There are approximately 60,000 publicly traded companies and an additional 20,000 private companies with boards of directors in the United States. This results in a total of 80,000 boards nationwide. Experts estimate that the average board tenure lasts approximately eight years, meaning that in any given year, up to 10,000 board seats must be filled.
You may ask, what exactly is a board of directors? A board is simply a group of people who are legally appointed with the responsibility to govern an organization. In a for-profit organization, the board members are responsible for the interests of the stockholders. In a not-for-profit organization, the board members are responsible to the stakeholders, the local community or those served by the organization.
The board is responsible for planning the long-term future of a corporation, and working side by side with management. Together, the board and the management strive to align long-term goals and the company’s vision with attainable short-term objectives. The board will often work closely with the CEO – the relationship between board members and the CEO/management team is complex and very important.
Before even considering accepting a board seat, you may want to ask yourself:
- Do I believe in the cause/vision of this organization?
- Am I in the particular stage of my life to add the responsibilities of board membership? (i.e., career, personal life, social life, growing children, aging parents, etc.)
- What can I personally contribute to the board?
- What do I hope to gain from being a member of the board?