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Maximizing an Employee’s Time, Talent, and Treasure for Board Service

Explore how corporations support their employees on nonprofit boards through paid time off, training, financial aid for community impact and more
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byErin PiersononMay 14, 2024

According to CECP’s most recent Giving in Numbers report, “Board Leadership” is the fastest-growing employee volunteering program in the United States. As corporations invest in their employees who serve on boards through nonprofit board seat matching and governance training programs like BoardLead, many provide further supports through donations, favorable policies, and other resources. These companies not only see higher numbers of employees raising their hands for board service, but also higher employee engagement, retention, and overall sense of purpose through work.

The following is a list of programs, policies, and resources that corporations use to support their employees who serve on nonprofit boards. We’ve framed these into three categories that represent the common asks that nonprofit boards have of their members: giving your “time,” your “talents,” and your “treasure.”

TIME

Board service is an activity that often requires hours of volunteer time per month to engage with and lead the organization you serve effectively. Corporations can support employees with a variety of policies designed to offer benefits and flexible scheduling, giving them the space they need to serve with excellence.

  • Paid Volunteer Time Off: Many companies offer paid time off for volunteering. Activities associated with serving on a board - from board and committee meetings, meeting preparation, fundraising, and other events - are a fantastic way to utilize volunteer time off.

  • Flexible Scheduling for Nonprofit Board Members: Board activities are occasionally scheduled during the work day, and sometimes require travel to meet in person. Offering flexibility in scheduling, or even hybrid work, can go a long way in supporting an individual’s commitment to their organization.

TALENT

When employees serve on nonprofit boards, one of their core responsibilities is to serve as a “champion of functional area excellence” for their core skillset. However, board members often do not receive training, resources, or guidance on how their corporate skills can be best applied in a non-profit context. Additionally, few board members receive general training on non-profit governance and best practices in board service. Developing the talents of your employees for board service is a fantastic way to invest in their growth and ensure that they are serving with integrity as they represent themselves and your company in the broader community.

  • Offer Training Sessions: Many of our corporate partners offer training for their employees - whether they are exploring board service for the first time, or are seasoned board members seeking advanced guidance to boost their impact. These learning experiences can be formatted in a variety of ways:
    • Turnkey, Self-Paced Learning: Recognizing that many employees have busy schedules, Cause Strategy Partners developed BoardLearn.com. This platform offers a self-paced, online course on the foundational aspects of board service. This option is ideal for organizations that want to support employees who find board roles outside of a board seat matching program, offering an extra incentive to help notify your company of their service.

    • Live Learning Experiences: Corporations that have a sizable population of employees who already serve on boards, or are looking to support alumni of a board seat matching program like BoardLead, usually offer extended training sessions to not only provide extra skills-building and guidance but also build community between board member-employees. Offering training unites a diverse group of professionals, making connections across geographies, departments, and staff levels around a common identity - board member.

  • Resource Sharing: Many companies also utilize communications channels or tools to help bring together their board-serving employees. Two companies we have worked with maintain a Slack channel for board members, which acts as an open forum to surface ideas, challenges, and resources for board members. Other companies use a Learning Management System to host recordings of board training sessions or share other templates, tools, or resources.

  • Pairing with Mentorship or Leadership Development Programs: Many companies pair their board seat matching programs with already established Leadership Development tracks, offering a different dimension of experiential skills development through board service. Several companies also integrate board service into mentoring programs, pairing senior-level employees with earlier-career leaders looking for insights as they begin their service on Young Professionals or Governing board.

  • Advancement Opportunities: Ultimately, many companies also see board service as a strong indicator of professional growth, responsibility, and an ability to go above and beyond. Some firms have integrated board service into performance reviews, and use it as a metric for advancement.

TREASURE

One of the core responsibilities of board members is to drive resources to the organization, and almost all of the nonprofits that we match candidates to have some type of giving and/or fundraising requirement. Providing financial support not only signals to your employee that their service is recognized and appreciated by your company, but can also lower the barrier to entry for many organizations whose give/gets may be on the higher end. This onramp often helps employees flex their fundraising muscles in year one without worrying about meeting their goals, setting them up for long-term success as a resource driver.

A few best practices things to consider when structuring a board donation program:

  • Board service belongs to the employee: It’s critical to remind your employees that they serve as individuals, not as representatives of your company. Should they leave your company, their fundraising commitments to their organization are their own.

  • Matching gifts are not necessary for a successful board program: While offering a matching gift or grant for board service is a popular practice - and practically all of the companies that Cause Strategy Partners works with offer it - it’s not necessary for a successful board seat matching program. As stated above, employees serve as individuals. Offering an opportunity to learn about board service and find a quick onramp to a cause-aligned organization is a massive benefit and still leads to higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

  • Conversely, covering the entire fundraising commitment may not be ideal: While some companies offer to pay for the entire “give/get” for an employee, we usually don’t recommend this. We strongly believe that every board member should make a personally meaningful gift to their organization (something that foundations look for when assessing board engagement as part of a grant process) and that participating in all board activities - including fundraising - is a core aspect of board service.

  • Clearly communicating policies is the first step: Many corporations have non-solicitation or other compliance policies for board service. Creating a handbook or guide for employees serving on boards is a great way to ensure that the right information is communicated and available in a central location.

Now that we’ve covered best practices in financial support, here are a few structures that we’ve seen used by our partners to help lower the barrier to entry:

  • Matching Gifts: By far, the most popular approach to supporting employee board giving is a matching gifts program. Corporations often match employee donations up to a certain amount; the average matching gift is around $2,500 per employee. Some companies also offer tiered approaches to matching gifts, like 2x or 3x multiplied matching for individuals who serve on boards, or for organizations aligned with a corporation’s social impact pillars.

  • Board Grants: Instead of matching gifts, some organizations offer one-time or annual flat-rate grants for the organizations where their board members serve.

  • Dollars for Doers: Many companies offer donations in the form of hourly compensation for an employee’s volunteer service, and serving on a board is no exception. This is often utilized in tandem with a Matching Gifts or Board Grant program. When the average board member spends 6 to 8 hours per month volunteering, this can add up pretty quickly!

By investing in the three valuable things that employees are required to give as nonprofit board members - their time, their time-honed skills, and their money - your company will demonstrate a long-term commitment to not only your employees’ service, and your own company’s social impact, but also the broader community.

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