Written by Hilary Sumpter
Leadership has so many guises and being involved in the governance of not-for-profit (NFP) boards is just one of these. For me, this is a valuable contribution where people can have a positive influence in areas that may directly affect your local community at a grassroots level, or on a broader and even international scale.
After participating in the Leadership NZ Programme in 2010 I was reminded of the importance of contributing to NFP boards and supporting those who are addressing issues or striving to strengthen their communities. The Programme reinforced the leadership skills I have which could be valuable to other organisations, bringing objectivity to the private and public sector and extensive knowledge for other not for profits.
When I left my senior executive role late last year I had consciously created the space to take on more board appointments. I was introduced to Springboard through Leadership NZ in 2010 and then joined Appoint (Better Boards) to prospect for board appointments.
Subsequently, over the past year, I have been appointed to three different NFP boards, all of which were listed on the Appoint website. Appoint was really useful in terms of being able to do due diligence on the organisations I was interested in. I’ve had considerable previous governance experience and I’ve learnt the key aspect to understand is the potential time involved, outside of attending meetings.
There is no doubting the commitment required for NFP boards; it’s as important as any paid directorship and by making the commitment you are accountable to others – fellow board members, staff and volunteers, stakeholders and supporters. It’s not something to take on lightly and there can be a fair bit of work involved, but it’s also extremely rewarding. For me I have to know I can add value and manage all I have taken on so no one is compromised.
I’ve aligned my board appointments with my interests so I bring passion as well as skills. This for me has meant I am now on the board of Outward Bound New Zealand Trust, Akarana Rugby League Zone and the Leadership NZ board as the Alumni Representative.
The network of Leadership NZ brought Springboard and Appoint to my attention and I have developed greater networks through these organisations, all of which add further value to any governance roles I am involved in, both in terms of networks, but also support. It’s helpful to be able to benchmark yourself in terms of ongoing professional development, but also to have others to go to in terms of queries and concerns.
It’s great to see Leadership NZ reaching its 10th year with the corresponding nearly 250 alumni. The organisation is reaching new levels of maturity, which is seeing it collaborate effectively in areas where there is mutual value, such as with Appoint. This is a positive alignment that sits well with both organisations’ values and is one which complements and builds on the work the alumni have taken part in during the Programme. It’s also a positive long-term influence of Leadership NZ, which is the true value of the organisation, enabling sustained positive impact through its reach.
It’s important to me to be able to contribute to community in the broadest sense of the word and for me this means being involved at governance level. This was a key message for me after participating in the Programme in 2010 and it’s an ongoing long-term stance.