The Value of Company-Supported Nonprofit Board Service for Nonprofits and Communities

December 15, 2017 Alice Korngold

Part 2 in a 2-part series (Read part 1 here)

The Nonprofit Board Leadership Study “Better World Leadership” provides new and clear evidence of the leadership development value of nonprofit board service for business people. The findings show that this form of high level, high impact volunteering is an effective pathway for companies to achieve their goals in advancing diversity and inclusion, and developing human capital for innovation, in addition to fostering economic development and achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Relevance to nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations seek board members who bring valuable experience and expertise as well as diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.[1] The study demonstrates the following advantages for nonprofits when companies encourage and support their employees to serve on boards.

  1. Business people contribute formidable resources to the boards where they serve. Board members report that they attend meetings regularly (98%), contribute in meetings (96%), make financial contributions annually (67%), provide pro bono assistance themselves or via their companies (53%), make introductions to prospective board members (50%), raise funds from friends, family, and others (50%), raise funds from their companies or other foundations (48%), and make introductions to prospective donors (43%).
    • Most significantly, 84% of board members contribute in at least four of these ways, and 97% contribute in at least three of these ways.
  2. Through board service, business people gain a clearer understanding of the impact of social, economic, and environmental challenges on their communities and companies—particularly quality education; decent work and economic growth; sustainable cities and communities; good health and well-being; and peace, justice, and strong institutions.
    • This makes them valuable ambassadors for nonprofits and advocates for vital causes.
  3. The reservoir of employees who want to serve—but do not yet—is comprised of people from more diverse backgrounds than those who already serve: more women, more Millennials, and more people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Survey responses

957 employees from five multinational corporations completed the survey. Responses from employees who serve on boards (401 out of the 957 surveys) provide specific information about their experiences—how they contribute, what they learn, and how they grow. A total of 556 survey respondents never served on boards, but 96% express interest in doing so. This suggests that companies can engage more employees in board service by enhancing and expanding board training, preparation, and matching services.

Deeper appreciation of diversity and inclusion

Board service contributes significantly to people gaining appreciation for diversity and inclusion. Survey results underscore the value of active experiential learning over passive training. Respondents indicate that their nonprofit board experiences have brought about a deeper appreciation for the perspectives of people from backgrounds that were different than their own (78%); a deeper understanding of the challenges facing people who live in different circumstances than their own (78%); greater empathy for people from different backgrounds than their own (72%); and greater interest in people with different backgrounds than their own (73%). With new insights and awareness, business people become can become effective champions for their nonprofits and their important missions.

Meaningful service 

Nearly every respondent reports that the work of the nonprofit is meaningful to them (97%), that they are able to add value (95%), and that they would recommend nonprofit board service to their friends and colleagues (99.5%). The majority of respondents serve in leadership positions on their boards (81%), some serving on multiple boards and in multiple leadership positions.

Nonprofits, as well as companies, will benefit when businesses invest more significantly in training, matching, and supporting their employees who seek to serve on nonprofit boards.


Download your copy of Better World Leadership here.

[1] See Korngold, Alice (2005), Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company).

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