Giving Back Through Board Work: The USO

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Plenary sessions kicked off on the last day of the 2011 NACD Board Leadership Conference with a thrilling presentation from the Color Guard of T.C. Williams High School. Continuing on this theme, president and COO of Lockheed Martin Corporation Chris Kubasik then spoke to attendees about his experience working with the United Service Organizations (USO).

While Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s leading aerospace, defense, and security organizations, Kubasik’s discussion focused on his company’s philanthropic work. Lockheed focuses its charitable spending on three areas: education, the well-being of its customers and the communities where its employees live and work. To this end, it has engaged in a partnership with the USO in the last decade.Founded in 1941, the USO focuses on supporting the troops and families of the deployed, wounded warriors (including the “invisible wounded,” or those suffering from such illnesses as post traumatic stress disorder), and the families of fallen soldiers. With 160 centers around the world, the USO receives $300 million per year in contributions.

Annually, Lockheed Martin donates $2 million to the USO in company and employee donations. The company also assembles over 30,000 care packages for those in battle. According to Kubasik, who was given the role of adding lemonade packets to the packages, “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but [the packages] make a huge difference to the troops.” He was also proud of the handwritten note that accompanies each care package.

Kubasik then compared his directorship experiences on the Lockheed and USO board. He noted that “good governance is necessary for an effective organization,” public or nonprofit. Just as in any public company board, directors of the USO work to ensure the organization stays true to its mission. He offered his own best practices to the audience–director independence and diversity. A board composed of diverse experiences and backgrounds, he said, can provide effective oversight of a company. Diversity may come easier to the USO board, though, as it is composed of 40 members.

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