In April we are reminded that the filing of our personal taxes are due by the end of the month.  Although this does not often have a favorable connotation to it, along with all the many slips we need, we also collect all of our charitable receipts with pride and can assess, through an actual numerical figure, how giving we truly were this past tax year.

However, beyond money, how charitable were you really, this past year?

For those of you, who have combined your charitable giving with your career, in a very direct approach, by working for a not for profit, you can easily answer, ”Yes! I was very giving!” For the majority of others, the question may arise, is it time to give back? What should I get involved in? To what capacity should I volunteer my time? Can I really afford to volunteer my time? Well I have the answer – Join a Board and everybody wins!

The old adage – “Give and You Shall Receive” – holds true in this case. You get the opportunity to use your existing talents, be an ambassador for a cause you believe in, provide insight and guidance and see the direct impact of the dollars you donate. Your time is priceless – your membership and true engagement on the board, means more than you realize.

Having run a not for profit for 8 years, I had the opportunity to work with some pretty incredible people on a daily basis. Individuals who believed in what we were trying to accomplish, move forward and create a true impact upon. The team I worked with allowed us an organization to reach close to 10,000 children throughout the province, with the help of close to 400 volunteers, deliver our message of financial literacy, entrepreneurship and the value of staying in school to complete grade 12.

For me, working for Junior Achievement was part of my career plan, inspired by wanting to use my business acumen and experience to make a real difference as I was employed. Period. A real difference beyond simply achieving a financial objective or increasing market share or selling more sweaters. While at Junior Achievement, I also had the opportunity to work with some pretty incredible business people who volunteered their time as Members of the Board. The Board consisted of the usual roles - chair, vice chair, legal counsel, treasurer, marketing chair and then various members at large - who took on roles that were key functions at the time - fundraising and events, programs, and volunteer engagement. The board members were a source of insight when needed and had the passion and desire to also make a difference. The board allowed me the opportunity to work with other senior leaders from the business community and share – challenges, best practises and business processes of the industries they brought with them. The benefit of having more than one equally senior person to run ideas by, was invaluable to my professional development, test of business acumen, sanity as well as to moving the JA mandate forward! For board members - no matter where you are now in your career - joining a board is a great career advancing move!

Of course, one word of caution - if you truly do not plan on being an engaged Board Member, then skip the rest of this and please don’t bother joining! The experience I had with unengaged board members was a waste of everyone’s time and didn’t reflect well to those they ‘supposedly‘ sat on the board with, either, who as a matter of course will, without a doubt, one day be in a position to remind you of your lack of engagement.

So now that you have decided to join a board, here are the top 3 reasons why you will benefit:

  1. You will develop new skills and use other skills you don’t necessarily use at your day job. You have been accepted as a board member, because they need your type of experience and background. You may get a chance to take on duties and be involved in areas that are related to your area of expertise but are slightly different than what you are currently engaged within. Your strategic insight and guidance will assist the Executive Director or President of the non-profit and it will allow you to hone in or lead the process – where in your daily role, you may have only supplied input into a certain area.
  2. Your Professional Network will Expand! Sitting on a not for profit board allows you to spend time and interact with individuals you may not usually interact with. Whether they are more senior to you – which gives you great career potential – or they are in different industries and opens up opportunities to do business with them. Getting to know more people and their contacts at events can be a lot of fun as well!
  3. Insight into Running a Successful Organization: As a board member, you not only will learn from those around you, you will also see the workings of another organization. Best practises that can be put into place and tested can also then be placed back into your own organization and used with real live facts on how successful they really were. Topics of Financial Effectiveness, Board Governance, or Business Focus are all elements of the organization you will see firsthand. As a senior leader or middle manager, you can see the aspects of the organization from a different viewpoint, than what you usually see at your own organization and sometimes the advancement or clarity this can provide is invaluable.

 

So, no matter what stage of your career you are at, becoming a board member and sharing your gifts of talent and expertise is a win – win situation. It involves a real time commitment and involvement on your part to embrace a cause that you believe in. If you are new to your leadership role, it is wonderful opportunity to meet others like yourself. If you are new to the community, it is a great way to meet other business professionals and become immersed in this new community. Finally, as you progress in your career, it is almost a requirement. Your involvement in outside activities, may be viewed as just as important as to the roles you have had during the day – and in some close competition, your involvement may be the determining factor in whether or not you are chosen as the successful incumbent.

Are you ready to give yourself that competitive advantage while giving to a worthwhile cause? Let me give you that first nudge to potentially your next board position. Join a cause close to my Heart – consider the Variety Club of Manitoba – we need your type! For more information click here: http://bit.ly/Variety_BM