Many people will suggest that gaining a not-for-profit board appointment is the place to begin your Non-Executive career. For others, they want to be paid, which most UK not-for-profit organisations are able to do. There are many misconceptions about these roles which may be preventing many from making the most of these opportunities.
Common misconceptions of UK not-for-profit board roles
The term not-for-profit conjures up images of organisations doing good but lacking governance, skilled board members and cash. Let’s be honest, in some cases this is true, but the same could be said for a large number of commercial boards.
The truth is that the majority of not-for-profit boards and committees in the UK are well-governed, with highly qualified and well-connected members, operating at a highly professional level. Whilst, most not-for-profit board appointments are not paid, some are and some offer considerable levels of remuneration. Regardless of remuneration status, a not-for-profit board appointment offers not only the opportunity to not only contribute to your community but also to build both your professional & board careers.
Why consider a UK Not-for-Profit board appointment?
There are many reasons why you should consider an opportunity to serve on a not-for-profit (NFP) board or committee, many of which you have probably not taken into consideration:
- NFP organisations often have open standing vacancies for board or committee positions. They are often not advertised hence less competition for roles
- You can easily find the contact details of present board members who are keen to have a conversation with you about opportunities.
- Due to funding issues, they are less likely to use recruiters to fill roles.
- Personal & professional skill development – develop and use new skills in a new environment, including valuable soft skills.
- You can learn from more experienced non-executive directors and put your governance training to use.
- You can develop relationships with those who sit on other boards, thereby opening up new board opportunities.
- NFP appointments offer a unique opportunity to work with like-minded people – giving you access to different people that can support your professional career.
- NFP roles allow you to contribute to organisations or causes you are passionate about.
- One thing we have all learnt from the pandemic is the importance of looking after your mental health. Volunteering with an NFP has been proven to: boost social connection, reduce anxiety, improve life satisfaction, offer a sense of purpose and decrease the risk of depression.
Review your Board Aspirations?
I agree that a non-for-profit appointment is not right for everyone and there are several boxes you need to tick when making this decision:
- Do you have an authentic passion for the organisation?
- Do you have the skill they require?
- Do you have the time required to contribute?
- Are you prepared for the politics that may be involved?
- Do you have the funds to cover expenses that may not be reimbursed?
Is that timing right for your professional and/or board career?
For some, a non-for-profit board appointment is the crucial first step to developing a board career but for others, it is worth waiting for a more appropriate opportunity that is going to facilitate your longer-term, board aspirations. You need to be really clear about what your short and medium board and professional goals are. Think about what sort of board appointment you want to have in the next 5? Why do you want a board appointment in the first place? What sort of role is going to help you achieve your board aspirations? Addressing these questions will help guide you as to where you begin your board career and where a non-for-profit board appointment fits in your board career plan.
I have previously spoken about the 5 things a Chair is looking for in a successful NED candidate. The of the first things they, or recruiters, look for is past board or governance experience. Whilst a not-for-profit board appointment may not match your longer-term aspirations, if you have not been a NED previously this sort of appointment will allow you to label yourself as a Non-Executive Director plus provide valuable experience.
A word of warning, be careful about your motivation. NFP Chairs and Non-Executives are extremely passionate about the organisations they serve. In your pitch, you need to be able to demonstrate similar passion.
Where to start looking for non-for-profit board appointments
If you have concluded that an NFP board role fits with your board career plan, be assured that there is always a large selection of roles available across the UK. These vary from small to large organisations, across a variety of industries and locations. We list a large number of these board vacancies every week, available in the place.
As I mentioned earlier, in the UK the NFP sector is unique in that many organisations have open standing board & committee vacancies, and passionate sitting members who are always keen to have conversations about the organisations they represent. This is good news as it provides you with an abundance of opportunities to approach target NFP organisations directly. To develop a list of target NFP organisations, you can search database websites such as Charity Choice. My article on “The 4 Keys you should use to open up personal connections” will provide you with some advice on starting conversions and establishing connections that can lead to a non-for-fit board appointment.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments – The UK’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience in putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world