Lessons for Philanthropists

In partnership with the Social Venture Partners blog, I’ve been reposting their series of “10 Things We’d Like to Tell Every New Philanthropist”. This is lesson #6:

Lesson #6: “I joined that Board because I was invited by a friend and it looks good on my resume”

Just don’t 🙂

If you look across the non-profit/philanthropic sector, probably the #1 challenge is Boards that do not understand their roles and do not carry out their goals. Given that, we must have committed, focused, high quality people join Boards.  Not people who do it to pad their resume or because they are only doing a friend a favor. If your time and energy is limited, join one Board and do it great rather than joining two or three Boards marginally.   Or, if you want to be helpful to a non-profit, but not sure you are ready to step up to a leadership role, find another entry point– like a lower-intensity volunteer role.

We feel so strongly about this that we are co-developing a new curriculum series later this spring at the Evans School at UW on “Advanced Board Leadership” (details to follow). Boards own the organization. They are its stewards and governors. Don’t take on that vital role unless you are committed to acting on and believing it.


One Comment

  1. Tom Durso says:

    Spot-on, Sean. I attended a roundtable discussion among foundation officials recently, and they said one of the ways they evaluate funding proposals is board composition: Are the members there to advance the organizations’ mission, or simply to pad their resumes?