Women Leaders: Nonprofit Boards Need You!

An organization’s success or failure hinges on the competency of its leadership. Some of the most common struggles a nonprofit board faces, like lack of board engagement, complacency and mismanagement, all come down to “people problems.” In the end, the most important factor to board success, outside of alignment around the strategic direction, is having the right talent in the room. You might be the talent that nonprofit needs.


Most people join a board for one common reason: because they were asked to. They were simply asked to join, and they accepted, honored by the invitation that most likely came from someone they know personally.


When board members look to friends, colleagues and trusted advisors to fill board seats, inevitably and often unintentionally, they invite others who look and think like themselves. They probably have similar backgrounds and belong to some of the same groups. As a result, diversity suffers.


The best organizations recognize the importance of gender diversity on their boards. There are plenty of excellent agencies in Central Indiana that are regularly recruiting potential board and committee members to fill vacancies. The opportunity is there for the women who want to take advantage of it. Here are some reasons why you should take the first step towards becoming a board room leader.


Don’t assume women are already represented in the board room.


Women dominate the nonprofit workforce at over 70% of nonprofit employees but comprise only 43% of board seats in the sector. Even though the value of diversity on a board of directors is widely accepted and we recognize the impact diverse perspectives have on board effectiveness, the number of women in those roles remains relatively unchanged.


You don’t have to be a CEO or have a big title to be a board member.


Boards need diversity of all kinds, not just gender or race. Think of diversity in terms of age, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, thinking style, skill set, etc. Boards need people with varying skill sets and backgrounds and everyone in the room should fill a need. You may have expertise or talent that the organization needs, and it may not be reflected in your age or job title.


You might already have the experience necessary — don’t wait to throw your name in the ring.


Have you been a consistent and active volunteer in the community? Do you have a strong gauge on what you believe are the most pressing issues in your community? Do you consider yourself a leader — maybe not in title but in action? Don’t hold yourself back from the opportunity to serve a nonprofit at this level.


In the same way that women often opt out of job opportunities they are not 100% qualified for, we opt out of board roles as well. Don’t fall into the Confidence Gap; your male counterparts won’t.


We need fresh minds solving community problems.


The nonprofit landscape is evolving quickly; boards need to evolve to meet the needs of those we serve. No one has silver-bullet solution to the complex problems that plague our community, but fresh perspectives and new ideas are critical for progress.


If you are passionate about an issue or a specific organization in your community, find out how you can contribute. It doesn’t always mean you will serve on a board; you might start as a volunteer or a committee member. The most important thing is to trust in your own ability to make an impact and have the courage to step up in the space you care about.


If you’re not sure where to start in the journey, and you know you’re interested in being a board member, apply for Leadership United! Learn from experts in the field of leadership and board development and add an impressive 75 hours of leadership and board development training to your resume.


Apply for Leadership United

Article written by Maggie Phelps, Leadership Initiatives Manager and leadership development professional.