Women invited to serve on a charitable organization’s Board of Directors are often uncertain whom exactly they serve. The Chairman? The Board as an entity? The Executive Director? The Donors? No, it’s the public.
Allen C. Amason, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Terry College of Business of the University of Georgia teaches a “Roles & Responsibilities for Non-Profit Boards” class in which he illustrates this point as follows:
In the United States, most people and all corporations pay taxes (well, at least technically they all do), except when they are a tax-exempt charitable organization, a so-called 501 [c] 3. Because these corporations do not pay their share of the taxes the government needs for its operations, the rest of us – the public – have to make up the difference. So, we rely on the directors of nonprofits to make sure our tax dollars are well spent. How do they do this? By assuring us, of course, that the organization adheres to its mission and uses its resources wisely, but more simply even by serving without pay.
It is not unusual for the Director of a large for-profit corporation to be paid $250,000 a year, plus a per-meeting amount, plus be reimbursed travel costs, etc. Perfectly fine; the corporation is in business to make money and after it pays its taxes it can do with that money whatever it wants. But a nonprofit does not pay taxes and we, the public, would not be happy if it paid its Directors $250,000 a year each, or even $10,000 or just $1,000, because the shortfall in overall taxes the government collects, caused by not receiving tax dollars from nonprofits, is made up out of our pockets.
So, why do people want to be on Boards of Directors of nonprofit organizations, if not for the money? To serve, of course. And it is most often the cause itself that is the motivator. A former neighbor of mine became a volunteer and subsequently served on the Board of the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation after her son was diagnosed with the disease in second grade; you probably know someone with a similar story.
Based on personal experiences that span more than three decades, I know that a great deal of education for nonprofits and their Boards of Directors is still needed. If the topic is of interest to you, perhaps because you have been invited to join a Board, find out from a local college or university if this is offered. It is invaluable!