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Board Placement: An Effective Tool for Employee Engagement

With 70% of U.S. employees “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in the workplace (according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report), companies have an opportunity to reverse this trend by connecting employees to communities in a meaningful way. Corporate responsibility practitioners are heading to this year’s Charities @ Work 2016 Summit focused on Best Practices in Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.  At Silicon Valley Community Foundation we have identified a tool that has helped companies engage employees at all levels: board placement programs. Through these programs, companies offer support to select employees in their aspirations to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization.

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This blog explores three key board placement program advantages that will benefit both the employee and your company and three best practices to remember when setting up this program.

Board placement and its benefits to your employees and company

  1. Develops leadership skills

Serving on a board is a great way for employees to develop their leadership skills. For growing professionals, it is through experiential opportunities such as board service that strong leaders are forged. As a board member, the employee will be tasked with providing strategic and financial leadership to support the nonprofit’s efficacy. Furthermore, the employee will increase his or her knowledge of a wide range of fields: from defining and measuring success to financial management, including team work and strategy building. These skills will benefit the nonprofit but will also play an important role in the employee’s professional career which will in turn have a positive impact on the business.

  1. Grows a network

Another key benefit that both the employee and your company will value is the amazing networking opportunity. The employee will be exposed to influential people with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The experience can also lead to the employee either finding an instrumental mentor or acting as a mentor for another board member. Developing a strong network can help the employee shine in his or her current role, be inspired and inspire others and find potential business partners.

  1. Enacts meaningful change

If selected carefully, the board placement will offer a unique opportunity to guide the vision and strategy of an organization with a mission that is meaningful to the employee. Enacting change on pressing social or environmental issues that are important to the employee is incredibly empowering. Not only will the employee feel energized but the experience can also enable him or her to think outside the box. Finally, an employee that has or had a positive board placement experience can act as an internal and external ambassador for your company’s broader social impact initiatives.

Practical tips for a successful board placement program

  1. Financial support

Besides matching gifts, programmatic grants, and dollars-for-doers grants, companies may consider maintaining a separate budget for nonprofit board service. For example, Alcoa Foundation, offers a $5,000 match cap per employee who is serving on a nonprofit board, compared to a dollar-for-dollar match program capped at $2,500 for other employees’ non-board volunteering. Other forms of support can include free space for hosting nonprofit events, sponsorships and in-kind donations. Nonprofit boards’ give or get policies can seem prohibitive, especially to early-career professionals who do not have deep pockets, and such additional assistance from the employer can help alleviate this potential obstacle.

  1. Employee Training

It can be tremendously beneficial, especially for first-time board members, to receive technical training on nonprofit governance. A recent survey confirmed that many nonprofit boards are ineffective and members may lack the skills and/or the clarity to perform their job well. When a formal training component is embedded in the board placement program it sets employees up for success. Such employees are likely to contribute more through their service, ensuring a satisfying experience for themselves and boosting the company’s image as a community leader.

  1. Access to Mentors

Peer learning is an effective strategy for supporting employees as they prepare for their board duties. Provide opportunities for your employees to network with each other throughout the year and make sure they are well-attended by seasoned board members. Identify company leaders who can serve as role models and mentors for beginners.

Board placement is a gratifying hands-on opportunity for an employee to support nonprofits while developing a wide range of skills that will in turn benefit not only the employee but your company in many different ways.

For other useful employee engagement and CSR related resources, check out Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s CSR Matters blog here.

Join Silicon Valley Community Foundation at the Charities@Work summit this month on March 28-30th in New York City. Click here to learn more.

Claire Verrot
Claire Verrot


As an employee engagement manager, Claire supports corporate clients and their employees in their efforts to shape a sustainable future. She manages corporate employee engagement funds and related customized philanthropy services. Before joining Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Claire globe trotted between France, Canada and Australia, where she helped develop a CleanTech R&D park, launched a National Organic Week Australia campaign and promoted innovative carbon offset solutions. Claire holds a master’s degree in Business and Administration from a French university, ESDES Lyon Business School.
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