MBA graduates often have the opportunity to work in the nonprofit world in two ways: organizationally, as a business manager in the daily operations, and strategically, as a board member. Lulu Wang ’83, who is a member of Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers, is an expert in the latter. With her experience serving on numerous boards including those at Rockefeller University, WNYC Public Radio, the Asia Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she has also been an active participant in the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program. The program, which is now in its third year, is part of the Social Enterprise Program and matches students with nonprofit board member mentors.
For you, why is being active in nonprofits important in your life? Was there an “ah ha” moment or event that was defining for you as a board leader?
My work with nonprofits has enriched my life, giving me a great return on my investment of time and financial resources. I’ve tried to be thoughtful and selective with which nonprofits I join, as I know I am most engaged when I can make a real difference. Whether enabling a major capital project or enabling a group of students, my defining moment as a board member has to come from seeing a positive impact that would not have happened if I had not been there.
With your experience serving on a wide variety of boards, are there any common themes or challenges in leadership that you see across all of them?
The one common attribute I’ve observed in the most effective board members is a genuine passion for the mission of the organization, paired with an expertise or talent that is much needed by the nonprofit.
As a supporter of the Columbia Business School Nonprofit Board Leadership Program, how do you see this program contributing to the future of nonprofit leadership?
I strongly believe that nonprofits benefit from the rigor and the accountability found in the best for-profits. The Columbia Business School Nonprofit Board Leadership Program provides the business skills that enable our students to go into the nonprofit sector and, while preserving the values of volunteerism and social commitment, help bring both focus and discipline to their organizations.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Lulu Wang