24 Apr Board Membership with Meaning
One thing is certain as we gradually emerge into a new, and for now, smaller, world: the importance of our local community. We have the necessity and the opportunity to look closely at what is around us and where the needs are. What I can say from my own personal experience is that participating as a Board member of a not-for-profit organisation is a rewarding and effective way to help meet some of these needs.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 not-for-profit organisations in New Zealand. Governance is a vital component of their operation, and there is a need for experienced and savvy professionals to contribute their skills and their passion for these groups. Experienced lawyers are excellent candidates for Board memberships. In particular, lawyers with organisational and analytical skills, the ability to use resources efficiently, independence of mind, critical thinking, financial literacy, and the ability to work in a team are highly sought after. If you possess these skills, you can provide a significant contribution to the vision and strategy of a not-for-profit organisation.
Many people’s first experience on a Board is with a not-for-profit focused on something that is personally meaningful to them. My first foray into Board membership was for Ronald McDonald Wellington Trust. The purpose of the trust is to support families of children who are unwell, who need hospital care, and are required to travel to another city to receive that care. My son Louis was born with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. He has had multiple operations in his lifetime, so I understand the stress these parents are under, and the significance of the assistance that an organisation like the Ronald McDonald Wellington Trust can provide to families. I wanted to utilise my skills to help the trust to achieve its goals. I was an intermediate lawyer at the time. The learning curve was steep, but the rewards were great.
As my governance skills developed over time, I chose to wait for a specific opportunity to become a Board Member of the Cerebral Palsy Society. In the back of my mind, I had a great desire to want to do something meaningful for anyone with cerebral palsy (particularly children) and their families. I have been a member of the Board for just over two years. As a Board, we have had to navigate a myriad of issues, including the impact of COVID-19 on our members.
When you participate in a philanthropic activity that allows you to have a greater say about something that you are passionate about, you can learn new skills and meet a community of people who care about the same thing you do, which is tremendously empowering and inspiring. The governance experience I have acquired with not-for-profits has greatly enriched my life in countless ways and I would not hesitate to encourage you to start thinking about the causes you are passionate about today.
If that’s not enough to convince you, read this article by Do Good Jobs on the diversity and rewards of not-for-profit Board membership. When you have decided to start your journey there are many places you can look for opportunities, including Seek, the Institute of Directors, Do Good Jobs, or Appoint. I promise you, you won’t regret it! Finally, I am available to chat with any lawyers around the world that are thinking about taking this next step in their career. Have a lovely day!