offers an opportunity to showcase your talents at the board table.
Board members can get a sense of your expertise by the ideas you bring to the table and your ability to take an initiative from concept to completion. These partnerships between board members for outside professional work come without having to advertise for new work and the built-in factor of already knowing their work style. It saves both participants from going through the typical learning curve.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years by serving on various boards it’s to make sure the organization supports your passion. Being a member of a Board of Directors will require your time – time that could otherwise be spent with family or friends. If you are truly passionate about a particular cause, it will feel great knowing you have advanced its agenda within the community and realized positive results.
Kimberly Meehan Agee is owner of Agee Consulting, LLC. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Brevard Cultural Alliance, St. Mark’s Episcopal Academy PTF, and Viera Hospital’s Community Council.