Need Leadership Experience? Join a Non-profit Board

Editor’s Note: This guest blog entry  by Ann Daly, PhD, originally appeared on the “Empowering Women” blog earlier this month. Daly is an executive coach specializing in the professional development of women. Formerly a women’s studies professor, she advocates for the success and advancement of women.

What options do you have when you’re feeling stuck at work? I hear from a lot of women who say they can’t find a way to make the leap from manager to leader. They find themselves in a catch-22: they can’t get promoted without leadership experience, but they have no opportunity to obtain that experience.

Michele Walker-Moak has a great solution! “If you’re someone whose current job is too defined and doesn’t allow for growth opportunities or movement across departments, nonprofit board membership may be the right answer for you.”

As manager of Community Affairs for Applied Materials, Michele coordinates the tech company’s community activities in Austin. “Among other duties, I manage our volunteer activities and work closely with our employees to encourage community engagement at all levels, including board membership.”

Non-profit boards allow aspiring leaders to step in and make an impact. And it’s mutually rewarding. “Not only are you serving your community and supporting a cause that you are passionate about, but board membership often allows you opportunities not afforded in many professional environments.”

Serving on a board, Michele explains, gives you the opportunity to:

  • gain decision-making experience at a strategic level
  • become an influencer in your community
  • broaden your point-of-view by working with colleagues outside your industry
  • expand your network
  • boost your resume
  •  lead diverse teams
  • manage change

Even more, you can broaden and strengthen your functional skill sets, including:

  • financial management
  • project management
  • strategic planning
  • developing fundraising and revenue streams
  • growth planning
  •  human resource management

Serving as a board member of Reading Is Fundamental and as board president for BookSpring, Michele learned how to work collaboratively, organize diverse groups around a cause, and manage a budget–all skill sets that improved her performance at Applied Materials.

So, how do you go about joining a board? Michele suggests that you start by identifying an area you’re passionate about. “There are so many options! Your interest can vary from ‘protecting animal habitats’ to ‘discouraging bullying in schools.'”

Once you define your interest, she advises, do an internet search for compatible organizations in your area.

“Reach out to the organizations and meet with their board members and executive directors. Boards come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s very important to find the right fit. Some boards operate as a ‘working’ board, and some are more of a ‘governing’ board. Know what works for you. Also, be clear about specific board expectations and responsibilities. Ask to see a board handbook.”

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Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today! http://www2.drexelmed.edu/vision2020giftsonline/Individual.aspx
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