Consultant’s Corner: Serving on a Corporate Board
Q: How does a person go about getting considered to serve on a corporate board, or as an advisor to other corporate boards?
The approach, qualifications, and other considerations for getting a board of directors, or advisory committee, seat vary somewhat based on the type of corporation—nonprofit, privately-owned, or publicly owned. Having contacts and relationships with corporation owners, executive management, other Board members, and other professionals that work with the corporation (bankers, CPAs, lawyers, etc.) is always helpful for getting a seat on a board; however, you can review the following example articles and discussions on how to get a Board seat, which include these basic strategies:
- Think local. Serving on a local organization’s board of directors can be particularly beneficial if your products or services are geared toward people in your area. As a board member, you’ll be networking on a regular basis with potential and existing customers—who may have you at top of mind the next time they are asked for a referral.
- Go nonprofit. Board newbies are more likely to find spots at nonprofits, which are usually unable to compensate directors and may require more work than private companies. This work can be rewarding if you believe in the organization’s mission. Check out BoardnetUSA for nonprofits in your area.
- Prove you are an expert. By taking on public speaking gigs, developing a business blog, and writing a letter to (or an op-ed column for) a prominent publication, you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry or profession beyond just your title. This will help you appear worthy of a board seat. “The first thing a nominating committee will do is Google you,” says Susan Stautberg, president of PartnerCom, which helps companies set up advisory boards.
- Be brave. If you don’t know someone who knows someone who can get you on a board, go straight to the source and ask for guidance. Find out when an organization starts reviewing its member roster, and ask what kind of directors it needs. For example, many organizations try to enlist a group of professionals with varied skill sets, such as a marketing expert, a financial expert, and a senior executive.
- Promote your talents. Know what you bring to the table and make sure your prospects are aware of it. Boards need hiring experience (they are the ones interviewing executive directors and executives), marketing expertise, technology know-how, and most of all, accounting acumen for reviewing budgets and financial records.
- Open your wallet. Nonprofits need underwriters and are often willing to assign board seats as thank-yous. Some city boards have upwards of 50 directors. If you don’t have the money, or if it doesn’t make business sense to give a large donation, offer to help with fundraising: