Boardroom Bound

Passion over profits: What nonprofit boards have to offer CIOs

Count on gaining useful experience and connections, but not the right skills to qualify for a corporate board seat.

For CIOs who see themselves on the other side of the boardroom table one day, securing a seat on a nonprofit board sounds like the ideal stepping stone to that paid seat on a corporate board.

Not necessarily.

In what seems like a Catch-22, nonprofit board experience can add valuable dimension to your executive resume but does little to qualify you for corporate board service.  “It’s useful but not necessary” is how board director and retired Fortune 100 CIO Annabelle Bexiga sums it up. “If you’re a CIO, you’re already talking with your own corporate board.”

annabelle bexiga 1200x800 Annabelle Bexiga

Fair enough. But here’s another Catch-22. Say you want to learn more about board directorship by joining the 22,000-member National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the largest association for board education and advocacy. You have to be a board member in order to join. So, your best opportunity to qualify (you guessed it) is membership on a nonprofit board.  

But before launching your search for a nonprofit board seat, it's important to identify your mission. What cause are you passionate enough about to support with your time and money? Joining a nonprofit board will require a financial commitment (i.e., a substantial donation) plus additional fundraising activities.

Look for learning opportunities

“Don’t just sign up for anything,” cautions Jean Holley, a seasoned, multi-industry board member and former CIO. “Know what value you can bring, and what you’re looking to learn. Is it truly a working, strategic board or will you just be a butt in the seat?”

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