Giving: 3 Ways Generosity Can Fuel Your Board Career



Trusted to serve
by Tamara Paton in How to get on board, Interpersonal

I spend a lot of time (and money) at my local Starbucks. So much so that I have been been welcomed into the fold of “the regulars.” Our names and routines are common knowledge, along with our reading and beverage preferences.

If the positive things going on at my Starbucks are any indication, my community is thriving and will continue to do so. From my seat in the corner, I see people helping one another, giving their time, ideas and money to support initiatives and priorities beyond themselves. Community meetings and networking conversations take place all around me, enriching countless lives and careers each day.

Perhaps I notice this dynamic because my clients and colleagues embody the same generous spirit. As much as paid board work is the goal for many corporate directors, the most successful among us give significant time without compensation.

Admittedly, none of us can give our time endlessly without any restriction. We can, however, integrate volunteerism and generous networking into our daily habits. And when we do it strategically, generosity can become a core piece of our board career building strategy.

I have written previously about the benefits of supporting non-profit boards as a volunteer director or pro bono consultant (see herehere, and here). Although these remain effective approaches, we have even more options in our toolkit.

To accelerate your progress, consider 3 strategic ways to give your way to boardroom success.

Develop cutting edge expertise via consulting projects

Pro bono consulting work needn’t be reserved for non-profit organizations. One of my clients has partnered with an online retailer to answer a question of mutual interest. My client is gaining hands-on perspective on an
emerging topic and the young company is grateful to receive free advice. In my client’s next board interview, she can demonstrate her expertise with a fresh case study. And who knows? She may end up on the start-up’s board one day.

Become an advisor

Tech incubators introduce mentors to start-ups. SheEO gathers groups of women together to donate their expertise and capital to early-stage ventures. And The Next 36 pairs young entrepreneurs with advisors who support accelerated growth.

Your community will surely have organizations like these in place. But you needn’t restrict yourself to a specific geography. I recently cold called the founders of two companies whose social purpose inspires me. If you feel drawn to an organization’s cause, send the founder an email with an offer of free help. Better yet, search LinkedIn for a mutual contact to make an introduction and see where the conversation leads.

Create or grow a community

Out of appreciation for her own success on boards, corporate director Deborah Rosati once hosted a small group of women for a networking event. That first gathering became Women Get On Board, a membership organization that delivers training and development opportunities to aspiring corporate directors.

Organizations like the 30% Club and the Ellevate Network also began with a single meeting. If you know others who are interested in board service, have you considered forming a peer support network? You can refer board opportunities to one another, critique your resumés, and offer moral support when the inevitable disappointments arise.


One of my favourite bloggers reminded me recently that “goals you chase together always go better.”  Whether this “together” relates to a community, a start-up or more established organization, your service can enrich your board prospects indefinitely.

Question: How has generosity accelerated your career? What have you done lately in service of others?

Please share your response via Twitter, LinkedIn or e-mail.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button on LinkedIn and/or share it with others in your network. Doing so helps my work reach others and would mean so much to me.




Giving: 3 Ways Generosity Can Fuel Your Board Career

by Tamara time to read: 3 min