Our theme for April is Leadership. One of my common recommendations to nonprofit staff leaders who want to improve their skills is to find a nonprofit board where they can serve. Research has shown that nonprofit board experience is a great development experience for corporate leaders but it may do even more for nonprofit leaders.
1) You will be a better staff leader if you have worked with a good staff team from the board member seat. You will gain a new appreciation for the staff/board dynamics and better understand why certain things happen or don't happen in your own relationship with your board.
2) It can be tempting to serve on the board of a partner organization - after all, you know the people and the subject. But you already have influence with that organization and they have access to your skills - you are taking the seat of someone who can bring an additional circle of contacts and new skills. Plus, they usually let you off the hook for raising money, so you don't have a true board experience.
3) Develop and practice your leadership skills in a setting separate enough from your typical work that you are refreshed by the focus, the people, and the work. Extend your network and try on a new approach. If you are the usually the finance guy, take on a role that deals more with people. If you are the marketing person, take on a program role, etc.
Read the article below, which takes a more self-serving approach.