** As published on AESC Bluesteps

Author: Mike Morrow

Serving on a non-profit board is a full body exercise in governance. Board members contribute far more than just their votes. They fill a vital leadership role that engages both their subject matter expertise and their leadership skills.

A board member’s role is to advance their organization’s mission and vision. They do so by understanding and championing the needs and values of all stakeholders who interplay with the organization. To serve their institution well, board members must be good listeners, versatile professionals, and big-picture thinkers.

It’s a thrill and a challenge to steer an organization as a member of a leadership team. Each board member has to deftly strategize as it relates to his or her particular area of expertise but also play the larger game of governance, acting as the generalist the organization needs.

If you’re considering serving on a non-profit board, here’s what you need to know as you pursue that ambition.

The value of service:

Board service yields professional rewards. If you’re an attorney, an IT professional, a marketing professional, or an engineer, for example, you may find that it takes time to advance to a leadership role in your industry. In some fields, professionals hone their skills as specialists for several years before the opportunity to steer a team presents itself. Board service is an ideal way to strengthen leadership skills in the interim.

Generally, board members claim specific roles, outlined on a board matrix, that aligns with their professional expertise. Additionally, board members may be asked to serve on special committees that address specific needs or issues within the organization.

While each board member may play a role of the specialist in his or her subject matter area, board members also work collectively to direct the organization. This is one reason that board leadership is such an outstanding experience for a professional - it stands to refine leadership capabilities while presenting an opportunity to exercise their subject matter proficiency in a realm outside their day-to-day experience.

If you have the ambition to be a leader at some point in your career, non-profit board service is an ideal way to learn what that work entails, exercise the skills it requires, bolster your resume with relevant experience and build your professional network.

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