I know consultants are often unwelcome on boards but it would seem to be good experience. If I could help an organization, shouldn't I offer, or accept an offer, to serve on a board?
You are right that consultants are often unwelcome on boards, but not always. Aside from the obvious concerns about conflicts of interest with consultants serving on boards of organizations to whom they are providing consulting services, it is the nature of their perspective that causes some concerns. It could be argued that a management consultant could provide business experience, context, and guidance to an organization. However, this is the appropriate role of management, not of the board as the governing body. As such, some boards pull in the welcome mat for consultants.
Perhaps the first issue to consider is what the board really needs. If they are an operating board and not a governing board, then maybe your management consulting expertise may have a place. Second, what do you have to offer? Are you bringing something unique? As smart and experienced as you may be, are your attributes really something that would add value to this organization at this time in a board role? Third, what will you get out of the experience? Are you looking for experience in board operations to add to your credentials, build your insight into how boards operate, or are you passionate about the organization's mission and want to contribute? If it is only the first two, reconsider. Even though those reasons may be useful to you, what value do they bring the board?Tip:
Board service can provide professional growth in addition to serving your desire to contribute to a cause. When you spend your time thinking about management, planning and execution, some time putting on a board/governance hat can provide useful perspective. It does not have to be for the same types of organizations in which you normally consult. A well run nonprofit board or corporate board in an entirely new industry can challenge your skills and broaden your understanding of how different boards function.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA