Give and you shall receive with a non-profit board

Good Work - Lisa Cefali
Good Work – Lisa Cefali

Photo by Montgomery County Planning Commission

In April, we file our personal taxes. Along with the many slips we need, we collect all of our charitable receipts, 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 by working for a not-for-profit, you can easily answer, “I gave a lot.”
For the majority of others, the question may arise: is it time to give back? What should I get involved in? Can I really afford to volunteer my time?
Well, I have an answer: join a board and everyone 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 dollars donated. Your time is priceless – and your membership and true engagement on the board means more than you realize.
For me, working for Junior Achievement (JA) was part of my career plan, inspired by wanting to use my business acumen and experience to make a real difference. The board allowed me to work with other senior leaders from the business community and share challenges, best practices, 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 and moving the JA mandate forward.
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 don’t bother. The experience I had with unengaged board members was a waste of everyone’s time and wasn’t received well by those they sat on the board with (who may one day be in a position to remind them of their lack of engagement).
So now that you have decided to be an active member of a board, here are the top three reasons why you will benefit.
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 slightly different than what you are currently engaged with. Your strategic insight and guidance will assist the executive director or president of the non-profit and it will allow you to hone in on or lead the process – where in your daily role, you may only supply input.
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, it 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.
You’ll gain insight into running a successful organization. As a board member, you not only will learn from those around you, but you will also see the workings of another organization. Best practices that can be put into place and tested can then be placed into your own organization and used with the knowledge of how successful they were. You can see aspects of an organization from a different viewpoint than you usually see from, and sometimes the advancement or clarity this can provide is invaluable.
Immerse yourself in the community
If you are new to a leadership role, boards are a 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 environment.
Finally, as you progress in your career, it is almost a requirement to get active in the community. Your involvement in outside activities may be viewed as just as important as the roles you fill during the day – and in some close competition, your involvement may be the determining factor in whether or not you are chosen as a 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 your next board position. Join a cause close to my heart – consider the Variety Club of Manitoba – we need your type. For more information, visit
Lisa Cefali is the vice president of executive search with Legacy Bowes Group, where she uses her many years of business experience, and assessment of emotional intelligence, to uncover organizational insight and those attributes that provide the best fit for her clients with their strategic planning needs. Please feel free to contact her at for your executive search, recruitment, coaching, and strategic planning needs.

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