Direct Impact is Echoing Green’s experiential leadership development program for mid-career professionals.

Kate Hayes, leading a Direct Impact workshop for Echoing Green

Kate Hayes, leading a Direct Impact workshop for Echoing Green

You know the statistics about boards of directors. According to a survey by Deloitte, 90% of board members believe that retired CEOs are the most effective board members. Yet, they admit that limits the diversity of thought and perspective. More and more, boards seek input from younger board members with a diverse perspective. But where do they find board-ready younger candidates?

At the same time, private sector companies are looking for ways to develop their top talent with experiential, hands-on learning for 21st-century skills. Skills such as self-awareness, empathy, curiosity, communication, and humility are necessary to operate in a highly ambiguous marketplace. To develop these skills requires real-world, hands-on experience.

How can mid-career professionals learn necessary skills while contributing to society in a meaningful way? That is the mission of Echoing Green’s Direct Impact program. Direct Impact trains mid-career professionals to serve the impact community through board membership.

The Direct Impact Program

Kate Hayes is the Director of Direct Impact. “Echoing Green has always engaged business professionals in our work,” Kate explains. “When I joined, we were looking at the field and thinking about developing new programming to engage this population” In other words, how can working professionals become engaged in social good?

“We saw a few things happening. Board governance was quickly becoming a hot topic. The data shows that boards are not diverse. They are not fundraising well. And overall, they are, by and large, ineffective.

“We also saw that the next generation of those under 40—those we most wanted to engage in some way—were not represented. While boards offer an incredible opportunity to make a massive impact on a nonprofit, few training programs exist, and those that do, do not focus on what leadership and partnership really mean. We knew there had to be a better way.”

So, how could Echoing Green build a bridge between young talent and board service? That’s where their Direct Impact program came in. Direct Impact trains mid-career professionals to use their skills in social enterprises through board service.

How does it work? According to Kate, “In each cohort, we bring together a diverse group of private sector leaders for an immersive training experience. They begin and end with a three-day retreat; participate in two evening workshops; and attend a site visit, with one of our Fellows in the U.S. or abroad. Upon completion, graduates move into our board matching process, where we seek to place them with one of our nonprofit Fellows.”

Direct Impact is based in four key areas: leadership development, strategic governance, philanthropy, and fundraising, and understanding social entrepreneurship. “We provide support as they take on these new leadership positions. We provide support and training opportunities to our Echoing Green Fellows as they develop their boards and work to engage their board members in a meaningful partnership. We are re-imaging what exceptional board leadership looks like and providing the tools to make it happen.”

According to alumni of the program, Direct Impact makes a big difference, providing both leadership development for their careers and a chance to serve the greater good. Echoing Green measures qualitative data for the program. Measures include increased self-awareness, empathy, curiosity, communication, storytelling skills, and humility. They also measure continued engagement with Echoing Green after the program. “We are an early-stage program,” Kate explains, “so we are still working to define this long-term. We are very interested in how our alumni influence the social change ecosystem from their positions within the private sector.”

However, as Kate admits, the impact can be restricted by to the number of people Echoing Green can accommodate. “Our cohorts are small. While we know it is important to go deep, we are constantly thinking about how we can transform the entire field of board governance and leadership. We rely on a ripple effect from our alumni to reach into the boards they serve on, and the places they work.

Still, Kate has high hope for Direct Impact. “Our goal is to build our thought leadership, to begin changing the narrative around board leadership at a broad level.”

Upcoming Opportunity to Participate in Direct Impact

Echoing Green will start accepting applications for their winter cohort on September 6. The program is a two-month cohort experience comprised of two three-day retreats and an immersive multi-day site visit with an Echoing Green Fellow organization.

After the initial eight-week orientation, participants move into a board-matching process. Kate says “This is a highly curated process where we’re working with them one-on-one to help find a great match for them to join within the Echoing Green network.”

There is a fee for the program. For more details, see Echoing Green’s website.

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Kate Hayes

“Only 16% of board members are under the age of 40.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “What boards are seeing is, they need to engage the next generation of leadership.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “You need to have a diverse set of individuals to have meaningful conversations.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “There’s a lot of work we’re doing to reimagine what board service looks like.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “It is a leadership opportunity to put their skills to use in a really big way.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “We need that diverse group of creative problem-solvers.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “Boards don’t reflect the communities they serve, by and large.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “Leadership development is the through-line of everything we do.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “We started to see people show up at work in a different way.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “Know that you can make an impact, no matter what your career is.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “Everybody has a role to play.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet “We’re not going to move the needle on these big social issues until everybody shows up.” @kdahayes @echoinggreen Click To Tweet

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About the Author
Tony Loyd is a leadership development expert. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and coach. He helps purpose-driven business leaders to thrive so that they can connect and contribute at a deeper level. Find out more at

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