Getting Involved in your Partner's Group, Board or Committee

One way to strengthen and deepen a community-business partnership is for a staff member of the business to become a member of the community group, or for an individual associated with one partner to serve on the other partner's board.

Almost invariably it will be a business staff member serving on the board of the community group in question, because corporate board positions are often filled by members of staff or others with knowledge and experience specific to the company.

Having a member of staff serve on the board or committee of a community group would usually only be considered after an existing partnership had proved itself to be mutually-beneficial, and where board service could further enhance the relationship for both parties.

Benefits
For a community group:

  • It helps get things done.
  • It adds to existing board knowledge or skills.
  • It creates extra membership and through that a stronger support base.
  • Increased size can lead to an increase in profile and influence
For a business:
  • Energised, happier staff, leading to staff satisfaction, retention and easier recruitment.
  • A visible demonstration of community values and involvement, as well as commitment to the community partner.
  • An expansion of knowledge, skills and contacts for the business.
  • Increases in influence and profile.
How to go about it

Having staff become members of your community partner is straightforward, requiring only that they approach the group's office or a member. To make that membership worthwhile, the staff member must be willing to contribute by attending activities and/or meetings, and perhaps donating their time.

Joining a board or committee is more complex.

Sound out your staff members to ensure that volunteering on a board is something they would be interested in, and that they would be willing to contribute a certain amount of time regularly, with time off in lieu from the company.

Have a discussion with your community partner, to find out whether they are interested in having a staff member serve on their board, what they would like derive from the opportunity and what sort of staff member would be most useful to them.

Once you have matched interested staff with community requirements (and an exact match may not be possible), it is a good idea to start by having that staff member complete some skilled volunteering with the community group, to establish a relationship and a good understanding of the way the group operates.

Another way to establish a working relationship prior to board service is to have a partnership sub-committee comprised of key people from each partner, including the staff member intending to serve on the community group board.

The sub-committee would manage the partnership, including specific activities and whether broad goals were being met.