Board Certifications & Advisory/Nonprofit Service: How They Strengthen Your Candidacy

Published on January 20, 2023

In our work helping current and aspiring board directors strengthen their personal brands as they pursue paid board seats, we see a lot of patterns and repeat questions. Here are two questions that always arise when executives are seeking ways to strengthen their candidacy.

Are board certifications necessary? What do you learn in these programs?

Board certifications can be helpful to both new and experienced directors alike. They provide valuable training to cultivate and sharpen director skills, responsibilities and accountability. In addition to frameworks, best practices and fundamentals, they can provide specific training on key areas like governance, risk, cybersecurity and succession planning.

Certification programs are especially helpful if you have light board experience because, in addition to the training, they show your commitment, curiosity and interest. For experienced directors, they have value as refreshers, reminders and sources of new perspectives. For all, the training can help sharpen communication and behavioral skills.

Another benefit of board certifications programs is that you become part of a cohort, enabling you to develop relationships and strengthen your network with others who are also interested in board service.

There are a wide variety of board certification programs available. Some are provided by board associations like the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Private Directors Association, and others offered by leading business schools like Wharton, Columbia and Kellogg. Board certification programs are also given by leading consulting firms like KPMG and Deloitte.

Specialty board organizations like Women Corporate Directors, Director Diversity Initiative and Latino Corporate Directors Association also offer board training programs.

Note: Research and compare carefully before making any decisions. Programs vary widely in time commitment, format and cost. Some are self-directed/virtual while others require in-person attendance.

Does serving on a nonprofit and/or advisory board help board candidacy?

It’s harder to join a public or private company board without board-relevant experience. If you’ve presented to boards or met with them as a part of a management team, it’s certainly helpful, but often not enough.

Serving on a nonprofit or advisory board provides the opportunity to learn governance and gain board skills firsthand. You will learn how to prepare for and participate in board meetings, as well as understand the role of committees and gain experience in committee participation too.

Being a nonprofit and advisory board member is also a great opportunity for networking. Those serving on nonprofit boards frequently serve on for-profit boards as too -- or at least have connections with those who do. Building strong relationships with others who are well-established in the board space can better position you in the future; they can later recommend you as a board candidate for a paid board seat.

Related Resources

Board Director Branding Guide

Branding Services For New and Current Board Directors

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