There are a huge number of not for profit and for purpose organisations, charities and social enterprises in Australia and internationally; in fact, the figure I have is approximately 10 million across the globe.
These organisations work across an incredibly diverse range of fields and locations, making it very difficult to get a handle on their exact benefit to the community and the impact they have. One thing I do know, however, is that the majority of these are governed by some type of board or committee structure, and that the vast majority of these positions are unpaid.
If you extrapolate that out to ‘people’, you could estimate 50 to 100 million people engaged in governing and overseeing these organisations while working for their success and survival.
I have worked on and with not for profit boards for some years now, so I can personally attest to the work that is done and the time and effort that is genuinely gifted to these organisations. Without that generosity, many of these organisations would not exist.
I recently attended an end of year function where several people expressed their desire to join a not for profit board. I like to hear from enthusiastic people about their desire to give back to the community, or their willingness to sign up to some type of work that will help a great cause or assist the less fortunate in our society with much needed brawn or brain power.
Most people wanting to join a board, have an altruistic intention but there is a growing trend for individuals to see this as a good addition to the resume, and think that because they don’t have a lot of spare time to give, a not for profit board is the perfect place to start.
My advice to anyone expressing this sentiment is to stop and really think about what taking on a directorship really means. In my experience, the various levels of preparation and board work at the very least, are the same as taking on a part time job. If you are a consultant or run your own business it can feel like you have taken on a large client that will never pay for your time.
Depending on where the organisation is placed, such as expanding, looking for partners or new markets, there can be varying volumes of work that may be extremely time consuming and take a lot of effort. If the organisation is facing difficulties, it can be double or even triple the workload. If you are an office holder, there can be additional responsibilities on top of that too.
Being a director of any organisation is a very serious task and should not be taken on lightly. It can of course be very rewarding, but if you are serious, then take the same approach you would take to finding the ideal job. That includes incorporating your passions, interests, skills, location and available time. Taking these into account is an essential first step to finding an ideal organisation.
My other piece of advice is to maybe offer your expertise to one of the board’s committees as a starting point. This can be less time intensive, but just as rewarding, and will give you the opportunity to see if this is the organisation or role you were really looking for.