Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Board competency 8: Share your expertise

This is the eighth in a 10-part weekly series expanding upon the core nonprofit board competencies that I laid out in a recent post.


Core board competency 8: The willingness to share your knowledge/expertise/experience to expand the board's collective capacity to govern.


Sharing what we know, and helping others build their own skills and understanding so they can make the best decisions possible, is one of our most critical responsibilities assumed when we join a nonprofit board.

Most of us are recruited to serve - at least in part - because of our professional experience, knowledge, etc. Besides our passion for the mission, they ask us because we are respected accountants, marketing consultants, health care professionals, social workers, etc. Our expertise, when shared, builds the board's collective capacity to govern wisely and effectively.

Some vehicles for sharing are obvious:

  • Chairing committees and task forces in our professional knowledge area
  • Serving in another leadership position that uses our expertise (If you're an accountant, banker, etc., you can pretty much expect at least one request to serve as treasurer)
  • Leading training workshops on topics in your expertise area 

Others may be less obvious but are equally - or even more - powerful opportunities to grow the board's knowledge. Most are embedded into the board's routine interactions.

  • Bringing applicable experience and knowledge to discussions, to inform collective thinking and decision making.
  • Being willing to raise forward-thinking questions and topics, drawing form your professional networks and experiences, that encourage timely anticipation of issues and opportunities.
  • Sharing personal stories and anecdotes that illustrate points in ways that will resonate and add meaning to concepts being discussed.
  • Sharing articles, websites, and other resources to which board members would not normally have access
  • Inviting colleagues from other professional settings to serve on committees where their knowledge would be of value to the organization (Look for ways to extend not only the agency's network but also its pool of expert resources)
  • Inviting board members and senior staff to public events in your field, to extend their learning opportunities

The what/why/how of sharing will vary with the individual and the organization. The larger point should be clear: we contribute more than seat time when we serve on nonprofit boards. We bring wisdom, skills and experiences - whatever they may be - that help to create a synergistic leadership not possible if we weren't there.

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