Community Spotlight: Beyond Board
Q&A with Sarah Zapp, Founder & CEO of Beyond Board
Sarah Zapp is an entrepreneur, award-winning journalist and relationship curator. She is the CEO and Founder of Beyond Board, a community of board members and board eligible executives with a mission to recruit more women and diversity on boards. As a relationship curator, she currently advises, consults and sits on the board for various start-ups. She is also a speaker and panelist on the topic of building relationships and board diversification.
Let’s start with a bit of background on Beyond Board. How did the organization get started, and what is its mission?
Beyond Board was founded when the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Chairman told me that 75 percent of companies, and up to 90 percent of public companies, find their board members through who they know. So we wanted to create a new “who you know.” We wanted to build an impactful community of board members for board members, and offer peer-to-peer networking opportunities and access to renowned thought leadership with the underlying mission of getting more women and diversity on boards.
For us, it is critical to bring both men and women together in our community and veer away from an “us vs. them” mentality. If you really want to build the best community of board members and unlock opportunities for women and diverse candidates, it’s important to build a strong ecosystem of men and women. This enables us to not only create opportunities for individuals, but to create a rising tide to lift the level of board diversification across the country.
What are some of the larger themes and topics you anchor your engagements and workshops around and why?
We came to the quick realization that to get the kind of people together in the room that we wanted, we couldn’t anchor our programming around heavy board stuff. No one wants to come listen to talks about governance and finance, but they will come listen to some of the top thought leaders in the country.
Our programming involves bringing top thought leaders, industry experts and CEOs to speak about subjects that help make our community members better leaders, board members and people.
For example, we’ll bring in the former Chief Hostage Negotiator of the FBI, who wrote “Never Split The Difference,” to talk about negotiation. Katie Couric to talk about storytelling. Anne Sweeney, the former chairman of Disney and board member of Netflix and Mayo Clinic, to talk about leadership. The inventor of Atari to meet the inventor of Fortnite to talk about how to be a better creative thinker.
These are topics that not only make you a better board member, they help make you a better leader and person overall. That’s the kind of content our board members really seem to gravitate towards.
What would you say is your proudest moment/accomplishment since Beyond Board’s inception?
I feel especially accomplished when we put together a two-hour long board matchmaking event, with a handful of open board positions and a bunch of different candidates, and saw a national press release come out three weeks later announcing the first woman placed on the board of a certain public company.
Getting placements like that from a two-hour event tells me that all of the months spent organizing and building this community were really worth it. We also had an event where one of our thought leaders spoke about her African-American cosmetics company and found an investor for over $5M in that same room.
At the end of the day, the criteria to be in the room is that you hold a board position or you’re a board eligible executive. When you curate a community this highly, countless opportunities that are not only for board positions, but for overall business, seem to come out of it.
What are some exciting developments or upcoming events that our community can look forward to seeing?
This is a big year for us. Supporting and growing our communities in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco is critical to the organic growth of our company. New York is the next big step we’re working towards.
I’m also constantly impressed by the quality of people and speakers who are referred to us, who really bring it and make this a priceless community. The names and thought leadership we have this year is exciting, but I’m clearly biased.