Serve – give back + learn

Service to a non-profit organization is an excellent way to give back to the community, make an impact and develop skills. What a great match. Non-profit boards are hungry for talent, and young leaders are often looking for ways to both serve and develop new skills.  

How to do it: 

  1. Find a cause by asking “What breaks your heart?”.  For me it is poverty, children in need, food insecurity – but I am sure you have your own issues that tug at your heart.  Think about that, then seek local non-profits that address the need. Most non-profits are powered by a small staff, a dedicated and generous board and set of donors, and a large volunteer staff. There are a number of organizations that help place executives on non-profit boards, or you can simply email or call as volunteers are always welcome.
  2. Know your skills.  You have developed a set of competencies via your education, or career thus far, but – like many folks – haven’t yet had a chance to put them in practice. A non-profit organization is an excellent way to lend those skills to a good cause, practice and build your competency.  Be clear on what value you would like to add – whether in governance, finance, operations, strategy, communications – allowing the organization to find the right fit.
  3. Offer to put them to use: The first time I led a full-company strategic planning session, led development of a new website for a firm, or fired a senior executive was not while working for a Fortune 500, but while serving on a non-profit board. You may be surprised how translatable your skills on in a non-profit setting, and I have always found non-profits organizations hungry for leaders who have the desire and allow them to stretch into new areas.

Non-profits have a board of directors that govern the organization, set strategy, organize fundraising and direct the senior executive and team. It is expected that as a board member you contribute financially to the organization – so while a great way to serve and develop board-level competencies, it isn’t free. If that is not possible for you, then volunteering on a committee, or in direct client service is a great way to get started.  Whether your church, local homeowners association or larger non-profit, service is an excellent way to build your skill set that will translate into your vocation and work life, and shore up your resume.