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Board membership: Follow your passion, grow your influence

Do you want to expand your influence? Become more relevant in your community? Find new ways to pursue and promote your passions?

A nonprofit board membership may be for you.

Let me begin with the short story of my own experience: I’m passionate about a number of things in life. Golf and giving back to my community are among them. I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine the two through serving on the boards of two nonprofits — the Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA) Foundation and the New Jersey Golf Foundation.

I can attest to the challenges that come with a board membership — it involves a serious commitment of time and energy. I can also tell you how rewarding an experience it can be as an opportunity for professional development and for building strategic relationships. 

Why consider joining a board?

We believe joining a nonprofit board can be a win-win for you and the organization you choose to support. Think of it like this:

Board membership diagram

People have different reasons for joining a board. In my case, it has been a way to immerse myself in something I love and understand — golf — while solving problems with like-minded people and giving my time to a worthy cause. While I am dedicated to the boards I have joined for these reasons, joining them has also helped me establish a niche in my local area.

Find the right board

With legwork and patience, you can identify the right board for you. Below are suggestions to help you home in on the ideal opportunity.

  1. Follow your passion. Maybe you have devoted years of your life to a cause, a sport, or a hobby that's near and dear to your heart. These are experiences you bring to the table, whether it's being a Big Brother or Big Sister, a little league coach, a member of your township's parks committee, or a volunteer at a local animal shelter. Let your interests and experience guide you. But also, consider if any of your clients' charitable interests align with your own.
  2. Do your homework. Commit enough time to identify the organizations that align with your interests. You may have some in mind already, but consider broadening your scope. You never know what’s out there until you look. Research can help you find the board openings that fit your skill set — know what you can offer a board, and what a particular board may be able to offer you.
  3. Talk to people. Ask your professional network for recommendations. Consider posting a discussion in a LinkedIn group or among your connections. Others’ experiences can provide invaluable insight, so ask a lot of questions and be prepared to listen.
  4. Apply your expertise. Boards need financial expertise and business leaders with the ability to raise money. This could be where you fit in. The experience and acumen of a financial advisor can be a complement to any board's traditional audit function. Take the time to learn about local boards: What skills do they seek? What would your board membership commitment entail exactly?

Build trust

Ultimately, serving on a nonprofit board is a way to help promote a cause or activity that you believe in, while also helping to build trust — with your community, and with clients and prospects. Inhabiting this kind of leadership role can help you stand out from the crowd.

As you collaborate with new business leaders and your center of influence grows, you have more to offer your clients — talk about beneficial.

What’s next?

These online resources can help get your research started:

  • BoardnetUSA specializes in connecting nonprofit boards with new leaders.
  • Charity Navigator evaluates charities based on a number of criteria and provides an overall score.

Consider reaching out to your Delaware Investments® regional director about these and other networking ideas designed to help you wield a stronger influence in your community.

Delaware Investments is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, boardnetUSA or Charity Navigator.

Refer to your firm's compliance policies on outside business activities regarding board memberships and volunteer opportunities. Be mindful of any potential conflicts of interest based upon your employment, or between your employer and the organization you may serve.

All third-party marks cited are the property of their respective owners.

The Evolving Advisor

See also:

Where leadership starts

Best practices for corporate and nonprofit board memberships

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