They Used to Be All About Big Names
Back in the day, boards were all about finding celebrities and big corporate names (think former Fortune-500 C-level execs) to join their ranks. Until about the year 2002, being on a board, especially one that was very high visibility, was an easy way for celebrities and rising political stars to lend their fame to an organization that wanted to make waves.
They didn’t have to do much on the boards, but still took home big checks every year. This all came to an end with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which made new corporate requirements for accounting procedures for all U.S. public boards. Now, boards have to sign off on their fiscal reports, and therefore board members have an even greater incentive (e.g., avoiding jail time) for making sure they’re very active in their company’s goings-on.
Corporate Boards Are Different Than Nonprofit Boards
When you serve on a board, it makes a difference if you’re talking about corporate vs. nonprofit organizations. While corporate boards are often made up of major industry players, who are coming together to make money for the corporation (and themselves), nonprofit boards are volunteering their time to help fundraise and raise awareness for an organization that has a more charitable goal in mind.
It’s also far more likely that you or I would serve on a nonprofit board than a corporate board in our lifetime. Want to get involved in a board? Look at organizations in your area that have similar interests as yourself. Think the arts, education, health, and other often underfunded groups. Here are some tips for finding the right nonprofit board for your own personal tastes. If you happen to be looking for a corporate board, here are some tips for finding one of those, too.
Even Today, They Get Paid a TON
Look, this is the nitty-gritty: if you serve on a corporate board, you’re probably going to be taking home a big paycheck, even in today’s more fiscally restrained, post-Great Recession atmosphere. A recent CBS News article noted that the highly successful company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has the highest paid board members of any S&P 500 company, at a staggering $2.06 million per year.
While you’re choking on your latte, know this: board members nowadays also risk getting fired if shareholders aren’t happy. If your company isn’t doing well, being on the board isn’t a lifetime appointment without scrutiny. Regeneron happens to be doing very well with a drug that helps treat macular degeneration. It’s just still a little hard to swallow all those zeros in that paycheck, especially when you’re just an average Joe or Jane.
Want to learn about what CEOs’ pay is like compared to that of the median-earning worker on their company’s payrolls? Check out PayScale’s report, CEO Pay: How Much Do CEOs Make Compared to Their Employees?.
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