News, events and inspiration.

Want Leadership Experience? Serve on a Nonprofit Board

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.

Serving on a nonprofit board is not only a meaningful way to give back to the community, it is also a powerful way to build valuable leadership experience. This is one of the most compelling reasons why our corporate clients have implemented our B3 Board Matching and Training Programs in their organizations.

While enhancing their Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand strategies, many large corporations and law firms consider our programs as solidly supporting their HR talent strategy to develop their high-potential employees. After all, talent development is a top priority in most leading organizations in Canada. So they view our programs as a strategic way of developing their top talent to drive business growth and gain a competitive advantage.

A board matching and training program takes on a “teach, don’t tell” approach. It is a unique, innovative and enriching “learning-by-doing” program. Here, employees actually make hard decisions, manage risks and resolve conflicts — skills needed in crucial leadership roles — as they serve on nonprofit boards to solve real-world social problems. Our programs become effective leadership development tools to complement the other organizational HR offerings to employees.

Alternatively, the conventional modes of learning — whether through conferences, workshops or online courses — take on a “tell, don’t teach” approach. In these modes, employees learn leadership skills primarily through the cerebral dishing out of leadership concepts, theories and case studies.

Here are three transferable skills that employees develop through board service:

1. Strategic Thinking

Through nonprofit board service, employees work side-by-side with other board directors to determine how the nonprofit is performing relative to its mission, vision, strategy and priorities. Together they develop strategies by assessing what the nonprofit is experiencing, what its desired future is and how to close the gap between these current and future states. Board directors also engage in generative thinking to envision the nonprofit’s long-term sustainability as it stays true to its mission amidst the never-ending sea change of societal demands.

Employees also take more risks because nonprofits become safe environments to test their ideas and practice their skills without the fear of making mistakes. Indeed, the stakes are lower in the nonprofit space as juxtaposed to the stakes in their companies where mistakes can be truly costly — such as negatively affecting their companies’ bottomline and getting poor performance ratings for their mistakes.

2. External Mindset

Nonprofit board service nurtures an external mindset within employees as they are exposed to diverse perspectives beyond the walls of their organizations. It opens their world to different viewpoints which in turn spurs innovative thinking. It broadens their exposure to different personalities, leadership styles, organizational cultures and business models. It gives them an expansive view of how organizations work from a macro perspective.

Employees then bring back a deeper understanding of the world and its needs. Their renewed understanding profoundly informs new ways of thinking about their companies. This new way of thinking creates an innovation culture that helps their companies proactively develop more responsive products and services that address what the world really needs.

3. People Skills

When employees serve on nonprofit boards, they practice their abilities to influence and gain buy-in for their ideas. They learn how to communicate their differing views with more confidence. They grasp the nuances of board dynamics as they build relationships with their fellow board directors. They learn how to promote teamwork and collaboration with others who are outside their usual social networks.

According to Volunteer Canada, individuals develop competencies relating to collaboration, managing meetings, team building and conflict resolution when volunteering on a nonprofit board. Without a doubt, board service is a very effective way for employers to harness the benefits of skills-based volunteering —- such as increasing employee engagement while advancing employees’ prospects for career advancement.

Indeed, through a board matching and training program, a company engages in community building through leadership development. It's a strategic way to harness the power of business to do good by creating positive social impact while developing top talent.

B3 Canada - Women Get On Board Partnership: Advocates for Board Gender Diversity

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.

We are pleased to announce B3 Canada’s new partnership with Women Get On Board (WGOB). WGOB is a leading member-based company based in Toronto that connects, promotes and empowers women to serve on corporate boards.

I was so happy to personally meet Deborah Rosati, WGOB CEO and Co-Founder when I was in Toronto two weeks ago. Deborah is an accomplished corporate director and entrepreneur, having been recognized as one of WXN’s Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women. Deborah and I excitedly discussed how our organizations share the common goal of advancing gender diversity in boards. Particularly WGOB advocates for gender diversity in corporate boards while B3 Canada advocates for the same in nonprofit boards.

While in Toronto, I also attended the very successful WGOB event “How to Prepare for Board Interviews". It provided an insightful discussion from seasoned board directors on how to ace corporate board interviews. Interestingly, their advice was very much applicable for those interviewing with nonprofit boards as well. Indeed, the journey from serving on nonprofit boards to serving on corporate boards is an intuitive, natural one. And an important one as well.

In its “Good for Business: A Plan to Promote More Women on Canadian Boards”, the Canadian government set out a national goal of 30% women on boards by 2019 in the corporate and public sectors. The government believes that achieving this goal will give Canada a strategic competitive advantage nationally and internationally. Likewise, an Institute of Corporate Directors survey reports that gender diversity contributes to better board governance and decision-making. Indeed, having more women on boards has become an imperative for good governance.

To learn more about how you can embark on a journey to corporate directorship, visit the WGOB website at womengetonboard.ca.

Wanted: Women on Canadian Boards

By Josephine Victoria Yam

In Canada, we have so much to celebrate with the world today, International Women's Day 2017. After all, Canadian women have achieved impressive strides in the political, economic, academic, cultural and social domains of our society. According to a 2014 Government of Canada report, women:

+ comprise 47% of the Canadian workforce
+ earn more than 50% of all Canadian university degrees
+ represented 47% of students in business and management programs at the master’s level in 2010, and
+ received 34.5% of the Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) given in 2011.

So let’s raise our glasses twice or even thrice, right? No, not just yet.

Let the Numbers Speak for Themselves

When it comes to women serving on boards, the numbers are not as rosy, perhaps even discouraging. While a York University report notes that women comprised 44% of nonprofit board seats, the Canadian government’s report discloses disappointing figures relating to corporate and public boards, in which women represent:

+ 10.3% of board seats of top publicly-traded companies
+ 15.9% of board seats on FP500 companies
+ 0.0% of board seats on 40% of FP500 companies, and
+ 31% of federal board appointments to Crown corporations, agencies, boards and commissions.

We hear the same strains of slow music, a few years later.

In Fall 2016, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) reported on the representation of women on boards and in executive positions based on the “comply or explain” disclosures provided by non-venture public companies in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon. Here’s what the CSA found:

+ Women representation on boards increased by a measly 1% compared to the prior year from 11% to 12%
+ Only 15% of the 521 vacant board seats were filled with women hires, and
+ 45% of companies did not have a single woman on their boards.

Alas, when it comes to women on boards, Canada still has a long way to go.

Behind the Numbers

What gives? The underlying reasons for these discouraging numbers are numerous. The Canadian government’s report highlights the reasons:

+ Lack of focus on presenting talented female candidates by executive search firms
+ Lack of an executive-level commitment to gender diversity
+ Inadequate information about the availability of qualified women candidates
+ Predominantly male leadership networks that tend to choose candidates like themselves
+ Women having limited leadership networks and few high-level mentors, which restrict their opportunities for senior decision-making roles, and
+ Women lacking role models that can inspire them to pursue high-level board positions.

Why Have More Women on Boards Anyway?

Some of you may be asking: why should we have more women on boards anyway? And that’s a valid question to raise.

The Conference Board of Canada answered this very question so persuasively, citing both symbolic and practical reasons for doing so.

“Symbolically, a signal is sent to all stakeholder groups, most of which have very diverse membership, indicating that their voices will be heard at the top and that their perspectives are important to the organization. As our society, our labour force, and our corporate shareholders themselves become more diverse, this will become a more personal and compelling issue. Until now, the term “diversity” has often been interpreted as the promotion of outward, or visible, diversity. But at a practical level, it is inward, invisible diversity that matters: the range of different gifts, skills, experiences, views, and perspectives that individuals possess in every culture and organization. The use of outer differences as an indicator of inner diversity, though imperfect, can prove useful in wise hands.”

Diversity on boards, represented by having women on boards, facilitates “board unity, activism and independence”, which are intrinsic to good governance. Good governance in turn improves organizational effectiveness and produces increased profitability. In the same vein, a survey by the Institute of Corporate Directors reported that board gender diversity contributes to better governance and decision-making. Indeed, having more women on boards has become an imperative for good governance.

A Call to Action: Accelerating Gender Parity

In fact, the Canadian government knows that having more women on boards is a strategic competitive advantage for Canada nationally and internationally. In its “Good for Business: A Plan to Promote More Women on Canadian Boards”, the government set out a national goal of 30% women on boards by 2019 in the corporate and public sectors. That’s served as a compelling aspirational objective as provincial and territorial governments have taken their cue from the feds and have taken action on this front.

But how about action from us citizens?

The International Women’s Day 2017 celebration also calls us to take urgent and concrete action through its #BeBoldForChange campaign. Action that will move the needle beyond the measly 1% increase of women representation in boards. Action that will support women as they take on board roles in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors.

Some examples in the #BeBoldForChange campaign include:

+ appoint a woman to the board
+ measure and report on gender parity gaps
+ keep gender on the agenda
+ call it out when women are excluded
+ monitor the gender pay gap
+ call for diverse candidate shortlists, and
+ embrace inclusive leadership

So go ahead and #BeBoldForChange.

As the Conference Board of Canada so eloquently advised:

“Women on boards is not only the ‘right’ thing to do, it is also the ‘bright’ thing to do”.

B3 Canada Learns Marketing Insights from Terry O'Reilly

Canadian marketing guru and radio icon Terry O'Reilly visited the ATB Entrepreneur Centre in Edmonton, Alberta to introduce his latest book: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence. Terry shared valuable, intriguing and hilarious stories on different marketing and advertising initiatives from industry and from his very own personal experiences. Terry began his talk by asking a fundamental question which most people get wrong...

What business are you really in?

Terry says that until we answer that question correctly, our marketing will always lack focus. What we sell and what people buy are almost always two different things. Terry continued to explain: Molson isn't in the beer business. It's in the party business. It knows the solution it offers is social lubrication; Nike isn't in the shoe business. It's in the motivation business; The one thing Coke sells in all its advertising is happiness.

Terry talked about the value of an elevator pitch and purple chickens. His book includes a chapter entitled: Bieber in a Blender!

Terry O'Reilly's new book Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence is a crash course in marketing thinking, strategy and execution for entrepreneurs who can't afford a big downtown advertising agency to guide them. It's a collection of Terry's insights and marketing lessons from his many years on radio.

The sold-out, casual event allowed the audience to ask Terry questions and advice on their entrepreneurial endeavours and careers. B3 Canada co-founders Josephine Yam, CEO, and Angelo Narciso, COO, were privileged to grab a moment with Terry for questions, autographs and the inevitable selfies.

Learn more from Terry O'Reilly through CBC Radio and his podcasts.

B3 Canada CEO & Co-Founder Featured in Edmonton Journal

By B3 Canada Media Team

We're thrilled that our CEO & Co-Founder Josephine Yam was featured in the Edmonton Journal's Business Section / Capital Ideas! She was asked: What is the best way to test a business idea? Here's what Josephine shared:

“Experiment by creating quick and dirty prototypes of your product and rapidly getting them into the hands of your target customers. You can test ‘prototype A’ with specific features to one set of customers. Simultaneously test ‘prototype B’ with different features to another set. By experimenting, you will learn which features your customers love and which they don’t care about. Getting more accurate data of your customer needs is better than merely asking hypothetical ‘what if’ questions."

See the feature here.

Sources: Jane Marshall, Edmonton Journal

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Categories & Tags


  • Alberta's Promise operates within the Government of Alberta’s Department of Human Services. With over 1,800 business, nonprofit and community partners, they help businesses connect with non-profits across Alberta to make meaningful contributions that benefit children and youth ages 0 to 24.

  • CanadaHelps is a nonprofit serving Canadian charities and donors. They increase charitable giving across Canada by making it easier to donate and fundraise online. Because CanadHelps is a charity, their fees are a fraction of for-profit alternatives, making donation dollars go further.

  • The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is a member-based nonprofit organization founded in 2002 in Edmonton, AB. They serve the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Alberta Capital Region.

  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is the provincial network for the approximately 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario. As a 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders, ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and business to create and influence systemic change.

  • For over 62 years, Propellus has been supporting volunteers and volunteerism within the communities of Calgary. It strongly believes that volunteering is essential to creating and sustaining healthy, supportive and connected communities.

  • The Sustainability Network is a national organization that works with environmental nonprofits to make them more effective and efficient. Their mission is to enrich environmental leaders and nonprofit organizations so that they can help us all achieve sustainability.

  • Founded in 1943, Vantage Point delivers learning opportunities focused on governance, leadership, planning and people engagement for new and seasoned sector leaders, board directors and managers, aimed at advancing not-for-profit leadership.

  • Women Get On Board is a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. They do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.


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