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We need to talk about the value of Board Members with Not-for-Profit experience

The ongoing Royal Commission into the banking, superannuation and financial services industry is only a glimpse into the financial, legal and moral challenges that a board member needs to navigate as the custodians of an organisation. 

The governance issues, navigating the landscape both politically and commercially, as well as being trusted advisors in specific areas requires expertise, intelligence and a whole lot of diplomacy – and not just in the corporate world.

Not-for-profits – defined as an organisation that does not operate for the profit, personal gain or other benefit of people (for example, its members, the people who run it or their friends or relatives[1]) – have these same issues to deal with, and often without secure funding, highly paid staff, and amid sometimes complex social issues.

So why do not for profit organisations like to stack their boards with people from the corporate sector? Do we value the experience of people from corporates over those in the not- for-profit sector? And what does that say about how not-for-profits value their own people?

I’m not diminishing the career, experience or strategic skill of anyone who has worked in corporate companies (I have had some great experiences myself), but we don’t see them stacking their boards with people from not-for-profits.

So why does it go one way and not the other? Many corporate executives have a lot of experience with income generation and revenue management, but what experience can they bring when there isn’t the packaged products, teams and resources to deliver it?

What could large, complex not-for-profits benefit from people who have experience in commercialising the seemingly-uncommercial, expertise in galvanising staff, volunteers and governments and people used to working with small budgets?

I would argue it’s the breaking-the-mould thinking that delivers results. The kind of results that fuel an industry, contributing more than $43 billion to our GDP and growing on average 7% a year in Australia alone.[2]

When the challenges facing our organisations are greater than ever before – when the social, political, personal and economic spheres of our lives overlap into our workplaces – having a truly diverse board, from different experiences, perspectives, backgrounds and sectors will always deliver more for the people they represent.

What do you think?

Drop me a line at

Deanna Varga is the savvy, commercially-minded leader of Mayvin Global, a consultancy that specialises in unpacking and reframing issues to deliver commercial and revenue generation solutions in tourism, business events, government agencies and the arts.



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