Why Every Nonprofit Leader Should Join Another Nonprofit Board
Running a nonprofit is hard work—physically and emotionally. You hope to make a change in your community and have so much of your heart invested in your efforts. With all of the energy you put into your own business, why would you take time to serve on another nonprofit board?
Only 38 percent of nonprofit leaders join the boards of other nonprofits. This is unfortunate because part of being a smart leader is having an interest in learning from others. It's a no-brainer: By serving on other boards, you will not only become aware of new area nonprofits, but you can also partner with them, learn valuable lessons, encourage them and receive encouragement for your own nonprofit.
Look Beyond Your Nonprofit's Doorstep
I have heard people say that there is no benefit to working alongside other nonprofits, but that simply isn't true. When nonprofits work together, their reach is increased, enabling them to help more people. As a board member, you get to collaborate with people who have similar passions. These benefits are long-lasting, as you learn new skills that will help you run your business more efficiently, gain a unique perspective from board members that serve at different nonprofits and have fun along the way.
Expanding your network is another advantage. Get out there and meet with other leaders who desire to effect change in their community. This will help you gain valuable information and allies who you can work with side by side in the nonprofit industry.
For example, Unknown Voices is a nonprofit with a mission to spotlight individuals who impact their communities in a powerful way. I was asked to join the board because members wanted a younger perspective. I not only enjoy participating on this board, but it also provides valuable insight into ways I can improve my own nonprofit.
3 Benefits of Serving on Other Nonprofit Boards
Nonprofit directors have reported that around 30 percent of their own board members do not understand or embrace their organization's mission. Avoid this outcome by stepping out of your comfort zone and serving on the board of another nonprofit. You will be able to:
1. Enlarge your network. I am determined to eradicate homelessness and hunger in the U.S. With this in mind, my nonprofit started a website that connects multiple nonprofits with restaurants—where their excess food is distributed to the many hungry people in the community. Because of my collaboration with Unknown Voices, I am able to network with experienced board members who have fed the hungry in a similar way.
Networking helps streamline my efforts to become more effective and reach more people. As a board member, make an effort to work and rub shoulders with other nonprofit leaders. Don't be shy to talk about your own nonprofit, and make sure to listen to what other members have to say. Through such interactions, partnerships will form and grow.
2. Learn the art of collaboration. Whether you are working on a specific project or just brainstorming, the nonprofit world requires teamwork. Don't forget that you might work with your team differently than you would with a new one. If you need to hone communication skills—and most of us do—joining another nonprofit board will definitely help you improve. I have learned several valuable lessons about communication through working on the board of Unknown Voices. It has taught me that consistent communication with other board members helps me understand what is going on and that they understand me, too.
You can learn similar lessons by having an open mind at the start of your collaboration. Don't be turned off if someone works differently than you. Embracing diverse approaches can actually strengthen your own nonprofit.
3. Maximize your influence. I love working with Unknown Voices because I am able to shine a light on people who are truly making a difference in their communities. By highlighting them in the media, news and programs, the impact of these world changers is expanded. When you serve on the board of a nonprofit other than your own, you double your humanitarian efforts because you are serving multiple causes. To maximize your influence, avoid falling for the mindset that your nonprofit should outshine another. Instead, find strength in numbers, and be an advocate for partnering nonprofits. Remember, this is not a competition; it's a way to strengthen everyone involved.
When you serve on the board of another nonprofit, you aren't collaborating with the enemy; you're linking arms with an ally to change the world. In doing so, you will expand your network, learn from one another and help more people, which is the ultimate goal.
Kenan Pala is the 13-year-old founder of Kids4Community, a nonprofit that helps kids and their families give back to their communities in meaningful ways. Kenan also founded Kids Tri Hard, a clothing line that provides more affordable clothing options for youth triathletes.