“Success must include two things: the development of an individual to his utmost potentiality and a contribution of some kind to one’s world.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn By Living
Type of Boards
To serve as a board member is to seize the opportunity for professional and personal growth. Those interested in becoming organizational leaders will find themselves in luck; boards are found in every type of business and nonprofit imaginable. In order to join a board, potential members should take time to investigate the types of boards they might join and the responsibilities associated with these positions.
According to Blue Avocado, nonprofit boards serve two distinct functions: governance and support. Governance refers to actions the board takes as a collective body. This can include financial and legal oversight, selecting a chief executive officer (CEO), assessing his or her performance, approving company strategies and priorities or deciding whether to merge with another organization. Support refers to individual actions taken by each board member to ensure the organization continues to run effectively. Board members can offer advice, assist with revenue strategies, provide volunteer service or represent the organization as ambassadors to the community. The particular requirements necessary for individuals to serve on a nonprofit board will differ depending on the organization’s size.
Board membership at a nonprofit provides a number of benefits. It allows individuals to give back to their communities in a way they care about. Board membership also enables them to use and develop leadership skills. In addition, it can help individuals further their careers through networking. Examples of nonprofit boards include arts and culture organizations, hospitals, advocacy groups and foundations.
Public boards (also known as “corporate” boards) are those that serve the needs of publicly traded companies. There are many opportunities for individuals looking to join these types of boards. According to Entrepreneur, there are more than 2,800 companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and more than 3,100 listed on the Nasdaq.
The Balance defines the duties of a public board member as different from those of a nonprofit board. Instead of advocating for their companies within the community, public board members’ prime responsibility is to act on behalf of shareholders. They manage financial and other obligations to ensure that the stocks remain profitable. Public board members are also responsible for setting the company’s mission and vision. They ensure that the corporation runs efficiently by providing oversight and reviewing the performance of corporate officers and executives. In addition, public board members often attend annual meetings in order to elect key executives, announce dividends and amend bylaws.
While private boards also govern for-profit companies, their “private” status refers to the fact that they are not publicly owned. Because of this, these boards are free from many of the restrictions that regulate organizations with IPO status, explains Stout Risius Ross. Privately owned companies can choose to have boards as a matter of business practice rather than legality.
Private board members are responsible for many of the items that members of public and nonprofit boards are. They may establish codes of ethical conduct, create policies for reviewing and addressing major conflicts, evaluate the company’s risk management programs and look at policies regarding leadership succession, continuity and self-evaluation.
Understanding the essential functions of board membership is not the only action aspiring board members must take. Those seeking board membership must also make a substantial effort to show others they are right for the position.
How Do You Join a Board?
Joining a board is more complicated than just wanting to do so. Board membership requires time, energy and expertise that not everyone can easily provide. Entrepreneur offers six steps potential first-time board members can take to increase their chances of being chosen to serve:
- Identify your reasons. Figuring out your personal reasons for wanting to serve will help you focus your energy on what opportunities might best fit your goals.
- Become an expert in your field. Individuals are more likely to be chosen for a board if they can offer a body of knowledge few possess. It increases their value.
- Grow your network. Attending regular networking events and meeting new people is an excellent way to discover relevant opportunities.
- Start small. Board membership is involved work. Industry association boards, startup boards and other modest operations can prepare you for more substantial roles later.
- Get training now. Numerous training programs are available to help aspiring board members obtain the knowledge they need to be ready for board membership. The sooner you participate in these programs, the more effective you’ll be when the opportunity arises.
- Tell people about your board-serving ambitions. Those wishing to be on a board will have more success when others know that they are willing and available to serve.
When those seeking board membership combine knowledge with effort, they double their likelihood of achieving their goals.
Your Future as a Business Leader
Gaining useful leadership skills is a key element of success for any member of the business community. Earning an online Bachelor of Science in business administration or online Master of Business Administration from Husson University can help students on their journey toward career success. Programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, putting students on the fast track toward a better future.