Board membership

iynna's profile thumbnail
Hello Fellow Elpha! Do you mean Board of Directors at a private company/publicly trade company? Or do you also include non-profit/academia? I used to be on the Board of Directors for the Alumni group at my alma (NYU), then on the Women in CS at CUNY - so definitely more academia/nonprofit and now of a startup. I was recruited directly by a former board member and for the startup, I knew the CEO pretty well and was already advising her on an informal basis so she wanted to make it more formal, opened up an application process and so forth.For private/publicly traded company you may want to read up this office hours with Edith Cooper, currently on the Board of Slack
BrianaBrownell's profile thumbnail
All my board roles have been a result of "shoulder tapping" - knowing either another board member or executive who thought of me when they were doing board recruitment. I hate to say it, but this is how almost all of these positions get filled.When I have been seeking board members for various orgs, I've tried to cast a wider net and post an ask publicly so that people who are out-of-network have a chance to apply. But, to be honest, that's given varying levels of success.
That's what I suspected. I don't have a professional network of existing board members to tap into, though I'm very well known in my field and sought after for my ideas, talent, and connections. It seems like it's yet another system that you have to already "be in" to "get in", which explains a lot about the composition of most boards. Thanks for the reply!
BrianaBrownell's profile thumbnail
So, unfortunately you're right. There seems to be a group of people who sit on as many boards as they possibly can, meanwhile folks who would be great candidates don't get considered because they don't have any board experience. It's the chicken-and-egg thing, where you need to have experience to get experience. When reviewing applications for board members I've been stunned at how many board roles some of the applicants have. I've seen upwards of 30 board roles listed.Usually the first board role for people is a non-profit board. Non-profits vary significantly in their sophistication and they can be a lot of work and sometimes even require (or informally "expect") a large donation to the organization. But it will teach you the formal processes (Robert's Rules of Order) if you're not already familiar with them. Another area that I've found for networking is through a national directors training organization. I don't know what country you're from but in Canada it's the ICD (Institute of Corporate Directors) and in the US it's the NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors). Start attending their events. Not only are they very good learning experiences, especially for folks just learning the roles of a board role, they're also great networking.
@BrianaBrownell could you share how you cultivated those relationships? I'm interested in joining a board myself, and I'm always trying to hone my own networking skills.
BrianaBrownell's profile thumbnail
Absolutely. In my case, this was the path.1. Arts Non-profit board - The first board I joined was an arts non-profit. I was a donor to the organization and very interested in the cause (opera). My Aunt met the Executive Director at a social event and when she found out what the ED did, my aunt mentioned that I was really interested in opera. The ED mentioned they were looking for board members and so my aunt passed along my contact information. I had coffee with the ED and the board chair, who then invited me to join the board.2. Industry Association board - My CEO was on the board for our industry association's local chapter and they were planning their annual conference in our local area. She asked me to chair one of the organizational subcommittees for the conference. At that conference I was invited to sit on another committee (Standards) for the organization by someone I met there. Then the next year I was also asked to join the board.3. International Government Committee - A friend of mine who I went to grad school with noticed that her organization was recruiting experts for a new national committee creating AI standards. She forwarded me the application and encouraged me to apply, which I did, and was invited on the committee thanks to my experience in standards through the industry association committee. I held a few leadership roles in the committee.4. Corporate board - One of the folks that I sat on the opera board with also sat on a corporate board. When they started their recruitment process, one of the skills gaps they wanted to fill was technology, data analytics and marketing. So, she thought of me as a potential candidate to bring those skill to the board. I interviewed for the position, and it was the Government Committee work that I did that was why they offered to nominate me for the role, even though I didn't have any corporate board experience.In all cases, it was someone who knew me who got me into the right room, and each experience led to the next one.
Thank you for the thoughtful answer and details. It really helps!
KashaH's profile thumbnail
Hey Ozie, I was in the same position and decided to go through a formal recruiter. I used my professional development budget from work to pay for their services, and they used their contacts to scour opportunities that were of interest to me (based on an intake conversation about my experience/interests). They usually only work with large enterprises (big insurance companies, corporates, etc.) and place a batch of employees on boards, but I reached out to them and they were willing to take me on as a one-off and discounted the fee (since I was already running a non profit, they gave me a non profit discount). Worth a shot if you can find a similar service in your area. I'm based in Canada, and worked with MatchBoard ( Capacity Canada), and know of another service if you're younger called Girls On Board (