USA Cares

USA Cares Board of Directors Diversity Brief

With mission and purpose, USA Cares seeks to increase the diversity of its Board of Directors.

USA Cares provides financial and advocacy assistance to post-9/11 active duty US military service personnel, veterans, and their families. While our Board of Directors come from all walks of life, they all possess a shared passion for assisting military families. As the governing body of USA Cares, they provide counsel and serve as advocates in support of USA Cares’ programs.

Diversity Mission

Recently, the Human Resource Committee of USA Cares Board of Directors was charged with assessing the Governing Body’s diversity. A subcommittee was formed as part of the assessment to answer two fundamental questions:

  1. Why does the USA Cares Board of Directors need diversity?
  2. Why would diverse candidates seek inclusion in the USA Cares Board of Directors?

In addressing the first question, a recent Business.com report titled “Why Having a Diverse Board is Good Business” highlighted several organizational benefits to having a diverse Board of Directors. The following are a list of these benefits:

  • Introduces fresh perspectives and challenges old thinking. Find out how it can improve your bottom line.
  • It increases a business’ understanding of its customer base.
  • Companies that rated well for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have greater financial returns than their industry peers.

USA Cares has recognized that it is critical to embrace diversity. As the Business.com article further emphasizes, “it is important that an organization includes age, experience, way of thinking, or religion in its considerations of a Board Member. This [consideration] helps create a truly diverse board that can provide nuanced and varied perspectives on the many issues and challenges the organization will face.” As our nation deals with the disruptive impacts of COVID-19, we must recognize that many of our fellow citizens are experiencing hardships on a scale not seen since the Great Depression, with unique challenges affecting our military and veteran communities in particular. 

USA Cares is actively working to ensure its Board of Directors has a broad perspective on the several challenges that our military and veteran communities face daily. Due to our nation’s current climate, the potential for veteran suicide is reportedly on the rise. USA Cares has experienced a 60% increase in requests for assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, fielding applications from veterans and families located in the U.S. and overseas. USA Cares is actively leveraging its Board Members’ time, talent, and network to optimize and garner resources to deliver on its mission.  

Why would diverse candidates seek inclusion in the USA Cares Board of Directors?

A recent Fenwick Report titled, “Want to Join a Corporate Board? Here’s How,” highlighted why joining a Board like USA Cares may fulfill a diverse candidate’s professional and personal interests. The following are a few critical points about the changing landscape of Boards in America in 2020 and the emerging opportunities for diverse candidates to seek a seat on these coveted Boards:

  • 2020 is a great time for business leaders interested in joining corporate boards (including professionals from nontraditional backgrounds and underrepresented groups) to make the jump into one of these high-profile roles.
  • In the past, company boards recruited nearly exclusively from the ranks of current or retired CEOs, CFOs, or existing board members. Now, several trends are converging to make board membership accessible to a broader range of candidates than ever before, increasing the chances for business leaders who have not served in the C-suite.
  • Research continues to show that increased diversity in the boardroom is connected to stronger corporate performance. And diversity isn’t just about gender and ethnicity — candidates of varying ages, experience levels, and professional or economic backgrounds offer valuable insights and skills that are particularly welcome, if not critical, in today’s business environment.

By addressing these two initial questions, a third presents itself: “Should diverse candidates expend the time and energy to join a Board?”

As it pertains to USA Cares, absolutely.

As noted in the Fenwick Report, times are changing very rapidly in America, particularly in 2020. Boards of Directors across this nation provide governance for organizations generating or managing multi-million/billion dollar budgets, and this year, in particular, Boards should observe themselves in a mirror. If the reflection is not representative of the community it operates in or serves, there is a critical problem. The solution to this underrepresentation is most likely you – the diverse candidate. It is essential to heed the following recommendations from the Fenwick Report:

  1. As businesses grapple with calls to diversify, women, minorities, and other nontraditional candidates interested in joining boards finally have, hopefully, improved opportunities to succeed.
  2. If you are considering seeking a directorship, I encourage you to think as strategically about your board aspirations as you do about your overall career goals.
  3. On the positive side, a corporate board seat is an opportunity not only to showcase your professional expertise but also to gain even more knowledge and perspective. As you sift through the many technical, tactical, legal, and business issues that come before the board, you will have multiple opportunities to better understand corporate strategy and decision-making. Some directors say every year of board service is like earning a mini-MBA.
  4. The downsides to directorships can be substantial, though. For one, joining a board typically requires a significant time investment—20 to 40 days a year per corporate board, depending on which company you join and its governance or committee needs. Not only will your time be spent traveling to and attending meetings, but also meeting preparation, committee work, research, reviews of strategic items like talent assessments and investment proposals and educating yourself about the company and its competitive environment.

If this HR subcommittee report piqued your interest in USA Cares, we welcome an opportunity to review your resume and speak with you about our mission and our Board of Directors. In parting, the following points are a few notable best practices from the Fenwick Report to serve as guidance as you continue with your professional and personal development:

How to best position yourself for board service:

  • Promote yourself.
  • Nurture relationships.
  • Develop a specialty.
  • Join organizations.
  • Seek out the right opportunity.

References:

“Why having a diverse board is good for business,” by Kiely Kuligowski, business.com, April 02, 2020. https://www.business.com/articles/diverse-board-good-business/

“Want to join a corporate board? Here’s how,” by The Fenwick Report, February 10, 2020. https://www.fenwick.com/insights/publications/want-to-join-a-corporate-board-heres-how

For more information, please contact USA Cares President/CEO Trace Chesser, at trace@usacares.org or 800-773-0387, ext. 151.

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