On Board

I believe I would make a valuable contribution to a corporation’s board of directors. How would I position myself to be asked to serve on one that provides compensation? I have volunteered as a board member on state chapters of professional organizations, local Red Cross chapters, and the United Way.
–N. Bonaparte Jr., Via the Internet

Our February 2008 cover story, “Boardroom Power,” outlined the level of responsibility entrusted to corporate board members who are required to govern every aspect of a company’s business objective. Board membership is not a position for which you can apply or campaign. It was the fund-raising efforts of Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management L.L.C., on behalf of Bill Bradley’s campaign to win the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination that fostered a relationship that eventually led to Hobson’s sitting on the board of Starbucks with Bradley. Having nonprofit experience is excellent, but at the corporate level you must develop a strong reputation in a particular area and then cultivate a platform and a strong network to support your ambitions. You should be active in influential political and business organizations, accepting speaking engagements and sitting on professional panels. You can start with your present affiliations, but you’ll need to demonstrate that you are indeed a power player–and not just another volunteer. Watch Black Enterprise Business Report on BlackEnterprise.com for more info on corporate governance.