POSTED Monday 13-12-21
Best benefits of being on a board
Deciding to be on a board is a monumental undertaking that demands your time and attention outside your paid hours. However, its benefits – to you and those you help through the board member role – make it a worthwhile endeavour for anyone looking to grow, both professionally and personally. If you’re thinking about joining a board, here’s five reasons why you should commit.
- You’ll gain experience working strategically
The best board is when board members and trustees mutually gain from it; for board members this means an opportunity to widen your skillset, as it involves stepping up to a strategic/management role. Being on a board can be a real CV-booster as it demonstrates you’ve got broader interests than just your day-job. Plus, you’ll have additional experience working on strategy and solutions that makes you more desirable and compelling as a candidate for any future roles you apply to. You’ll gain insights into the best ways to manage an organisation, collaborate with others, and oversee crucial decision-making. If this kind of skill-building is generally not available through your current role, then becoming a board member is a fantastic opportunity to build up your professional experience and skillset.
However, before joining a board, it’s best to make sure you can dedicate the time and energy required to ensure the trustees are benefitting too. This is time that you’ll be giving up for free, possibly on a rainy Tuesday night at 7pm, or all day to listen into interviews, so dedication and passion are prerequisites. That isn’t to say that personal experience is necessary to join, as the point of your role is more strategic. You will be coming up with solutions and approaches rather than the organisation/charity’s content, so you don’t need to worry about being an expert in their field before joining. Just be prepared to contribute outside your working hours; finding a cause you feel passionately about will help motivate you.
- You’ll get the opportunity to help marginalised groups
It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to help marginalised and vulnerable groups so directly, and in a way that takes advantage of your own professional skills and strengths. I personally have worked with feminist charities because it’s important to me to be working towards the amelioration of women’s rights and choices. While of course being on a board looks great for you and your CV, every decision you make needs to have the groups you’re serving at heart; the ability to meaningfully contribute towards the cause and support the organisation/charity’s service-users is rewarding in and of itself.
As a board member, you also play a role in safeguarding both employees at charity and those that the charity supports. This means you play a direct role in ensuring their well-being. This is something that is so important (and often neglected) for the service-providers in particular, who are expected to direct their care towards others and too often at the expense of themselves. For service-users, too, they face discrimination, hardship, and neglect outside of this care; by safeguarding them you help them where they might otherwise not receive it.
- Personal development
Because of this direct role in safeguarding marginalised groups, there is an immense feeling of satisfaction and personal development gained from being on a board. You are regularly confronted with issues you wouldn’t come across normally in your day-job, and collaborating towards sorting them out brings a real sense of achievement and contribution towards society. Rather than being stuck in your workplace bubble, you can feel yourself grow to be more active, empathetic, and informed when it comes to social issues.
This can have far-reaching consequences: it can result in changes your decision-making in your work-life, taking a more mature and considered approach, and in your personal life too. You’ll find yourself becoming more aware and conscientious of the choices you make based on what you’ve learnt from your time on the board, and can feel yourself strive to live more empathetically and ethically as a result.
- You’ll watch organisations/charities progress and succeed
This is the fun part of being on a board, where you get to see how your decisions have helped a charity raise however much more than it normally would, house and support more and more people, and become more visible and receive more external support than ever before. You get to see first-hand the charity’s journey towards growth and success, which not only adds to your sense of accomplishment but results in tangible benefits for trustees and the groups they support. It makes all the work you’ve put in feel worthwhile.
- You’ll gain experience making tough decisions
This is worth noting because it is something to consider before joining a board. Within the third sector especially, there are often tough calls to make regarding staff cuts or budgeting. It doesn’t get any easier with time, but you’ll gain invaluable experience weighing up options and making difficult decisions. It also means future successes are all the more celebratory, given the barriers that the board and its trustees had to face.
Overall, being on a board is a mutually beneficial experience and an overwhelmingly positive one. It’s important to be able to commit your time, attention, and energy to ensure everyone is getting the most out of it. Choosing a cause that speaks to your heart is the way to go, and will make the experience all the more satisfying and successful.
Good luck to all prospective board members!