It’s a given that nonprofit and for-profit boards have different motivations for doing what they do for their organizations. Nonprofit board members seek increased social impact and the fulfillment of their missions; for-profit board members seek increased shareholder value. Most nonprofit board members serve voluntarily and without compensation, whereas on the corporate side, government regulation and pressures from activist investors require highly prescriptive board roles for which members are paid for their time and expertise.
But do these differences mean that there aren’t lessons to be learned from those who have served on both types of boards?
Neither type of board is outstanding at inclusion. I’ve seen nonprofit boards serving communities that are primarily of color yet their boards are entirely comprised of Caucasians.
Nonprofits should raise the bar on connecting to diverse communities and stakeholders by working to include people with the insights to help them align resources, objectives, and outcomes that serve their communities. Nonprofits spike so high on mission and values that I’m hopeful they will expand their outreach to build diverse boards that are reflective of our society as a whole.
Finally, don’t rubber-stamp the organization’s strategic plan and budget, but rather bring your “A-game” skills and offer them freely. That said, great advice a friend gave me on the wise approach to board service is, “Nose in, fingers out!”